A recent gathering at Georgia Tech showed the emerging technology for 3D chip stacking needs to come down in costs and get broader backing from designers and managers.
More than 200 packaging experts from 11 countries recently discussed how interposers and IC packaging technology can contribute to maintaining the pace of semiconductor innovation. Their conclusion was the technology for 3D chip stacks is ready, but we need lower costs.
At the third annual interposer workshop hosted by Georgia Tech's Packaging Research Center (PRC) packaging specialists such as Amkor and ASE clearly stated they are ready to assemble and test interposer-based designs. Globalfoundries detailed its strategy to partner with such OSATs for implementing these designs.
In a mega-panel moderated by Matt Nowak, a 3D stacking expert at Qualcomm, more than a dozen experts discussed a few technical and many business challenges related to interposers. They concluded the technology is ready but we need lower costs.
In a separate talk, Phil Garrou of market watcher Yole Development agreed with the assessment. Nevertheless, further improvements in pad and line pitches are needed to enable higher bandwidths for future video applications, according to an Altera keynote and material suppliers.
The event included discussions of packaging for RF, MEMS, sensors, passives, and camera applications. In a poster session about 30 students outlined their interposer-related projects, followed by impressive presentations from GIT's PRC and Korea's KAIST.
Major semiconductor, equipment, and materials vendors attended the event, and I was impressed with the progress our industry has made since I attended the first workshop in November 2011. But the bad news was when an organizer asked at one session how many IC designers were in the audience he found only one.
This and similar data points during the workshop confirmed my fears that in many companies, management as well as system and IC designers still see interposer technology as a topic only for the packaging experts and of no or very limited impact on their own work or their company's future. I believe risky projects and new technologies such as 3D chip stacking have to be sold to high-level management with their benefits to the business justified extensively.