Advanced packaging and advanced substrates seek to solve the semiconductor industry’s struggles with Moore’s law

For years, the semiconductor supply chain, following Moore’s law, in which the number of transistors in a dense integrated circuit (IC) doubles about every two years, has made front-end manufacturing the cornerstone of the industry. Having started by lithographically patterning components hundreds of nanometers in size, the industry is now trying to produce patterns with features smaller than a nanometer. The semiconductor supply chain is therefore entering a critical decade. Moore’s law continues, but the cost and complexity of designing and manufacturing devices limits its use to just a handful of customers, and only addresses digital devices, advanced logic mostly. The semiconductor industry is developing advanced packaging and advanced substrates in order to be able to continue the integration of functionalities in devices. These approaches avoid paying the cost and handling the complexity of the most advanced nodes of semiconductor front end manufacturing. They also enable integration of non-digital functions.

Advanced packaging and advanced substrates have been pushed by the whole semiconductor industry for integrating multiple functions into a package. One approach is digital chip partitioning, using hybrid bonding and chip-to-chip or chip-to-wafer stacking. Another is heterogeneous integration, used in silicon photonics, integrated power modules (IPM), multi-sensing devices on photonics platforms and multi-spectral analysis combining image sensors in visible and multiple infra-red wavelengths. Advanced packaging with Fan-Out, Wafer Level Chip Scale Packaging (WLCSP), flip chip and embedded die platforms, brings more functionalities and improves performance. These platforms are now well established and increasingly adopted in mobile phone, automotive, industrial and medical applications, typically called ‘chiplet’ approaches.

Advanced packaging is supported by advanced substrates, as the various forms of flip chip platform use substrates for die-to-printed circuit board (PCB) connections. In addition to these functions, advanced substrates are now at the heart of the most advanced computing modules developed by Intel, AMD, Nvidia and the like. Integrating multiple processors with memory modules cannot be achieved without advanced substrates that have multiple functions beyond just interconnection with the PCB. The advanced substrate industry is involved in a huge investment cycle, funded by the end customers, and put in place by AT&S, Shinko and Ibiden just to name a few.

These industrial changes create a dynamic supply chain. Advanced packaging is supported by integrated device manufacturers (IDM) like Intel and Samsung and Outsourced Semiconductor Assembly and Test (OSAT) companies like ASE and Amkor. Front-end foundries, with TSMC as the main player, are also investing heavily to reuse front-end processes for back-end services, which is exactly what advanced packaging does. Fabless companies like Apple, AMD and Nvidia are also part of this equation, seeking to harness new technical possibilities. In the meantime, substrate makers are investing in advanced packaging, in order to benefit from their knowledge and customer access. The competition for the access to great value the technology adds is open. The supply chain should consequently see some major changes over the next decade.

All these market, technology and supply chain changes are complex to understand and monitor. Yole has the most complete product line, including annual application and technology trend reports, monitors analyzing market evolution on a quarterly basis, as well as physical teardowns of components. You can understand the advanced packaging and substrate industry through the “Status of Advanced Packaging” report and the quarterly “Advanced Packaging Monitor”. The report “Status of the Advanced Substrate Industry” will be available in Q4 2022. You can also dive deep into our complete collection of component teardowns or comparative reports from Yole SystemPlus highlighting technological improvements. Get access to Yole’s knowledge, analysis and data for better decisions.