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3D ASIP: “It’s Complicated”

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By Jeff Dorsch, Contributing Editor

The presentations at this week’s 3D Architectures in Semiconductor Integration and Packaging conference could be summed up in a famous Facebook status: “It’s complicated.”

They also could be summed up in one word: Progress.

This year has seen tremendous progress in implementation of 3DIC technology, according to speakers at the 11th annual conference, held in Burlingame, Calif. Those who have been touting and tracking 3D chips for years are looking forward to the 2015 introduction of Intel’s Xeon Phi “Knights Landing” processor for high-performance computing, which will incorporate the Hybrid Memory Cube technology in the same package as the CPU.

Activities began Wednesday, December 10, with a preconference symposium on “2.5/3D-IC Design Tools and Flows” and “3D Integration: 3D Process Technology.” Bill Martin of E-System Design kicked off the program with a presentation on path finding, a topic addressed several times over the next two days. He emphasized that preparing for a chip design project, such as choosing the right tools, is as important as the design and implementation phases when it comes to embracing 3DIC technology.

John Ferguson of Mentor Graphics later said there is “an infrastructure problem” in the semiconductor industry when it comes to process design kits (PDKs) for 2.5D and 3D chips. Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing has collaborated with Mentor and other leading suppliers of electronic design automation tools to offer PDKs to TSMC foundry customers, yet the next step must be taken to have outsourced semiconductor assembly and test contractors provide packaging PDKs.

Phil Garrou, a senior consultant for Yole Developpement, said 2014 has witnessed significant progress in implementation of 3DIC technology. “We no longer need to prove performance,” he said. “The remaining issue is cost.”

Several speakers addressed the topic of the Internet of Things and how it involves 3DICs on the first day of the conference. Steven Schulz of the Silicon Integration Initiative (Si2) said 3D chip designers should think of their products not as system-on-a-chip devices, but system-on-a-stack.

Yole’s Rozalia Beica said predictions that the Internet of Things market will be worth trillions of dollars in 2022 are “overoptimistic” and that “optimism is higher than current investment.” Yole looks for the market in IoT sensors to be worth $400 billion in 2024, she said.

Samta Bonsal of the GE Software Center spoke on the Industrial Internet. “That world is huge,” she said, and predicted it will have “a bigger impact” than consumer-oriented IoT applications. Gartner says the market for all IoT chips will be worth $7.58 billion in 2015, she noted. The market research firm also forecasts that 8 billion connected devices will be shipped during 2020, encompassing 35 billion semiconductor devices produced on 6 million wafers.

E. Jan Vardaman of TechSearch International presented a lively review of 3DIC technology, past and present. “There’s been a lot of good progress with TSV (through-silicon vias), enabling us to improve the process,” she said. Still, 3DIC has been a long time in coming, noting that Micron Technology began research and development on DRAM stacking a dozen years ago and Xilinx initiated development of a silicon-based interposer to be used with TSVs in 2006, six years before it was able to offer a field-programmable gate array with such technology, manufactured in volume by TSMC.

Dyi-Chung Hu of Unimicron looked past the silicon interposer to the era to using glass for interposers and substrate core materials. Glass has a low coefficient of thermal expansion compared with silicon, he noted, and is very flat. Its chief drawback is its brittleness, according to Hu.

Michael Gaynes of IBM’s Thomas J. Watson Research Center reported on his company’s two ICECool projects for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, developing 3DICs that could run cooler in data-center servers.

The last day of the conference coincided with a convention devoted to the Star Trek television series in the adjacent hotel ballroom. Attendees dressed as Klingons and starship crew members mingled with the 3DIC technologists in the hotel lobby, all dreaming and thinking about the future.



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One Response to “3D ASIP: “It’s Complicated””

  1. Kal Gandikota Says:

    After performance and cost, reliability and scalability would matter for 3DICs.

    3D stacks for memories might offer better reliability,cost, performance and scalability. I wonder how 3D logic stacks will do.

    3D memory stacks may not dissipate as much heat, I am curious how power verification is done for 3D logic stacks?

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