Developing and Strengthening 3D-IC Manufacture in Europe

Developing and Strengthening 3D-IC Manufacture in Europe

By Julien Happich, EE Times

The European 3D TSV Summit that took place at Grenoble's Minatec campus late February gathered 320 attendees from over 20 countries, a testimony of Grenoble’s high tech reputation and France’s competitive edge in the field of 3D IC integration.

3D-IC image“There were only local summits so far,” explained Heinz Kundert, President of SEMI Europe, “and this is truly the first time that a conference on 3D Through Silicon Vias (TSV) received such global attention, from key European players but also from outside Europe. A lot has been spent on R&D and Europe has very good universities, but we also need to maintain a critical mass in IC manufacturing in Europe, otherwise, we could lose our ‘knowhow’ and critical edge.”

There are many issues that need to be addressed for 3D-IC manufacture, and now is the chance for Europe to bring IC production back from Asia, according to Kundert. “In highly automated fabs, it may no longer be economical to produce ICs in Asia, especially with all the associated costs of staff travel, and complex machine parts imports/exports,” Kundert highlighted. In fact, there is a reverse relocation trend happening, from Asia to Europe and to the U.S.

As a global semiconductor industry association, SEMI Europe's role is also to ensure that its members can compete with the Asian and American industry on fair grounds, with the same sort of tax reliefs and energy deals, but also with more education in electronics.

In that sense, the European 3D TSV Summit’s recent success helps raise the semiconductor industry’s visibility and get the message across the European Commission. SEMI Europe documents the industry and negotiates with the European Commission on behalf of its members.  “The European Commission has now understood that semiconductors represent a key enabling technology for growth in Europe, and this needs to be supported not only with spending in R&D, but also by financing pilot production lines. We are here to raise the issues and to provide a single European strategy for the semiconductor industry, comforting our members that they have a future in Europe” concluded Kundert.

Solutions from 2.5D Interposers to 3D-ICs

Although the latest developments around through-silicon vias are aimed at improving direct chip-to-chip connectivity and true 3D-IC designs, so-called 2.5D interposers where several chips are connected through an interposer rather than directly using TSVs still have a future. In fact in the next five years, market and technology analyst for advanced packaging at Yole Développement Lionel Cadix expects 2.5D interposers with system partitioning applications to be the biggest drivers for the volume adoption of 3D-IC technology. 

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This article was originally published in the February 2013 issue of the print edition of EE Times Europe. Used with permission.