Electronics devices are developing towards more compact form factors, more versatility, higher performance, and lower power consumption, driving IC packaging technologies towards SiP (System-in-Package) from single chip package. Among various SiP technologies, TSV 3D IC (Through-Silicon-Via) which vertically interconnects stacked dies using TSV technology has been considered the future packaging technology due to its high space efficiency and performance. Up to now, TSV 3D IC technology has only been applied to the integration of homogeneous chips, resulting in a low industrial value. However, the situation is about to change as some foreign vendors are projected to make technological progress. This report provides the overview development of TSV 3D IC from the aspects of technology, market, and industry.
IC Packaging Vendors Need to Take Measures for Potential Impact
As an advanced packaging technology, TSV 3D IC is bound to become a competitor to existing packaging technologies.
The development of TSV 3D IC technology requires the collaboration of the upstream, midstream, and downstream IC vendors in the industry.
This is similar to IDMs' vertically integrated business model. This means foreign IDMs have the advantage of developing TSV 3D IC technology and will impose a great impact on traditional IC packaging vendors.
IC packaging vendors must confront the impact with effective strategies, starting from enhancing their technology competencies.
They should speed up their efforts and form alliances with IC manufacturers or even IC design houses before TSV 3D IC technology becomes widely available.
In the meantime, they should seek partnerships with midstream and upstream vendors as well as IDMs to achieve vertical specialization, taking advantage of their existing technologies.
Since traditional packaging vendors' technologies can be used at some stages of the TSV 3D IC production process, these technologies will serve as a good foundation for them to share the market.
In-house Technology Development for Future Changes
Although some foreign vendors' TSV 3D IC developments have been ahead of Taiwanese vendors, TSV 3D IC currently accounts for only a few percent of the global semiconductor industry value.
Therefore, Taiwanese leadership in wafer fabrication and IC packaging should remain stable in the near future. However, considering the aggressive efforts of foreign vendors,
they are likely to become significantly ahead of Taiwan in terms of technology development once the bottlenecks are solved. The impact on Taiwanese industries will then be inestimable.
Technologies usually advance progressively rather than in dramatic leaps. When a vendor's technology development starts to lag behind other competitors, the gap will increase over time.
If Taiwanese vendors fail to make aggressive moves or investment in TSV 3D IC technology, they will end up falling behind. When TSV 3D IC becomes the mainstream technology,
Taiwanese vendors will have to purchase the technology with license fees since they have no comparable technologies.
In other words, acquiring technologies externally due to a lack of in-house technology expertise will put vendors at risk and restrict their developments. This situation, for instance, has occurred in the Taiwanese DRAM industry.
Therefore, developing in-house technologies is an urgent need for packaging vendors.
Taking Advantage of the Completeness of Industry Chain
Compared to foreign vendors, Taiwanese vendors, for instance, have made little effort in the development of TSV 3D IC technology, especially IC design houses.
The main reason is their concern over a low return of investment which may not generate any profits for the companies.
However, Taiwan's semiconductor ecosystem can offer a way out for Taiwanese vendors. With a complete industry chain and ample players and talents,
Taiwanese vendors will be able to benefit each other as long as vendors in different sectors can work together and achieve technology enhancement via cost apportionment, thereby increasing industry value. In this way,
Taiwanese vendors will be able to catch up with foreign counterparts in terms of technology development and industry value.
Aside from Taiwan, the semiconductor industry worldwide could be further dampened if their vendors fail to capitalize on advantages to compete with Chinese counterparts,
who have accelerated fast under the Chinese government's strong support.