Panel-Level debonding solutions from ERS enables Fan-out Panel-Level Package adoption – An interview with ERS electronic

Several Yole Développement (Yole) reports, such as Fan-Out WLP and PLP Applications and Technologies 2021, highlight the expected growth in the Fan-out (FO) packaging market. A CAGR2020-2026 of 15% is expected and will drive the market to a value of $2.5B in 2026.

This rapid growth is propelled by consumer and mobile applications, while automotive applications are also gaining more traction. Fan-out packaging can be done at the wafer level or panel -evel to increase the area-per-process-step and decrease the production cost. Therefore, the adoption rate of panel carriers over 300 mm wafer is currently growing and is expected to reach 12% as soon as 2023, having been approved by, for example, PTI, Nepes, ASE, and Samsung.

Despite the evident advantages, panel processing is not trivial; it requires equipment adaptation for each process step to handle large panels and resolve reconstructed substrate challenges, e.g., heterogeneous materials, non-uniformity over large area carriers, die misalignment, warpage profiles. One such difficult process step is panel carrier debonding.

The technology and market for debonding methods have been analyzed by Yole in Bonding and Lithography Equipment for More-than-Moore devices 2021 report. Among other debonding equipment vendors, ERS electronic GmbH (ERS) is one of the first to offer an automatic panel-level debonding tool that provides solutions to the critical problems of large panel handling, warpage, and process throughput.

Stefan Chitoraga (SC) and Gabriela Pereira (GP), both Technology & Market Analyst, Packaging & Assembly at Yole had the opportunity to debate with Debbie-Claire Sanchez (DCS), Fan-out Equipment Business Unit Manager at ERS electronic. Below, read their exploration of the panel-level adoption and get a better understanding of ERS electronic’s market positioning.

SC: ERS has long been present in Advanced Packaging and, more precisely, Fan-out activities. What are the main solutions brought to the packaging industry?

DCS: 15 years ago, we were asked to develop a thermal debonding process for eWLB device packages. ERS was the first company to introduce such a solution and thus played a significant role in the process development of Fan-out. We have continued to build on our technology to provide a broad portfolio of machines that can support the varying complexities of Fan-out packages on 200- and 300- mm wafers, and more recently, also panels.
Aside from enabling the thermal debonding process, ERS has also developed the TriTemp Slide featuring the AirCushion Transport mechanism, a patented technology for contactless transport that eliminates handling-induced warpage, one of the key issues related to this type of packaging.

SC: Fan-out packaging is still considered a costly solution compared to wire-bond or flip-chip, worsened by yield issues related to substrate warpage. How does ERS contribute to Fan-out yield improvement?

DCS: When a wafer is hot, it becomes pliable, which can lead to a particular deformity. A typical pick and place method will induce warpage depending on how it is held together with non-uniform heat dissipation.

One key advantage and differentiator of our machines is the above-mentioned unique, proprietary transport method, which was developed to eliminate any handling-induced warpage and thus considerably improve yield. Warpage causes yield issues in layer build-up, such as patterning and bumping. In the case of thermal debonding, warpage can lead to wafer excursion. We have worked with the renowned international research institutes IME A*Star in Singapore to ensure that the outgoing warpage is acceptable for the following process steps.

The top two thermal shots illustrate the heat dissipation when a high-temperature wafer is in contact with a low-temperature object. The bottom two thermal shots show the uniform heat dissipation of the wafer being processed on ERS’s TriTemp Slide

GP: In the wafer-level debonding area, ERS specializes in thermal debonding and competes with much larger players that offer low-temperature methods such as mechanical or laser debonding. Could you outline the ERS debonder differentiators and advantages of thermal debonding?

DCS: ERS’s core knowledge lies in thermal management, which we continue to utilize in our chuck systems and debonding machines. Over the course of our 15 years of experience with thermal debonding and warpage adjustment, we have learned to maximize the durability of our machines with far less upkeep and maintenance. Thermal debonding itself is more robust with proven materials such as carriers and thermal tapes. The operational cost is also significantly lower compared to, for example, laser. Laser, aside from regular maintenance, degrades over time faster than thermal. There are no consumable parts, and there is less induced stress on the product compared to mechanical debonding. Lastly, there are fewer parameters to keep an eye on, making high-volume production much more sustainable.

SC: Why did ERS decide to build equipment for panel-level Fan-out? What are the solutions offered?

DCS: We launched our first thermal debonding machine for pilot lines and fast prototyping of FOPLP (Fan-Out Panel-Level Packaging) in 2018, and today we see Panel-level Packaging moving to high-volume production. In November last year, we launched our Automatic Panel Debond Machine, which can cater to panels up to 650 x 650 mm. This machine combines everything we have learned about debonding and warpage repair of both wafers and panels from the past 15 years. The TriTemp Slide with the AirCushion transport is also included, and it offers a great solution for handling large-area panels. Gravity becomes an issue with a bigger surface area, so it is critical to have an air transport system like ours that allows seamless handling. Our more than 50 years of thermal know-how has enabled us to develop large thermal chucks with high temperature accuracy. By providing both handling and thermal accuracy, we contribute to the reduction of warpage and die shift.

GP: What is the company’s strategy to resolve future Fan-out challenges, such as increasing I/O, thinner and larger packages?

DCS: We are continuously improving our transport mechanism to allow the handling of thinner wafers. Larger packages will ultimately result in a different warpage profile. Having an in-situ warpage adjust sequence in our thermal debonding system will allow us to address this issue before the subsequent process steps.

This year, we are also upgrading our flagship Automatic Debond Machine 330 with new features, including strong vacuum chucks, making it the most comprehensive equipment for thermal debonding and warpage correction for FOWLP.


Debbie-Claire Sanchez is the Fan-out Equipment Business Unit Manager at ERS electronic GmbH based in Munich, Germany. She has worked for more than seven years in the field of wafer-level packaging, both Fan-in and Fan-out, and is now driving the development of ERS’s Thermal Debonding and Warpage Adjustment manufacturing equipment for Fan-out applications.


Stefan CHITORAGA photo

Stefan Chitoraga is a Technology and Market Analyst specializing in Packaging and Assembly at Yole Développement (Yole). As part of the Semiconductor, Memory & Computing division at Yole, Stefan is focused on advanced packaging platforms and processes, substrates, and PCBs. He is involved daily in the production of technology & market reports and custom consulting projects.

Prior to Yole, Stefan served as a Package Design Engineer at Teledyne E2V for 4 years, where he was in charge of the ceramic package and glass lid development for image sensors, developing mechanical design, routing, electrical and thermal simulations.

Stefan holds a Bachelor’s in Electronics and Computer Science for Industry Applications from the Polytech Grenoble (France).

Gabriela Pereira is a Technology & Market Analyst in the Packaging team within the Semiconductor, Memory and Computing Division at Yole Développement (Yole). Gabriela is focused on advanced packaging platforms.

Prior to Yole, Gabriela worked as an R&D Engineer at Amkor Technology, where she collaborated on several package development projects.

Gabriela holds a master’s degree in Metallurgical and Materials Engineering from the University of Porto (Portugal).

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