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Friday, May 30, 2008

WANTED: Integration Across The Supply Chain

The need for better design, production and test integration had been discussed in the semiconductor industry for over 10 years. The concept had been repeated so many times, in so many contexts, that it’s taken on the feel of a shallow aphorism, like the saying “power tends to corrupt” or “he who laughs last, laughs best”

But the need for better supply chain integration has finally emerged as a real necessity with meaningful and specific attributes.

To meet consumers need for cramming more functionality into smaller, cheaper cell phones and multimedia devices, chip designers need an integrated design solution that lets them optimize interdie and die-to-substrate connectivity for signal performance and manufacturability. A key part of this process lies in co-design opportunities between the IC and package, the package and printed-circuit board or both-in order to satisfy tough performance, cost and size goals. Design for Manufacturing (DFM) has become an essential component in the production process and many see a future when DFM ceases to be independent step, but integrated directly into the design and verification process. New technologies such Through Silicon Vias (TSVs) also require an unprecedented integration between design, manufacturing and multi die packaging.

The fact is there is no forum today that brings together chip designers, wafer processing engineers, packaging specialists, and test plan developers under one roof to talk about the growing set of interdependencies and co-design needs.

We are trying to do that at SEMICON West.

Because Silicon Valley is the home of so many fabless semiconductor firms, consumer product companies like Apple and HP and Cisco, and leading IDMs like Intel, SEMICON West is the natural center of the emerging collaborative development model. SEMICON West already is one of the largest EDA expositions in the world with over 3000 attendees interested in design automation (including hundreds of CTOs) and exhibitors such as Synopsis, Magma and Cadence. And, most of the large US mobile and consumer products companies attend West, as well as every major IDM and fabless semiconductor company in the world.

The next step is to develop programs and forums to encourage and nurture collaboration and that is what we’ve done, especially this year. Some of the programs that leveraging this need for design-production-packaging-test collaboration include:

  • IDMs, OSATs, EDA suppliers, packaging equipment firms, and wafer processing companies will meet in comprehensive Packaging Sumitt to discuss the product, market and supply chain implications of 3D TSVs

  • High Density Packaging will dominate the TAP TechXPOT on Tuesday, July 15 from 3:00pm–5:00pm.

  • The increasing complexity of microelectronic devices is bringing about new thinking around semiconductor test. The new methodologies and ideas around test that will require industry collaboration and cooperation will be discussed on both Tuesday and Wednesday.

  • The synergy between anew materials and new processes for 32 and 22 nm manufacturing will highlight the Wafer Processing TechXPOT.

  • The linkage between lower power design and DFM will be addressed on the Thursday keynote by Jim Miller of Cadence.

  • DFM and the increasing complexity of “manufacturing sign-off” will be address throughout Thursday.

  • Standards committee meetings—where collaboration takes place at the highest, most substantive level—will be held throughout SEMICON

If you have any ideas on how we can do better—at SEMICON West or any other SEMI program-- in bringing the increasingly interdependent elements of the supply chain together, please let me know.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Traffic Flow, Leads and Booth Location at SEMICON West

One of the most prominent goals for exhibitors at SEMICON West events is lead generation and one of the top concerns is booth location. Many exhibitors believe that leads are directly related to booth location, in fact, many firmly believe that location is the most important factor in lead generation.

This isn’t true and we have the data to prove it. Here is the lead distribution and booth visit appointments scheduled through BD Metrics for SEMICON West 2006 by Hall:

Percent of Average
North Hall= 99%
South Hall= 113%
West 1 = 99%
West 2 = 84%

While you might think from this data that South Hall is significantly better and West Hall Level 2 is significantly worse for leads, additional scrutiny reveals this not to be the case. If we remove the top lead generating exhibitor from South Hall, the difference between North and West Level 1 virtually disappears. West Hall numbers can be explained by the population of many smaller start-ups in the New and Emerging Technology area on Level 2 that year. On closer inspection, 8 of the top 12 most visited booths in West Hall were on Level 2. Looking at the distribution of booth visits across all the 4 top halls, we see the most visited booths randomly distributed between the halls, and within halls (front and back of hall are nearly the same).

What we know is that leads are primarily a function of exhibitor marketing. Companies that conduct pre-show mailings, have interesting displays, promotions, and well trained booth staffs generate more leads. Many of the top lead generating firms have special lead generation programs, such as product demonstrations or promotions. These firms can take their booth marketing program anywhere in Moscone and perform equally well in lead generation.

If you want to be successful in generating leads, you have to create a program that will interest your target market, compel them to your booth, and incent them to give you their badge for a swipe. Both location has very little to do with it.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Packaging Innovation At West

Scott Kulicke, chairman and CEO of Kulicke and Soffa, gave a provocative keynote at the recent SEMICON show in Singapore. He pointed out that that the semiconductor industry has undergone pervasive dis-integration to achieve today’s cost efficiencies through supply chain specialization. Through outsourcing of manufacturing, through outsourcing of design and process technology, and through outsourcing of assembly, packaging and test, the industry has achieved great efficiencies, but not without hidden costs. Today, every supplier intensively competes exclusively with companies at the same level in the supply chain, preventing the kind of innovations through vertical integration that are vital in this era of consumer-driven electronics.

Kulicke was lamenting the fact that the current industry structure prevents packaging equipment companies from working directly with the end customer. Without this interaction, he questioned whether meaningful innovation—the kind you can make a lot of money on—can be achieved.

It is exactly this kind of need that we are trying to address at SEMICON West. Silicon Valley is no longer the center of the most advanced, most productive fabs in the world—they have mostly moved to Asia. Yet, the region is by far the leading center in fabless chip design, venture funding, and home to some of the leading consumer electronics companies in the world, such as Apple and HP. It is also remains an R&D center to Intel, AMD and others and home to leading EDA companies. All these audiences immerse themselves in SEMICON West-related events, programs and meetings. In this multi-chip, package-on-package world, no other region can hope to bring the full supply chain--from design to production and test—including the leading fabless chip companies, the leading venture backers, and the leading OEMs together to explore, learn and take part in the collaborative creative process necessary to compete in the digital world.

At this year’s SEMICON West we have tried to organize events and programs precisely to foster this full supply chain interaction that Kulicke was referring to. On Monday, July 15 we have a organized a Packaging Summit that will bring together design, fabless, equipment, materials, OSATs and IDMs together to talk about Through Silicon Via or TSV technology. TSV may force intensive design-manufacturing-test integration at levels unprecedented in the history of the industry.

On Wednesday, we have tried to organize the entire day’s events around Mobile Electronics with keynotes and TechXPOTs programs devoted to the special needs of mobile electronics in wafer processing, packaging, test and design. These programs—together with exhibitors like Advantest, Synopsys, Cadence, K&S, ASM, and others—we have to overcome the kind of disintegrated, specialized supply chain we see today.

All the ingredients are in place—hopefully with a heat and a little stirring, sparks will fly.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

The IC Industry Has Matured, So What

Good commentary by Patrick Mannion--The IC Industry Has Matured, So What? --in this week's EETimes.  

The whining in this industry is really getting out of hand.  Consolidation, Slow Growth, Maturation, Whither Europe, Whither US...Boo Hoo.

Does every panel at a conference--or news report-- have to be about the consensus industry forecast?   Just how many people's jobs, careers or portfolios are based broad industry metrics. Any engineers out there?  How about sales and marketing people use this information to plan their day, week, career? Doesn't anyone care about new applications, new technologies, hot start ups, the little battles that mark the yearly swings in market share?  

In its place, forecasts and speculation on industry structure are certainly appropriate, but it seems to replacing discussions about technology and applications, the stuff most people care about, are interested in, and need to be on top of.  Just how many market analysts and corporate strategists who live and die speculating on industry structure are there out there?  

Of course, SEMI is as guilty as anyone in the industry for creating forums that might gravitate to doom and gloom prognosticating.  Like I said, it has its place.  But what's going on in Automative, Medical, Power, Mobile and is really exciting.  What's happening in IC packaging and high k, metal gate is essential stuff for thousands of engineers.  That's where the action is--applications, technology, products.  

Talk about industry structure and our collective financial prospects is like complaining about the weather.  We all succumb to it sometimes, but there's little we can do it about so give it a rest.  

SEMICON Singapore Video

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Innovation At Work in Singapore

“Technology Diffusion” is one of those intellectual concepts that you don’t expect to see taking place right before your eyes, but that’s what I witnessed at SEMICON Singapore.

The theory of Diffusion of Innovations is what every young marketer learns and its a useful guide to establishing marketing strategy. The theory is about how innovations spread through society in an S curve, as the early adopters and innovators select the technology first, followed by the early majority and late majority, and eventually laggards. The theory states that innovation diffusion is a process that occurs over time through five stages: Knowledge, Persuasion, Decision, Implementation and Confirmation. There’s a lot been written about it.

At the show this week, I kicked off the Advanced Packaging seminars at the Semiconductor Technology Symposium with a few clunky words and hung around to hear the opening keynotes and presentations on copper wire bonding. With the skyrocketing price of gold, copper wire bonding has been become a hot topic. While copper wire has been used for awhile on simpler devices, it hasn’t been widely deployed high volume chips because, well, it’s hard to do. The presentations discussed the latest research on copper wire bonding, showing the challenges, the costs, the process techniques, the new test methodologies needed. Very detailed.

The room was full—200 people—packaging engineers from every major OSAT in the region. You could hear a pin drop during the presentations. Every key detail was noted by the audience (their heads would drop simultaneously as they all took notes on the same point). As the morning sessions ended, I left for the exhibit floor, as did everyone else, single file down the escalators and through security. The crowd—over a hundred engineers—streamed directly into the K&S, Shinkawa and ASM booths (the top wire bonders) at the front of the hall. You know they were all talking copper.

In about 6 months, watch for all the new copper bonded products to start coming out.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Nanotechnology Futures

This video was played at our recent Strategic Business Conference in Napa Valley and you won't see a better a vision of the possibilities and opportunities emerging in nanotechnology.