Semiconductors in Charge: The Changing Face of PCB Manufacturing

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The I-Connect007 editorial team recently spoke with Chuck Bauer and Dana Korf in a technical discussion that spanned a number of topics around shrinking components, such as redistribution layers (RDLs), active embeddeds, and why even the most revolutionary technologies must show ROI to be successful.

Nolan Johnson: Thanks for joining us. There is a miniaturization and design constraint shift going on as a result of increased densities and shrinking board sizes that also seems to be pushing on the component supply chain. It’s not entirely clear to me whether components are driving board design shrinks or whether shrinking board size is driving component miniaturization. Let’s start with you, Chuck.

Chuck Bauer: It is kind of difficult; I haven’t thought about it a lot from that perspective. In general, we all know that the primary custom component of the product is the PCB. Most of the other components are pretty much standardized. But even though the PCB may not be a major piece of the bottom line cost, it is generally the only fully custom component in the product other than some of the external design functions. Packaging capability is driving toward miniaturization, primarily for two reasons. There’s a moderate impact on the cost by miniaturizing the package, but there’s a more significant impact on the cost by miniaturizing the board. The components drive the miniaturization from a technology standpoint, and the boards drive miniaturization from a cost standpoint.

Happy Holden: Yes, but what’s the drive toward wafer-level packaging? Is it to get away from having to buy a separate component that gets assembled flip-chip-wise or something like that? From what we’ve been following from the ECTC conference, the wafer-level packaging sessions keep growing and growing.

Bauer: The trends in wafer-level packaging are driven almost entirely by cost. The technology for doing it is like anything else; if you can minimize the cost, you’re going to have an opportunity to either capture market share by reducing pricing or increasing margins. Cost is always the driver. Holden: There seems to be a major push into the electronic panel level, wafer column plating, and other finishes for a level of assembly automation that includes embedded actives in the semiconductor package.

To read this entire interview, which appeared in the February 2020 issue of SMT007 Magazine, click here.


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