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Interposers to dictate the future of 3D chip stacks

Posted: 23 Apr 2013 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:TSMC? Xilinx? 3D chip stacks? TSV? MEMS?

A vast majority of engineers agree that 3D chip stacks are the future of semiconductor integration. However, the technology still faces the problem of removing heat from the inner layers, prompting the use of silicon interposers.

Originally called 2.5D, the chips are laid out side-by-side with the interposer supplying the 3D connections between chips and substrate with through silicon vias (TSVs). TSMC has so far been the only supplier of mass market interposers and Xilinx its only announced customer. Now Silex Microsystems, a foundry and BroadPak, a 3D integrator have collaborated on a silicon interposer solution for the mass market.

"Most companies don't have the integration techniques and methodologies," said Peter Himes, vice president of marketing and strategic alliances for Silex Microsystems. "And the current solutions have been too costly and high-risk to implement."

According to Yole Developement, the stakes are huge. The market research firm predicts that the market for silicon interposers will grow by 88 per cent annually through 2017. All the big semiconductor makers are looking to grow their 3D integration capabilities, but until the heat removal problem is solved, silicon interposers are the only way to approach it today. Silex/BroadPak claim their approach overcomes the cost, engineering, reliability and supply-chain bottlenecks holding back mass-market adoption.


Figure 1: Silex/BroadPak silicon interposers technologies allows multiple chips to be interconnected in 3-D using through silicon vias (TSVs) to a common substrate.
Source: BroadPak.

"To date, silicon interposer technology has been limited to a very small number of companies," said Farhang Yazdani, president and CEO of BroadPak. "BroadPak and Silex have created a technical solution and the supply-chain infrastructure that the industry has been waiting for."

Silex Microsystems has been using silicon interposers to interconnect application-specific-integrated circuits (ASICs) with specialised micro-electro-mechanical systems (MEMS) chips, but the partnership with BroadPak marks its first offering of the technology for standard semiconductor makers. The jointly developed silicon interposer technology is available today for high-volume manufacturing, and offers many of the advantages of 3-D chip stacks including increased bandwidth, reduced latency and lower system power.

Silex/BroadPak recommends its silicon interposer technology for power, mixed signal, networking, system-on-chip (SoC), micro-controller and other embedded applications. Its solution includes co-design and characterisation services, thermal-stress and signal-integrity performance evaluations, as well as a ready-to-go supply chain.

silicon interposers

Figure 2: Silex/BroadPak silicon interposers.
Source: BroadPak.

- R Colin Johnson
??EE Times

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