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?
Is 3D semiconductor packaging really the Lego of the integrated circuit (IC) world? It is a great analogy for the range of possible solutions and flexibility provided by different flavors of 3D packaging (2.5D on interposer, 3D, 5.5D, etc.) and “colors” (homogenous and heterogeneous) of die stacks. Plenty of pictures of Legos and scanning electron microscope (SEM) images were shown last week at the RTI InternationalTechnology Venture Forum symposium and conference “3-D Architectures for Semiconductor Integration and Packaging”. Presenters clearly articulated the great promise of what could be built with 3D packaging. At the same time, progress towards solving the multitude of challenges to make this technology as pervasive, if not as easy to use and fun, as Legos was discussed.
If we were focused on just these two parameters, we could be talking about horses, cars, or airplanes. But throw in density, endurance, and price and it is a horse race of different color. Not only does the winning technology have to balance speed and power, it needs to pack more functionality per area at a lower cost than existing solutions. Along with the endurance to last ten or more years.
Michael Huebner, FormFactor, “A Hot Topic: Current Carrying Capacity, Tip Melting and Arcing”:
Power consumption per dynamic random-access memory (DRAM) is increasing to as high as 400 mA or more under normal test conditions. At the same time the number of DRAMs being tested in parallel – and sharing the same power supply – is increasing. Therefore, the risk of current damage to probes is increasing.
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.