By Matt Wickenheiser
It's a testament to the growing importance of advanced packaging technology that two consortiums have sprung up in the past year and a half to lend some corporate organization to the sector - the Semiconductor Equipment Consortium for Advanced Packaging (SECAP) and the Advanced Packaging and Interconnect Alliance (APiA).
"What this tells you is that this is a very important area," said Analyst Jan Vardaman, president of TechSearch International. "This is one of the few areas that's not been really dampened by the downturn. The technology has been around for a long time, but new applications are emerging."
At question, however, is whether there's room in the industry for two such groups, and just what's the difference between the two of them.
SECAP officially started just under a year and a half ago, with current members including SUSS MicroTec, Semitool, Image Technology, the Fraunhofer Institute for Reliability and Microintegration, Electroglas, and Matrix Integrated Systems. The APiA was announced in early December, and includes August Technology, Casio, Dainippon Screen Manufacturing, EBARA, the Flip Chip Div. of Kulicke & Soffa, Ultratech Stepper, and Unaxis.
Unaxis was actually a member of SECAP until December, when it left to join the APiA, leaving some to wonder if a marketplace battle was brewing between the two groups. Not so, according to representatives from each group, quick to send the message that there was enough room in the advanced packaging world for two such consortiums, and for more, as well.
"We don't see this as competition at all - there's absolutely room for both. One of the main differences in the new consortium is the focus on screen-printing technology. There's a real need for a consortium specifically tied to that technology," said Paul Siblerud, GM of Semitool's Advanced Packaging Div. "SECAP, on the other hand, has always been clear that we do not, will not, and cannot focus on one technology. Our charter is to address the packaging industry as a whole. We also will not provide a packaging process like the APiA has announced; we'll leave that to our customers."
Siblerud did add, however, that Unaxis leaving the SECAP was "the only disappointing part. We felt they could have been involved in both [consortiums]."
Ellery Buchanan, senior VP at Ultratech and APiA chairman, said the new organization was started because advanced packaging is growing 30 to 45% a year, and a centralized organization is needed to grow the infrastructure and address standards issues.
"The SECAP organization has primarily been a marketing vehicle," said Buchanan. "What we're trying to do is more in-depth than that. We want to focus on standards. We want to enhance the productivity of the equipment and processes and come up with commercial offerings that give customers a risk-free solution to advanced packaging."
Buchanan said APiA plans to work on standards with SEMI's Assembly and Packaging committee. Toward those ends, Buchanan said, APiA will install two demo lines and 300mm pilot development lines in the US (planned for completion this year) at the K&S facility in Phoenix, AZ, and in a to-be-determined spot in Asia (Japan, China, or Taiwan).
But, disagreed Siblerud, SECAP also has been working on equipment standards.
"Most of the work we've been doing is based on technology, although a large portion has been marketing and education. One of our primary goals is not to develop new processes, but to understand the different parameters between the processes. They're going to drive toward standards for process development, we're going to drive toward equipment standards," said Siblerud. "We attempted to design the consortium to address the interface issues that we (and the industry) were really struggling with over the years."
But in reality, said Dataquest Analyst Jim Walker, SECAP has played a largely educational and marketing role for one simple factor - they were the first consortium in the advanced packaging space.
"They were showing that alignment-based processes were better than stepper-based," said Walker. "Of course, Ultratech took the other approach."
Another key difference, said Walker, is that while SECAP is largely made up of American and European companies, APiA is more geographically distributed, with three Japanese companies, three American, and one European.
"APiA has a more global presence, more of a service solution," said Walker. "Companies can get into it, use Casio or Flip Chip for early development, then decide to get in or not."
Siblerud predicted that more such groups would pop up in the space, and thought that SECAP and the APiA may work together in the future. Indeed, he said, the new group should be a benefit, not a hindrance, to members of SECAP.
"All the members of SECAP are also vendors to many of the APiA members or technical partners with others. We value those relationships and do not intend nor expect the new consortium to cause any issues," said Siblerud. "Put simply, the success of FCT (Flip Chip Technologies) and their licensees is important to each member."
Walker noted that the industry in general needs both groups to exist, as each is pushing a different aspect of advanced packaging.
"The industry and the marketplace will determine which approach wins," he concluded.