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3D TSV chips not ready for prime time

Posted: 18 Jun 2010 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:through-silicon-vias? 3D TVS? MEMS? CMOS?

Some experts at the International Interconnect Technology Conference (IITC) concluded that 3D chips based on through-silicon-vias (TVS) are not ready for prime time.

This is based on observations from VLSI Research Inc., which attended the event. A plethora of companies, including ASE, Elpida, IBM, Intel, Samsung, Toshiba, TSMC and others, are exploring the possibly of stacking current devices in a 3D configuration.

Experts define a true 3D package as one that stacks various chips vertically and then connects them by deploying TSVs. The aim is to shorten the interconnections between the chips, reduce die sizes and boost device bandwidths.

So far, chipmakers are shipping limited 3D devices based on TSVs, mainly CMOS image sensors, MEMS, and, to some degree, power amplifiers.

There are several problems with TSV technology: Lack of EDA design tools; complexity of designs; integration of assembly and test; cost; and lack of standards.

As previously reported, Intel Corp. is still searching for an application for TSVs. "It does not make sense for Intel to go to 3D with CPU cache memory," said Mark Bohr, a fellow at Intel, at the event, according to VLSI. "It is due to interface speed issues."

"Only CMOS image sensors are using TSV in production" today," according to a report from VLSI Research. Memories with TSVs have been "altar for three years. (The) bride has not arrived."

For the most part, wire bonding has not run out of gas, as still 90 percent of I/Os are still using this technology, according to the firm. On the other hand, TSV is still a "new and immature technology," according to VLSI.

A chip-packaging technology cycle takes "15 to 20 years," according to VLSI. "Surface mount took 11 years to get to high volume. (But) it wasn't dominant for 20 years. Area array packages took 12 years, (but they) still don't dominate."

And 3D chips based on TSVs? Chip makers have been talking about this technology for a decade. But there are "no significant quantities of 3D-TSV technology after 10 years," according to the firm. "High-volume TSV is still some years away."

- Mark LaPedus
EE Times

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