Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC) has teamed up with Google to push the boundaries of chipmaking with its new 3D ‘stacking’ process.
The Taiwanese major, which also carries the distinction of being the world’s largest contract chipmaker, is drawing other tech companies’ attention to the growing importance of chip packaging, a little-known part of the process of making semiconductors.
Chip packaging is one of the final steps in the chipmaking process, in which semiconductors are mounted into a supportive case before being placed on a print-circuit board.
Though long regarded as less technologically demanding than chip manufacturing, the inability to shrink the space between transistors and thus fit more onto a chip, is forcing manufacturers to take heed of how chips are packaged.
What TSMC is striving to do is take chip packaging vertically and horizontally, using a new 3D technology it calls ‘SoIC’.
The new technology makes it possible to stack and link several different types of chips – such as processors, memory and sensors – into one package.
This novel approach should help make the whole chipset smaller, more powerful and more energy-efficient.
According to the Nikkei, Google and Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) will be the first to test and certify these SoIC chips.
Google is planning to use chips made with the SolC process for autonomous driving systems and other applications.
AMD on its part is eager to take advantage of the latest stacking technologies in hopes of creating chip products capable of outperforming those of its bigger rival, Intel.
According to the Nikkei, TSMC isn’t the only chipmaker investigating the possibilities of more advanced chip packaging.
Intel and Samsung – the world’s two biggest semiconductor manufacturers by revenue, and China’s Semiconductor Manufacturing International Co. (SMIC) are also betting big on next-generation chip stacking technology.
This is significant considering the advanced packaging industry was worth $29 billion in 2019, reports research agency Yole Development.
The industry is expected to grow even further at a compound annual growth rate in between 2019-2025 of 6.6% to reach $42 billion in 2025.
Yole Development also reports that within all the segments, 3D stacking packing is set to grow the most rapidly at a rate of 25% in the same period of time.
Image and content: TSMC/Nikkei Asian Review