The demand for lower cost with higher performance has driven the semiconductor industry to develop innovative solutions. One new approach to reducing overall cost is to switch from wafer to a larger-size panel format. Indeed, the panel infrastructure has attracted considerable interest from the semiconductor industry and is certainly a promising market due to its cost advantages and economy of scale benefits.
We have identified five key packaging platforms that can be processed on a larger surface (rectangular/square): FO WLP panel, organic interposer, glass panel interposer, hybrid interposer and embedded die. We estimate that the panel packaging industry will reach $119M by 2017, with a market value of $492M by 2020. Among them fan-out on panel is attracting lot of interest in industry with multiple players including equipment and material suppliers actively working on it (see Yole Développement’s report, Status of Panel-Level Packaging & Manufacturing).
Equipment readiness is key bottleneck for the adoption of panel level packaging & manufacturing. We now see various equipment suppliers from different industries (semiconductor, PCB, LCD etc.) embracing panel level packaging. One such equipment supplier is ASMPT having broad portfolio of equipment to support panel level packaging & manufacturing. We spoke with ASM Pacific Technology (ASMPT) VP (Business Development of Advanced Packaging Technology for Back-end Equipment Segment) Nelson Fan about the potential of panel level packaging and their equipment offerings for this business.
(Source: Status of Panel-Level Packaging & Manufacturing, Yole Développement, 2015)
Yole Développement: Can you introduce ASMPT’s product line, its history and current activity?
Nelson Fan: Founded in 1975 and listed in 1989, ASM Pacific Technology Limited (ASMPT) has grown to be a globally diversified company with presence in more than 30 countries including six R&D centres in Chengdu and Hong Kong (China), Munich (Germany), Singapore, Beuningen (the Netherlands) and Weymouth (the United Kingdom) as well as significant manufacturing operations in China (i.e. Shenzhen, Huizhou and Hong Kong), Germany, Malaysia, Singapore and the United Kingdom. Our total revenue in 2015 was US$1.67 billion.
Our equipment portfolio encompasses a wide range of products to address the diverse needs of our customers in many applications such as IC, discrete, power, flash memory, CIS, MEMs, automotive electronics, advanced packaging and LED. They include die attach equipment, AOI/FOL equipment, CIS equipment, wire bonding equipment, dispensing equipment, singulation, trim and form system, test and finish handling system, LED testing, sorting and taping system, molding equipment, wafer separation, factory automation, SMT placement equipment, and SMT printing equipment. We also offer a comprehensive range of lead frame package solutions (etched and stamped lead frames) and advanced packaging materials (MIS substrates).
Through the years we have not only maintained consistent profitable growth, we have also progressed to be the world leader in the assembly and packaging equipment as well as SMT equipment markets. We have maintained our leading position in assembly and packaging market almost uninterrupted since 2002. Last year, our SMT Solutions Business attained the number one position in the SMT equipment market based on revenue.
YD: As one of the leading suppliers the semiconductor back-end area, can you explain how ASMPT is positioned in the panel packaging sector?
NF: Capitalising on our core competencies in areas like placement, interconnect technologies, encapsulation, singulation, and test handling, we offer customers platform independent solutions for advanced packaging panel manufacturing. Our comprehensive product portfolio include laser grooving and wafer singulation (by ALSI), printing (DEK), placement (SIPLACE CA and NUCLEUS), high precision thermo-compression bonding tool (FIREBIRD), wafer-level and panel-level molding (ORCAS), and test, inspection and packaging (SUNBIRD). No other equipment supplier in the world has a similarly extensive advanced packaging product portfolio.
YD: It seems that ASMPT has a complete portfolio of panel level packaging technologies such as Pick & Place process and Molding equipment. Can you tell us more on the equipment? Is it possible to provide further information about technical characteristics of these products?
NF: ASMPT has a complete portfolio of panel level packaging technologies. In the Pick and Place process, ASMPT offers two types of equipment, namely NUCLEUS and SIPLACE CA.
The NUCLEUS is a high precision Pick and Place machine. It is designed to address different fan-out assembly approaches such as face-up or face-down with local and/or global alignment modes. The NUCLEUS is capable of fully automated multi-die bond processing with its large work holder for 12” wafer substrate and up to 330 x 330mm panel substrate, making it ideal for wafer level packaging and panel level packaging. Apart from high throughput, the NUCLEUS also provides high bonding accuracy with a XY placement accuracy of less than 2.5µm at 3σ.
The SIPLACE CA equipment is the world’s first placement platform that combines multi bare-die placement directly from the wafer and classic SMT placement in a single machine and a single production process. Perfect for high speed large panel level packaging, it delivers maximum performance and capability. When equipped with the SIPLACE Speedstar CP20 head, the SIPLACE CA is able to place up to 42,000 flip-chips or 28,000 die-attach components per hour in sizes ranging from 03015” (0.3 x 0.15mm) up to 6 x 6mm with an accuracy of ±10µm/3σ for eWLB process and components up to 27 x 27mm with ±25µm/3σ.
For molding, ASMPT’s ORCAS is a robust encapsulation system with configurable molding direction which performs very well on fan-out and fan-in wafer level packages as well as panel level packages. It can also encapsulate different sizes of carrier (maximum: 340mm x 340 mm) as well as handles both liquid and solid EMCs. It can generate multiple epoxy dispensing patterns to achieve best substrate coverage without conversion. The ORCAS delivers a high co-planarity accuracy of TTV 20μm with its robotic handler providing the required stability. The robotic handler (or SCARA) is capable of handling warpage up to 3,000μm.
YD: What are the competitive advantages of your products line for the panel packaging area?
NF: Our products have several distinctive advantages. They are also platform independent. Take for an example, our molding equipment, ORCAS. ORCAS can process both quad and round silicon wafer. In addition, ORCAS can perform molding either face-up or face-down with minor conversion. To ensure that our products are competitive and unique, we also constantly engage and work with our customers during development stages.
YD: You are today very well established the semiconductor market, your positioning is quite unique in this industry: you have a complete large product portfolio addressing the packaging platforms. What is ASMPT’s strategic focus for the panel based infrastructure? According to you, how do you see the future of your panel equipment products portfolio?
NF: Over the past few years, ASMPT has been building up and strengthening our capabilities in advanced packaging applications. For instance, we invested in laser dicing and grooving wafer business and MIS substrates to better serve our customers in packaging platforms.
Our strategic focus for the panel-based packaging is to offer customers solutions that support all platforms in pick & place, large format mold, stencil print, ball drop, singulation and test & finish processes.
The development of deplorable technologies in the areas such as motion control, software, optics, material engineering and cost-efficient mechanical and electrical/electronic hardware, design and lean manufacturing system, which can be scaled up or back efficiently to match market demand, will open up opportunities for ASMPT to develop newer innovative products to meet any manufacturing challenges as and when market transitions to the panel-based applications.
Going forward, we aim to go beyond the current overall package outline dimension of 300-odd mm to up to 700mm. Due to lack of industrial standard for panel sizes currently, as an equipment supplier we have to grapple with this non-standardisation and be well-prepared in order to be ahead of the curve. As such we need to explore and develop fundamental technologies to make this leap which will require substantial R&D investment.
To stay in business, competition is inevitable. It is important that we stay ahead of the curve by delivering value through innovative and cost-effective solutions that meet market needs. We believe that given our strong research and development (R&D) capabilities, extensive product diversity and broad customer base we are well-positioned to further grow our business.
Through our constant R&D investment, we have built a reliable and solid foundation to tackle any new technology development. We adopt a long-standing policy of investing up to 10% of our annual equipment turnover in R&D to strengthen our competence in core and enabling technologies. In addition, we are uniquely positioned to offer our customers a one-stop solution from interconnect technologies to SMT solutions for their large panel assembly and packaging needs. In fact, we are the only firm that is capable of offering such solution at current standing of the backend equipment segment of the semiconductor industry. This is further complemented by our diversified and globalised customer base. We also have an extensive presence in the China – from Shenzhen to Beijing. No single customer accounted for more than 10% of our total revenue.
R&D centre in Chengdu, China (Source: ASMPT)
Over 60 per cent of our R&D personnel worldwide hold post-graduate or PhD qualifications (Source: ASMPT)
YD: Which panel packaging between embedded die, organic interposer, glass interposer, FO WLP based on panel do you see a high interest for further growth of ASMPT’s revenue? What changes do you expect in the future?
NF: Currently, factors like maximum functional integration in the smallest and thinnest package with low power consumption and lowest costs are driving the trend in advanced packaging technology. Switching from wafer to a larger-size panel format will offer cost advantages and economy of scale benefits. Growth in panel technologies has to be first driven by the big organisations since they have the financial resources and expertise. It is only when it has become cost effective for medium and small enterprises to adopt it then the rate of growth will accelerate.
We believe that specific panel packaging platforms such as FO WLP do have advantages over other platforms such as organic interposer. However, organic interposer will still likely to be more advantageous over Fan Out in the near future because:
1) It is able to handle very high I/O with high electrical performance requirement.
2) Assembly yield performance of die first solution in the panel format is still in in the infant stage and as to whether it can be as high as organic interposer has not been tested. Organic interposer is known to have a good pad as it has been open-short tested.
The main end-applications that will likely to drive the growth of panel technologies are Internet of Things (IoT), wearable electronics, smart home, mobility and medical. We also believe that automotive demand for semiconductors will increase significantly in next few years. Driver assistance, in-vehicle automation and self-driving cars are expected to generate growth.
YD: How does ASMPT compete against Chinese capital in the panel market?
NF: As technologies develop at a much faster pace, co-operation and collaboration is the key for future success. We welcome opportunities to co-develop new systems and solutions with partners including Chinese partners in the panel market to drive digital lifestyles forward.
YD: Internet of Things (IoT) is gaining strong interest today and is expected to grow in coming years. Many discussions are taking place today regarding the packaging technologies supporting the growth of IoT. What is the status of ASMPT in the IoT business?
NF: With the advent of IoT, the packaging requirements will become more demanding — smaller form factor, lower cost and power consumption, and more functionality. Panel packaging appears to be most promising to produce PEMs to meet these exacting requirements.
Semiconductor is only useful if it is integrated with packaging technology as seen from examples like a simple transistor radio and smart devices for IoT deployment. As Moore’s Law is reaching marginal utility, integration with packaging technology will become even more important to create greater value.
Hence, we view the integration of packaging technology with IoT will be tight if it is not airtight. IoT is about making the world more connected and a better place to live and work. IoT is about connectivity, sensing, data collection, data analytics, computing, portability and mobility.
We believe that IoT in the next few decades will likely to be at the driver seat, powering the packaging landscape. This is because IoT is about the concept of leveraging semiconductor and adjacent technologies to derive Smart technology. The by-products are SmartHome, SmartSchool, SmartCities, SmartFactories, and even SmartHealthcare etc.
We have rolled out a wide range of products that is sufficient to meet the current state of IoT. These products are pick and place, encapsulation, printing and ball drop, singulation and test handling. We believe these products will serve us well for the next few years. We are also working on new products to cater to the growth of IoT.
YD: According to you, what new future applications and promising markets can change the industry landscape and the positions of the leading equipment manufacturers in the panel packaging area?
NF: We believe other areas of growth for panel packaging can be in big data and cloud computing fields. Combining both where required such as in areas that connect user and service of service provider will increase efficiency, productivity and satisfaction level.
Nelson Fan, Vice President, Business Development for Advanced Packaging Technology, ASM Pacific Technology
Nelson Fan has more than 20 years of experience in the semiconductor industry. He holds more than 40 U.S. patents in semiconductor packaging technologies. Prior to joining ASM Pacific Technology, Nelson was a Co-Founder and Vice President of Engineering for a company specialising in thermal cooling solutions. He previously held the role of General Manager and Vice President for Package Development at an OSAT in Hong Kong. Nelson holds a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Colorado, the United States.
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