SMTAI Panel Summarizes Future Technologies


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CHICAGO The lure of free beer and pretzels rarely fails to invoke a crowd. The Emerging Technologies panel at SMTAI drew attendees to explore trends in packaging, nanotechnology, lead-free, the EMS industry, RFID, and wireless technologies. The September 25th afternoon panel combined an interact attitude with diverse presenters from Intel, Philips Semiconductors, the Sandia National Labs, and other groups. Moderated by Reza Ghaffarian a participant in SMT's panel on packaging trends and member of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory the panel was an opportunity to discuss the various, and sometimes disparate, rapidly developing technologies that affect the surface mount industry.

The changes wrought by lead-free processing brought Paul T. Vianco, Ph.D., to interpret and analyze where the military stands in lead-free. Vianco noted that the military and aerospace exemptions to the RoHS Directive are problematic, in that they will see review every two years, and are "on thin ice." Vianco's work since the beginnings of the lead-free movement has been to implement strategies to move manufacturing of military devices to lead-free by 2010. Vianco stated that 2010 is most likely the earliest date for military compliance with RoHS, due to the review and grace period schedule. He asserted that the U.S. government is not willing to intervene in this matter, so the companies manufacturing military equipment are using short-term verification solutions testing BGAs, subassemblies, and other purchased components to avoid mixing tin/lead and lead-free and long-term conversion plans. His long-term approach involved using consortia to actively gather knowledge on lead-free, and running computational models to understand the material science behind successful high-reliability, lead-free assembly.

The role of EMS providers in producing new technologies is vital, explained Irene Sterian. She identified three major trends in electronics manufacturing faster cure times, stacked packages, and using fuel cells for electronics. Sterian, looking a little farther into the future, saw the rise of biometric device use, fuel cells in consumer applications (as well as RFIDs), and flexible electronics going into production. She also touched on the implications of lead-free manufacturing, and methods to establish reliable lead-free processes.

Panelist Steve Greathouse discussed current trends in advanced packaging. He sees increased functionality, more numerous I/O contacts, and thin thermal interface material (TIM) and die attach compounds as challenging aspects of modern packages. Greathouse split a typical 1-mm (height) package into its composite parts, emphasizing the fine pitches necessary to fit die, bonding agent, mold compound, solder balls, wire bond loops, and a substrates into 1 mm of vertical space. As wire bonds become more intricate, shorts must be avoided, and wires are being sculpted. He suggested stacking folded packages and folding stacked packages, using flexible substrates and accurate placement techniques, and integrating with through-silicon vias as methods for successfully creating more dense packages. Greathouse also noted the environmental problem created by an exorbitant amount of waste from mold compounds used in package assembly.

Recent advances in nanotechnology were examined by Alan Rae, Ph.D., who specifically requested a "hype-free" zone for his topic. Rae, in agreement with other panelists, explained that nanotechnologies vary, and some techniques in use today have been around for quite some time. He mapped out three key nanotechnological processes transient, wherein the nanomaterials used in production do not remain in a final product; remnant, or nanomaterials that perform functionally in another material; and structure, the carbon nanotubes (CNTs) and organic composite sensors that are in various stages of use in the industry. Rae does not see these single- or multiple-walled CNTs replacing silicon, and he diagrammed an effective package with a nanomaterial, silicon die, substrate, and board that resembled a pyramid. Rae implied that the largest problem with full-scale CNT production and use is the lack of an effective, continuous generative process to supply the CNTs. This is analogous to the advent of plastics manufacturing, before a cost-effective process was discovered, he explained.

Ken Gilleo summarized several key technologies that are new to the industry, or new to the mass market, such as MEMS/MOEMS, wireless and fiber/wave telecommunication, nanotechnology, and energy cells. He believes that MEMS have even more potential than the current applications for them, and that nanotechnology sans hype will become an industry driver. In predictions for 2056, Gilleo asserted that security sectors would rely heavily on robotics and organic materials would replace silicon in several applications. As Gilleo put it, "the brain is organic, and it works sometimes, right?" Gilleo cited the high and rising costs of copper, as well as the benefits of wireless mobility, as reasons to develop more wireless telecom, and to explore the potential for wearable electronics and implantable devices.

Ed Gonsalves appraised drivers and challenges for RFID technology, and explored expectations for the near and distant future. He introduced the "anatomy" of an RFID tag, reviewing the substrate, die attach, tag IC, and antenna locations and space requirements. Gonsalves revealed that miniaturization is not difficult in RFID, with simple, two-lead devices, but these tags are becoming so small that they are difficult to assemble. Therefore, Gonsalves stated that packaging techniques are implemented to allow more companies to place these components using their existing technology. Cost reduction is achieved with non-metallic substrates, and a pilot process called fluidic self-packaging effectively mass-packages chips, simultaneously reducing cost and assembly difficulties.

Ghaffarian prefaced the panel by saying that they would explore emerging technologies from recent to distant future events. Certainly the audience's immediate concerns, as evidenced in the questions posed after the speakers presented, mostly involved lead-free for high-reliability, lead-free rework, and lead-free assembly model verifications. Other queries related to the "harvest" of carbon nanotubes, and the processes involved in sorting the huge variety of single-walled CNTs. Ghaffarian, as moderator, as well as several audience members, joined the panelists in the exchange of expertise and information.

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