In an effort to reduce the cost-of-test (COT), a number of customers are increasing the parallelism of logic wafer probe cards. However, due to the complexity such as pitch and number of probes, the pricing for these cards is reaching astronomical levels. We do not believe this trend is sustainable, let alone logical. The presentation suggested examples of alternative solutions. It is clear that critical solutions need to be optimized at the test cell, factory, and supply chain level not just at the consumable (probe card) level.
Don’t pop the champagne just yet! Although plenty of good news was shared at the 2014 SEMIIndustry Strategy Symposium (ISS) there was the sobering outlook of possible limited long-term growth due to technology issues as well as economic projections. Noticeable was the lack of news and updates on key industry developments.
This is the yearly “data rich” or “data overload” (take your pick) conference of semiconductor supply chain executives. The majority of the attendees and presenters are from the SEMI member companies that develop the equipment, materials, processes, and technology used to build, test, and package semiconductors. Keeping the pressure on for advanced technology were the “end customer” attendees and presenters – semi-conductor manufacturers.
As the Burn-in & Test Strategies (BiTS) Workshop 2013 fades into the sunset (queue the music), here is a round-up of the highlights. There were gun fights in the corral as well as technical questions for the presenters. The saloon girls and gunfighters took an edge off of the “geek” factor. This year over three hundred fifty people come to the “Circle BiTS Ranch” (aka the Hilton in Mesa, Arizona) for the premier conference focused on what is new and next for semiconductor test tooling and strategy. Oh, did I mention that the theme this year was Western?
Attending the SEMIIndustry Strategy Symposium (ISS) is like drinking from a fire hose with the additional risk of whiplash. Don’t get me wrong, it is an exquisite fire hose but sometimes the data presented can be overwhelming at this conference of semiconductor supply chain executives. The majority of the attendees and presenters are executives from the SEMI member companies that develop the equipment, materials, processes, and technology used to build, test, and package semiconductors. And the executives present from the semiconductor manufacturers are typically the “end customers”.
The greatest value of SEMI ISS, beyond the networking, is the strategic overview of the entire semiconductor ecosystem. What are the market drivers, the technology needed, and the roadmap status of this industry? It is true that we all know where we need to head courtesy of Moore’s Law and the International Technology Roadmap for Semiconductors which attempts to keep us on that trajectory. The pressure of consumers needing wanting greater functionality at lower costs is relentless. Much of the technological detail of this ecosystem is addressed in a myriad of other forums throughout the year. ISS ties these technical requirements, development needs, and business needs back to the strategic direction and desires of the global marketplace.
Rob Marcelis (BE Precision Technology ‐ The Netherlands), “H3D Profiler for Contact Less Probe‐Card Inspection”:
Probe cards require inspection since they are consumables subject to wear. Changes in probe position or shape can damage the semiconductor devices they are testing. As probe cards increase in size and probe count, the probe cards themselves are becoming more expensive to test in terms of test time and complexity. Each new test system typically requires an expensive “motherboard” for the probe card metrology tool to simulate the mechanics of the tester and provide electrical interconnect to the card for electrical testing.
As the number of probes on probe cards increase due to greater parallelism, driven by the desire for one touchdown testing and the future transition to 450 mm wafers, the total force required to probe a wafer increases if there is no reduction in the force per probe. This wafer prober chuck needs to apply the required force by pushing the wafer against the probe card typically held in place by the structure of the prober. With 200K probes on a 450 mm wafer each requiring 5 gF this is approximately equal to 1 ton (2205 lbF) of applied force. To reduce these force requirements wafer chuck and prober structure, Advantest and JEM have Continue reading “IEEE Semiconductor Wafer Test Workshop 2012 – Session 5 (Tuesday)”
Larry Levy (FormFactor, Inc.), “Is Parametric Testing About To Enter a Period of Growth and Innovation?”:
Upwards of one thousand facilities perform parametric wafer testing (based on 2009 market data) with over a third of these using obsolete test equipment. There have been no really new testers in several years – Agilent still has their 40xx series and Keithley has their S530 tester. And several companies have exited the market and some companies (including Keithley) are no longer supporting older models of testers. Since parametric testing remains an essential process, this has forced a high number of these facilities to use obsolete equipment or find other approaches. A few companies are going as far as using an Advantest 93000, a significantly more expensive and highly sophisticated digital tester, for parametric test. [Updated to clarify Keithley’s status.]
Like the roller coaster ride that is the semiconductor industry, the SEMIIndustry Strategy Symposium (ISS) 2012 had its share of ups, downs, twists, and turns. Semiconductor Equipment and Materials International – better known as SEMI – as the industry association of suppliers to semiconductor manufacturers has held this annual conference in early January for thirty five years to provide updates on business conditions and technology roadmaps to enable SEMI members to plan for the coming year. The conference was packed with senior management paying close attention to the industry leaders, analysts, and customer presenters. All of the presentations, even the most poorly disguised sales pitch or infomercial, contained several valuable insights.
…To make sense of the big picture, one needs to follow the money and then head to China.
Ed Pausa the primary author of PricewaterhouseCooper’s (PwC) recently published report “Continued Growth: China’s Impact on the Semiconductor Industry – 2011 Update” provided an overview at this month’s MEPTEC luncheon. His presentation was a helpful tour to start digesting this impressive report, now it its seventh annual update. The report runs 112 pages in length and is packed with figures, data and most importantly analysis. Building a cohesive picture from many disparate data sources is a major undertaking and PwC should be applauded for making available this excellent work.
After listening to this presentation and reading the report, I find two items that really stand out as primary market forces. Unraveling the convoluted web of the semiconductor supply chain to examine these items will lead to greater understanding of the industry. They are, Continue reading “Big Numbers – The Semiconductor Supply Chain”
As the final presenter at this week’s IEEESemiconductor Wafer Test Workshop (SWTW), I outlined how critical it is to understand the true cost of a product’s architecture in “Probe Card Cost Drivers from Architecture to Zero Defects“. Without a proper understanding of these costs – especially for fully custom high technology products such as wafer test probe cards – it is impossible to maintain a sufficient gross margin. Gross margin is essential to maintain the health of a company and to fund the research & development required for innovation.
Yes, there were a few in the audience who appeared pleased since they are confident that their products are on the right path. There were others who may have been upset based upon their company’s direction. I would argue that a proper diagnosis – regardless of how disturbing – is essential to drive the proper cure.
There is plenty of opportunity in the test market and reasons for optimism. The key to long term prosperity is to really understand the fundamentals of the business and not be blinded by the technology.
I thank those who stayed for the entire conference and welcome your thoughts below. And I will be posting more about the conference (including my summaries) in the next few weeks.
Last week I was very busy visiting the combined SEMICON West and Intersolar North America trade shows in San Francisco. I had numerous meetings in addition to visiting the show floors and attending the excellent presentations. Based upon the lackluster show last year – I’ve heard some use “abysmal” to describe it – I almost hesitated to attend.
I’m happy to report that this year’s show was significantly better with a much more positive attitude and energy. SEMI’s preliminary attendance figure (for the combined show) is 29,461 which is up 32% from last year’s 17,048 verified attendance. This is significantly higher than both organizers expected. Intersolar had expected 1,600 visitors but had over twice as many. (The final numbers will be out in about two weeks in the “Post Show” report.)
The 20th annual IEEE Semiconductor Wafer Test Workshop (SWTW) started this evening. Rumor has it that attendance is over 240 this year which is a vast improvement over last year’s 160 or so attendees. At the peak the conference had almost hit 600. Things started off well with a reception where I had the chance to catch up with many industry friends and colleagues.