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3D Electronics

Browse the coming attractions at your local movie theater.  How many 3D movies are being advertised?  3D is a very exciting technology for movie and TV watchers, and the future of it may be based in three other 3D technologies.

Let's start with the initial building block of any electronic device, the chip.  Wikipedia describes the 3D Chip as: "a chip in which two or more layers of active electronic components are integrated both vertically and horizontally into a single circuit."   The result is a chip that is faster, smaller, and consumes less power than a single layer chip.  This is a fairly new technology that has been developed in the last five years and is still gaining popularity.

The next phase of manufacturing, and the area where we focus, is 3D Packaging.  When you stack several chips (regular or 3D) together, you are performing 3D Packaging or Package on Package (PoP) or System in Package (SiP).  This is also a fairly new technology but it is widely used.  As with the 3D chip, the goal of this technology is to provide a faster, smaller device that consumes less power.  Dr. Andy Mackie, Semiconductor Assembly Materials Product Manager here at Indium Corporation, recently blogged about his graphic representation of the complex 3D Packaging processes.  He has included the 3D and the 2.5D packaging into his chart which will be on display at Semicon West 2012.

Once you have the chips, you need a substrate to attach them to -  that is the final 3D technology.  3D MID (molded interconnect device) is a technology that has been around for about 20 years. Typical rigid substrates constrain design and are generally less adaptable to the tiny devices being designed today.  Flexible substrates open up the design possibilities with the ability to twist and turn as needed.  3D MID are made out of lighter materials (like thermoplastics) than rigid substrates and can be molded into a variety of 3D shapes.  This allows for greater design possibilities while producing a substrate that is lighter and more compact.  In automotive applications this can translate to lighter vehicles that need less fuel to operate.  Of course there are the challenges of incorporating the circuitry into the thermoplastic and then soldering to the non-flat (sometimes vertical) surfaces.  This technology will be discussed at the 10th International Congress on 3D MID Technology in Germany in September.

Like most new technologies, the many facets of 3D start off expensive and are not widely adopted.  But as new manufacturing techniques are developed to reduce cost, 3D TVs and all the 3D electronic assembly technology that may support them will become increasingly common place.

Photo from Cicor.