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Semiconductor Packaging Is No Longer ‘Standard’

Do you remember the days when a semiconductor product was multi-sourced and presented in standard packaging?

Standard packaging used to be basic through-hole products like DIPs and PGAs. In the 1990s, surface mount packaging became the new volume packaging, but components were still available in standard packaging configurations and, many times, were multi-sourced. When component engineers or supply chain personnel would order a semiconductor product, the packaging options were understood and well-known by everyone. This held true until about 10 years ago when flip-chip packaging came into play; as a result, products are no longer multi-sourced.

The days of standard packaging are long gone for the vast majority of active semiconductor products today. Differentiation of product lines in the marketplace is the only way to drive profits in a predominately commercial semiconductor market. Gone are the days when packagings of digital products were commodity packages or standard packages. Enter the world of custom substrates for flip-chip BGA packaging — where every product has a unique substrate. Those BGA substrates are justified in volume only if the one unique product has enough demand. There is no longer cost-sharing across multiple products or semiconductor companies when it comes to flip-chip BGA substrates. Needless to say, the times have changed.

The flagship products of the two leading FPGA vendors (Xilinx and Altera) have been entirely flip-chip for the past decade. Intel, AMD, TI, NVidia, and Freescale have all gone flip-chip with their leading processors. Each of these products has a distinctive flip-chip BGA substrate, where the cost is entirely carried by the unique product. No other semiconductor company shares in the expense or the volume justification of any flip-chip BGA substrate. Flip-chip packaging has enabled much of the advanced data rates and power resolution for these leading products. Without the bond wires of the old product, we see 10 GB data rates and 40 W of power that can be dissipated on some of these advanced products.

Package obsolescence is becoming common today and will only increase in the future. At Rochester Electronics, we have seen many cases where the silicon can still be manufactured, but packaging must be re-created or brought back on-line. In more and more cases, original component manufacturers' (OCMs) end-of-life (EOL) and obsolescence decisions are based more on the packaging cost/availability than the availability of the silicon. It's the economics of unique/differentiated packaging. The semiconductor OCM's turned to flip-chip based on market demands for their feature set. The result is that “standard packaging” is no more, and package obsolescence will drive product EOL at a more frequent rate going forward.

This article was originally published on EBN's sister publication EE Times .

15 comments on “Semiconductor Packaging Is No Longer ‘Standard’

  1. _hm
    February 16, 2014

    Product life cycle also has reduced a lot. And it is easy to design new product with new compact packaging.

    Standard packging and multi source availability is slowly disappearing expcept for defense electronics. As designer do not spend much time for this effort. It may be futile.

    Also for industry like defense who needs 15 years of life cycle, it is good business ofr vendor to repackage and sale at much higer cost. Lots of profit.

     

  2. FLYINGSCOT
    February 18, 2014

    I could not agree more.  Packaging is doubly important these days as it is oftentimes more expensive than the silicon inside and it also can be critical to achieving the necessary product specification.

  3. ddeisz
    February 19, 2014

    Standard Packaging and multi-source availability has left all markets for new digital products. Defense Electronics is no exception.

  4. t.alex
    February 21, 2014

    It's definitely no longer a standard. It is in fact a competitive advantage feature.

  5. SP
    February 22, 2014

    Packaging obsolescence is one of the big issue in design. The cost involved in respinning the PCB layouts with available package can prove costly and time consuming. But is it correct if Rochester electronics are working towards solving this problem.

  6. Hailey Lynne McKeefry
    February 23, 2014

    _hm, good for the vendor, but really hard for the procurement professional and even the designer.

  7. Hailey Lynne McKeefry
    February 23, 2014

    @ddeisz, Do you think that this trend of lack of standardization and multiple sources is one that can be shifted or is it just a new reality and we have to evolve to work with the contraint?

  8. ddeisz
    February 23, 2014

    Hailey – new reality. Commercial pressures for differentiation for most digital electronics will keep them away from anything standard.

  9. t.alex
    February 25, 2014

    The push is in fact coming from end-customers, who always wish for smaller, better, thinner products.

  10. Hailey Lynne McKeefry
    February 25, 2014

    @ddeiz, that makes total sense. The digital electronics market is fast-paced and more competitive than ever before. The ever changing nature of the products is a two-edged sword though. Every apple i-product i have has a different connector–and its' annoying. Maybe consumer uprising will slow things down a bit… but probably not.

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