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A Letter from Ali Salehpour—Slimming Down and Scaling Up: How Thin Devices Are Transforming the OSAT Industry

Ali Salehpour

Senior Vice President and General Manager, New Markets and Service Group

Ali Salehpour

Every so often it happens. Our industry reaches a major inflection point and suddenly everything changes. We experienced it when the Internet became ubiquitous and PCs drove chip demand. We experienced it again when smartphones and other mobile devices shifted chip demand. And as mobile devices become thinner and thinner, we’ve reached a new inflection point. The line between where wafer processing ends and packaging begins is now blurred, and the result is nothing less than the transformation of the outsourced semiconductor assembly and test (OSAT) industry.

Not so long ago, product packaging was a pretty straightforward proposition. The first iPhone used just 2 wafer-level packages. The latest iPhone 6 uses 26! Today’s consumers clearly want it all: thin, mobile devices that provide complex functions in a convenient form factor. It’s a challenge our industry has to meet, but how?

That’s the focus of this issue of Nanochip Fab Solutions. In these pages, you’ll learn why chip manufacturing can no longer be neatly divided between front-end and back-end processes. We discuss how OSATs are implementing fab-like advanced control processes and wafer fab equipment to deliver on the demand for more complex packaging. And you’ll learn why fan-out wafer scale packaging, through-silicon vias (TSVs), and fab automation technologies are key enablers for this industry transition.

Automation technology has wider implications for both front-end and OSAT manufacturers, and it’s another theme we explore in multiple articles. When it comes to fab productivity, increasing the yield and output side of the equation has a far greater impact than simply reducing costs. You’ll read how using automation software to optimize every production step—from planning to dispatching— can overcome fab ine˜fficiencies and enable manufacturers to meet the demand of fast-changing markets.

An outstanding example is RF supplier Qorvo in Richardson, Texas, which we profile in this issue. By investing in fab automation software and hardware, Qorvo has empowered its workforce and increased production of bulk acoustic wave (BAW) filters 10x over the last 5 years using refurbished 150mm and 200mm tools. That growth will undoubtedly continue as demand for 4G smartphones proliferates worldwide—and Applied’s commitment to supporting legacy tools will enable Qorvo to meet it.

In addition, new Applied tools are being developed to help customers maximize the value of big data. One example, discussed in this issue, is our Next-Generation Fault Detection and Classification (NG-FDC) solution. It includes enhancements that significantly reduce setup times, improve fault detection with fewer false alarms, and leverage big data capabilities to decrease response times and increase depth of analysis.

No matter how this current inflection point reshapes our industry, however, Applied’s essential goal remains the same: to solve problems for customers, enabling their success. Whether you’re an OSAT who depends on highly reliable legacy tools, or a fab manager who needs state-of-the-art solutions, our product and service portfolio is designed for you. As mobile and wearable devices continue to slim down, we will continue to scale up—with a pipeline of highly differentiated offerings that allow you to incorporate the latest and most sophisticated technologies into your packaging and production.

Change can be daunting. But it’s inevitable. As the following articles will show, change is not something you have to face alone. Applied Materials will be there with you, through this inflection point and the next. Looking ahead to see what’s around the corner is what we do.