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semicon europa Europe’s chip industry in expectation of manna from (EU) heaven By Christoph Hammerschmidt at the semicon Europa industry congress which took place in Dresden from October 8 to 10, the reiterated announcements from EU Commissioner Neelie Kroes to foster the European semiconductor industry with high subsidies for R&D, received much attention. In a panel discussion with leading semiconductor industry experts and managers, optimism was the predominant attitude, but there was also some scepticism to hear. In his keynote speech, SEMI president Denny McGuirk provided a positive outlook for the chip industry though he declined to give exact figures. According to McGuirk, the perspectives for the semiconductor equipment industry are even better - after a decline of two percent in the current year, the equipment market will rebound stronger than the chip market. McGuirk predicted a growth of 15 percent for the equipment makers, driven particularly by the dedicated foundry and the memory sector. Intel’s anticipated entry into the 14nm technology will also trigger significant investments. In contrast to earlier investment rounds, this time the spending is driven by technology upgrades rather than capacity expansion. The chip industry in Europe is also expected to invest significant amounts, since Intel in Ireland and Globalfoundries in Germany have announced to upgrade their respective production lines. Mc- Guirk also hailed the European Union’s strategy to recapture 20 percent of the global semiconductor market. “Europe’s single-minded determination and tenacity is what it takes to ‘make things happen’ in semiconductor manufacturing strategy”, McGuirk said. Nevertheless, there were sceptical voices as well. In a panel discussion about the perspectives of Europe’s chip industry, Rob Hartmann, Director Strategic Development of lithography systems manufacturer ASML expressed Can the European chip industry defend its position in the global competition hopes through EU funding? SEMI president Denny McGuirk (left) and Saxony premier minister Stanislaw Tillich discussed the matter at a joint tour at Semicon Europa. doubts that even the EU’s ambitions goal of activating private investments of as much as 100 billion euros would be sufficient. “Actually, this is not very much money. In order to get 20 percent (of global market share) we need more,” he remarked. Frank Averdung, CEO of chip equipment manufacturer Suss Microtec, added that “it is not only the funding - it is important to set up the correct boundary conditions” to achieve the EU’s goal of 20 percent market share. 3D integration for silicon, manufacturability for Plastic Electronics In terms of technology, the focus of the conference laid on advanced packaging, MEMS and 3D integration, as far as “classical” silicon-based semiconductors were concerned. In the field of Plastic Electronics, manufacturability and system integration were the main topics. 3D chip integration is crucial to combine SoCs and System-in-Packages (SiPs) and achieve higher value systems with extremely high functional density. In this context, Through Silicon Vias (TSVs) play an important role: In three-dimensional, stacked chips they make wire bonding connections between the different layers redundant and offer far better electric properties. As part of its activities in developing 3D chips, the Fraunhofer Institute for Electronic Nanosystems (ENAS) showed research results in the segment of Carbon nanotubes (CNTs). The researchers from Chemnitz regard CNTs as a good technique in creating TSVs at wafer level. At Fraunhofer’s large stand in the exhibition hall, they showed a technique to create and process TSVs based on CNTs as well as copper-based TSVs, another specialty of Fraunhofer ENAS. While TSVs and other process elements of 3D integration such as etching, isolation and assembly are already in the final stretch to commercialisation, there is still need for research in the field of thin wafer handling. “This segment is not yet where it should be”, summarized Fraunhofer researcher Juergen Wolf. Co-located with Semicon Europa was PE2013, the industry meeting of fledgling organic electronics. In this field of technology, manufacturability was the buzzword of the year. The lack of high-volume manufacturability is currently the main barrier between this technology and its commercial breakthrough. But it seems like solutions are already in sight. One of the research institutions that already have achieved a remarkable level of development is VTT, the Technical Research Centre of Finland. VTT’s Vice President of Strategic Research Harri Kopola showed in his presentation that this institution already has developed amazing capabilities in processing flexible electronic circuits. VTT possess a pilot factory that enables the researchers to deposit a wide variety of functional materials in up to four layers on a carrier sheet. The roll-to-roll equipment processes up to 2.160 square meters (23.647 square feet) per day along with the appropriate testing capabilities. Products that can be manufactured with VTT’s pilot factory include in-moulded OLEDs, opto-fluidic light sources, printed sensors and memories and many more. The most challenging topic for the production of smart integrated systems is the integration of organic electronic devices with silicon electronics, explained Henning Sirringhaus, professor at the University of Cambridge and co-founder of Plastic Logic Ltd. This company already manufactures organic large-area displays at an industrial scale. While he did not directly refer to Plastic Logic, Sirringhaus said that the state of technology allows manufacturing such displays at a yield comparable to traditional silicon technology. 10 Electronic Engineering Times Europe November 2013 www.electronics-eetimes.com


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