Apple’s usage of substrate-like PCBs in the latest iPhone 8 and X will revolutionize the substrate and PCB markets.
Advanced substrates must answer demands on both the scaling and functional roadmaps
The semiconductor industry’s trends are affecting the semiconductor package and package-to-board interconnect level. Performance-driven applications like PCs and smartphones are giving way to functional applications that are plotting the semiconductor industry’s future course: IoT, the automotive market, 5G connectivity, AR & VR, and AI. Handling large amounts of data generated by new applications will also be crucial, meaning that improved data processing performance and semiconductor scaling will continue as semiconductor industry drivers.
Advanced semiconductor packaging is seen as a way to increase the value of a semiconductor product by adding functionality, maintaining/increasing performance, and lowering cost – and to this end, PCB is not just an interconnection but also an integration solution.
On the scaling roadmap, three competition zones are active below the 30/30um line width/space:
- Board vs. package substrate (between L/S 30/30 um and L/S 20/20um)
- Leading to substrate-Like PCBs (SLP)
- Package substrate vs. no substrate (fan-out) (around L/S 10/10um and sub-L/S 10/10 um)
- Flip-chip substrates, embedded die in PLP substrate, competing with fan-out WLP/PLP
- TSV packaging vs. TSV-less packaging alternatives (between L/S 5/5 um and L/S 1/1 um, possibly lower)
- 2.5D (i.e. Si interposer) configurations vs. high-density fan-out
The functional roadmap for advanced substrates is linked to devices that do not primarily require interconnect scaling but must satisfy particular demands such as high frequency, high reliability, higher power, etc. Such advanced packaging types include RF SiPs for 5G mmWave and embedded die-in-substrate for higher reliability/power applications. This report focuses particularly on SLP and embedded die-in-substrate, with insights on the overall PCB and IC substrate (FCCSP / FCBGA) business.
Substrate-like PCBs: a clash of two worlds
The transition from the subtractive to the mSAP process and from PCB to substrate-like PCB is under way in high-end smartphones, driven by Apple and its iPhone 8/iPhone X. Other high-end smartphone suppliers such as Samsung and Huawei are expected to join in the near future.
SLP is a term that attempts to describe the transition of a board into a product with package-substrate-like features. Standard HDI and non-HDI boards use variations of the subtractive manufacturing process, while package substrates (i.e. FC/WB CSP/BGA) use mSAP or SAP. SLP is in fact a large substrate, manufactured in mSAP, in the size and function of a board. The benefits of an SLP compared to a standard or HDI board include higher line resolution, better electrical performance, and the potential for space and energy-saving, which are very important in a cramped, energy-limited smartphone environment.
SLP’s entry opens a new market and disrupts the supply chain. As indicated in Figure 2 below, the SLP market is estimated at $1.9B in 2016 and $2.24B by 2023, with a 64% CAGR 2017 - 2023. SLP manufacturing will not just recover the substrate market, but also give it a significant boost. However, from a technology-readiness point of view, although the mSAP process is mature for processing package substrate, considerable challenges still exist for manufacturing substrates in PCB-size.
This report presents comprehensive details regarding the SLP market, covering the supply chain and offering a technology comparison of the subtractive/mSAP/SAP processes. Also included are comparative teardowns of the iPhone 8, iPhone X, and Samsung S8.
Financial analysis: the war between players
With SLP’s appearance in Apple’s latest iPhones, PCB and substrate manufacturers have started producing SLP and investing in mSAP. The 28 selected PCB/substrate manufacturers are all believed to have mSAP technology, and some of them can manufacture SLP.
Driven by high-end smartphone demand, certain players appears to have high capital expenditures. Meanwhile, some large players show steady revenue in their PCB/substrate business. This report furnishes detailed information concerning these players’ financial activities in PCB/substrate manufacturing and other areas.
In order to differentiate their activities during the fierce competition happening within the PCB/substrate world, some players are trying to build PCB/substrates with more value inside.
Embedded die and interconnects: a new opportunity for substrate makers and OSATs?
One prevalent trend amongst substrate makers is not to sell the substrate as an interconnection but as an integration solution, which may consist of embedding a die and an interconnection-like EMIB technology, or simply building a package around the substrate, like MCeP technology.
The adoption of these packaging platforms has been confirmed within the last few years, and products are already commercialized. The embedded die package has sweet spots in different applications, and the rationale to adopt it vary from miniaturization and/or thermal management for power applications, to anti-tampering for defense applications. This package is adopted when no other lower-cost packages offer viable solutions.
The large number of R&D projects in power applications, especially those related to automotive and defense, illustrates the growing interest in using PCB/substrates as more than an interconnect.
In this report, you will find a deep analysis of the applications where embedded die package is employed, the latest products featuring EMIB technology (Intel), MCeP technology (Shinko), and embedded die package, and market forecasts for these respective platforms from 2017 - 2023. In addition, a deep patents analysis of the IP landscape including time evolution of patents publications and leading patents applicants is including in the report.
- Overview report on advanced substrates that builds on 2 previous reports, “Advanced Substrates Overview 2017: From IC package to board” and “Embedded Die Packaging: Technology and Market Trends 2017”
- Financial analysis of PCB/substrate manufacturers
- Substrate-like PCB business
- Market forecasts for IC substrates, SLP and embedded die/ interconnects including MCeP and EMIB
- Embedded die IP landscape