Business is there for the taking! Now, how to design the ideal supply chain to support high-volume manufacturing?
Which applications will drive panel platforms?
For more than four decades, the semiconductor industry has rigorously followed Moore’s Law in scaling down CMOS technologies. However, a huge investment in new lithography solutions is required to achieve advanced nodes in a range of 20 nm. Although some packaging platforms processed on wafer, i.e. SI interposer, exhibit good performance, high cost is still the main obstacle that limits its adoption for high-volume manufacturing.
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. Panel-level manufacturing has the potential to leverage the knowledge and infrastructure of wafer-level packaging (WLP) and the PCB/Flat-Panel Display/Photovoltaic industries.
Panel’s application scope could be segmented into three different categories defined by the required resolution. Different applications could be part of panel’s success story. High-end products like networks, CPU/GPU, FPGA, and servers will necessitate a resolution reduced to 2 µm. Therefore, this area is likely to be dominated by 300mm lines where the front-end is already well-established and has the L/S capability to achieve such resolution.
Midrange products including basebands, processors, power management modules, and RFIC should be the main target of FO WLP based on panel and glass panel interposers, while organic interposers should be restricted to low-end products: mobile, consumer, WiFi, and power management.
We estimate that the panel packaging industry will reach $109M by 2017, with a market value of $405M by 2020.
This report provides an in-depth analysis of the panel industry and its future development/drivers, covering platforms such as FO WLP panel, embedded die, organic interposer, glass panel interposer and hybrid interposer.
Panel manufacturing infrastructure status: the HVM roadmap has yet to be built
We’ve 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. Over the past few years, it’s become clear that some panel package choices will be more suitable than others for successful commercial development. The key questions are when will the panel industry take off, and how will it evolve?
Some of these advanced packaging platforms (embedded die and organic interposer) are already available on panel, while others like FO WLP and glass interposer have yet to be confirmed.
Embedded die-in-substrate is a promising packaging technology whose key benefits are small form factor and size, high integration capability, and good thermal/electrical performance. However, despite these benefits and the multiple players working on this technology, it hasn’t really taken off in terms of high-volume manufacturing. Presently, only a few players (TDK, AT&S, and Taiyo-Yuden) are in volume production.
Certain factors have impeded embedded die technology’s growth due to the lack of driving applications and standardization which make it difficult for end-customers to multisource. These challenges are gradually being addressed, and we believe that things are starting to happen which will propel this technology onto a high growth path.
With TDK and ASE establishing their “ASE Embedding Electronics” joint venture in 2015 (in which products based on TDK’s SESUB technology will be manufactured), we expect more licensing/multi-sourcing activities in the future that will bode well for embedded die packaging. Also, substrate suppliers like AT&S are working with industrial bodies like IPC to create standards. OSATs are less interested in embedded die technology, but they can collaborate with their substrate partners to leverage their experience and technology to develop the supply chain and create a value-added product that will be a win-win scenario for both. One example is the collaboration between Nanium and AT&S for E2CP (Embedded Embedded Component Package).
FO WLP panel level could enable a lower cost per chip. The industry’s general consensus is that FO WLP-on-panel will bring huge cost benefits. Many OSATs and equipment/materials providers are involved in FOWLP-on-panel’s process development, but at present only J-Devices has the established infrastructure for FO WLP-on-panel, while ASE is using their flip-chip infrastructure for low-cost FO WLP-on-panel production.
Certain criteria must be fulfilled and certain challenges overcome for FO WLP-on-panel’s broad adoption linked to large capex investment, equipment readiness, standardization, multisource availability, and most important, market availability to keep the panel line running. There are technical challenges too, such as warpage control, die placement accuracy, and fabrication of sub 10/10um line, etc. on large panels.
Glass panel interposer is another attractive platform for RF applications due to its considerable upside, which includes electrical performance, CTE match, and cost reduction opportunities. However, commercialization of glass panel interposer has limits linked to Through Glass Via (TGV) formation and metallization. Substrate makers and glass suppliers are pushing to validate glass panel interposer’s value, but OSATS, which have zero control over glass material’s cost structure and possess limited experience, are not likely to invest in glass panel technology’s development.
This report describes the different strategies and products used by each player in panel packaging, from substrate makers like Shinko to the core outsourced assembly-and-test companies (OSATs). We’ll also discuss strategies for overcoming the technical and market barriers preventing adoption of panel packaging platforms for high-volume manufacturing.
Equipment and materials readiness for panel manufacturing
Today, the equipment infrastructure within the advanced packaging supply chain is mainly based on processing 300mm round wafers. But to process a larger surface, new equipment and optimized materials are required. For some process steps (i.e. plating, PVD, and dicing), most of the tools are readily available on the market and can be adapted from the PCB, flat-panel display, or LCD industries and are likely to be reused for producing panels. However, some key process steps inherent to advanced packaging, i.e lithography, necessitate developing new tool capabilities in order to support thick-resist lithography, panel-handling capability, exposure field size, and depth of focus.
Moreover, above 8- 10 µm L/S the PCB design rule dominates, and the equipment and materials infrastructure in this area is already established. The area below 8 µm represents a space where various equipment vendors like Rudolph, SUSS MicroTec, and Atotech are competing today. These vendors are either coming from the PCB infrastructure or acquiring other companies in order to bolster their flat-panel display knowledge.
Given the remaining challenges in need of solving for panel processes in Advanced Packaging, there will be huge business opportunities that could attract new equipment entrants coming from the PCB, LCD, and PV industries who might have the ability to apply existing panel-based tools for panel-scale packaging technologies.
On the materials side, the trends are that the key materials suppliers are using their current market-ready products for LCD and advanced packaging applications, and optimizing them to meet panel package requirements.
This report will discuss potential challenges linked to equipment and materials for panel processes.
Objectives of the Report
This report’s objectives are to:
- Provide an overview of existing packages processed on panel
- Deliver a high-level market overview of panel packaging
- Identify panel packaging’s drivers and trends
- Offer a current status and forecast for panel packaging platforms
- Highlight key players and provide supply chain analysis