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Mar 28th, 2012
 
3D chip mania grows but mass adoption lags
 
The 2.5D/3D chip era continues to gain momentum, as Altera Corp. this week made a major announcement in the arena. Indeed, the advent of 2.5D/3D chips based on through-silicon vias (TSVs) is considered a “game changer” in the semiconductor market, but mass production for the technology is still a moving target.
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At this week’s “The Heat is On 2012” conference in San Jose, Calif., one analyst said 3D TSV chip volumes are at least two years away. Another expert at the event said a “true” 3D chip — which combines processors, memory and other functions — is still a decade away due in part to thermal issues. But a team of IBM Corp. and Swiss researchers will shortly roll out a test chip that could accelerate the shift to “true” 3D devices. The group is devising a 3D stack with a functionality per unit volume that nearly parallels the density of a human brain.
 
Implying that 3D TSVs are too expensive and difficult to make, still another expert said that there is sudden interest for multi-chip modules (MCMs) based on a new class of organic substrates. And at a recent and separate event, one presenter from a company said that he is actually telling customers not to develop 2.5D/3D chips.
 
So what’s the deal? For years, the industry has been talking about 2.5D/3D chips as the next big thing in the semiconductor industry. Frankly, however, it’s taking longer than expected for 2.5D/3D chips to enter volume production. Cost and supply chain issues remain a hurdle. The lack of EDA tools, thermal challenges, the tough temporary bonding/debonding steps, and test are among the technical challenges.

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