Third-party R&D/engineering services providers are expanding their offerings to meet growing demand from chip companies large and small.
White Mountain Labs LLC (Phoenix) last week moved to expand beyond its core electrostatic-discharge testing services by allying with FlipChip International LLC (Phoenix) to offer turnkey services in flip-chip and wafer-level packaging.
Also last week, SVTC Technologies Inc. (San Jose, Calif.) added an analytical component to its slate of R&D foundry services.
Earlier, Presto Engineering Inc. (San Jose) signed a deal with analytical specialist NanoLab Technologies Inc. (Sunnyvale, Calif.) to offer turnkey engi- neering, test and analytical services.
Demand for third-party services is growing in tandem with the complexity and cost of chip design, said Presto Engineering CEO Michel Villemain. "All hell broke loose at the 130-nanometer node because of the complexities with [the transition to] copper" interconnect, Villemain said. The next "inflection point," he said, is the shift in focus from fab-related random defects to systematic defects, rooted in the chip architecture.
Third-party providers are proliferating. In July, Presto Engineering emerged, acquiring a test facility from Cypress Semiconductor Corp. to provide product-engineering services to Cypress and other semiconductor manufacturers.
Now Presto is teaming with NanoLab Technologies, which offers such third-party services as failure analysis, ad- vanced microscopy and focused-ion-beam (FIB) circuit edit. "This partnership enables us to focus on our core competence: integrating and analyzing electrical test and physical analysis data to accelerate the product release process," Villemain said.
SVTC, another company with roots in Cypress, has added analytical capabilities such as atomic-scale imaging and surface analysis to its process development portfolio. It has also expanded its engineering services and leased 80,000 square feet of office and lab space next to its existing fab.
"Our customers have asked for faster turnaround times on analytical services," said Scott Marquardt, SVTC's vice president of sales, marketing and strategic business development.
SVTC was once known as the Silicon Valley Technology Center and was owned and operated by Cypress. In January, Cypress sold the R&D fab unit to a private-equity investors for $53 million, transferring the equipment, process technologies and personnel associated with the business to the new owners. Cypress remains a customer.
Meanwhile, in July, White Mountain Labs expanded its business scope by adding the ClearTest ATE Services unit, which operates as an outlet for fabless companies that lack the time, money and technical staff to build test programs internally. Now, White Mountain Labs is expanding its back-end efforts via an alliance with FlipChip International.
FlipChip International provides turn- key processing services, including bumping, wafer thinning, backside coat and laser marking, electrical testing, dicing, taping and reeling at its facility in Phoenix. FCMS, a joint venture between FlipChip and Millennium Microtech, targets turnkey processing services at its facility in Shanghai, China.
White Mountain Labs can provide test solution development and production test for the electronic components and devices developed by FlipChip's customers. It will base its offerings on Eagle Test Systems' ETS364 ATE platform.