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The highlight of the “Speakers’ Corner” at the 2015 productronica trade fair in Munich was the presentation by Robin Taylor of Atotech entitled, “Facing Incredible Times Where the Only constant is Change,” in which Taylor took a step back from his everyday marketing and technical sales management responsibilities to contemplate what might happen in the substrate business over the coming decade, in light of current trends and developments and drivers for the longer term.
“Technology is important—but cost is king!” was an inescapable reality as he delved into future packaging styles: small form factors and lightweight technology, and higher performance with lower cost. Glass and panel-based processing offered further opportunities for cost reduction. “Think sensors!” he advocated, in anticipation of a long-term market dominated by mobile, medical and wearable devices, and the Internet of Things. The semiconductor industry was currently going through an unprecedented period of consolidation, driven by increased cost of integrated circuit design and development and fab construction, as the technology node approached molecular dimensions. In parallel, there was increasing consolidation in outsourced assembly and test, substrate and PCB fabrication, and materials sectors.
Innovative techniques were extending the capability of optical lithography to reduce feature size much earlier than the semiconductor industry roadmaps had predicted, and package routing densities were approaching thin film dimensions. Although sub-1 micron line and space widths were achievable in foundries, there was still a gap to be filled by low-cost solutions and fan-out wafer level packaging concepts presented the prospect of high-volume substrate-less products.
The trend in mobile devices towards slimmer handsets, with larger screens and highercapacity batteries left less room to accommodate packages and substrates, which consequently had to provide increased functionality in smaller and thinner dimensions, whilst the mechanical properties of their materials would become more critical, particularly in regard of warpage reduction.
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Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the January 2015 issue of The PCB Magazine.