A Tale of Two Bonders

A Tale of Two Bonders

It was the best of times; it was the worst of times. Yet, as always, the need is to make the most of the times. In the world of bonders and semiconductors that means aligning machine systems to optimum desired outcomes. Once considered in this light, it comes apparent that not all bonders are equal. In considering semiconductor manufacturing from the stance of media headlines, one part of that narrative sets out the challenges of chip shortage, but the other effuses about the vast amount of investment being made to meet demand. Those living in Europe or North America are witnessing a new era of re-shoring back into local manufacturing. In India, semiconductor investments mark the next stage in national economic development. In Asia, one period of growth and expansion is giving way to yet another wave. Though overhyped and overused, for our industry collectively these developments are all “win-win”.

Despite pent-up demand and billions of dollars, this is not the era of free money, and certainly not uncritical purchasing. Leading players in the bonder ecosystem have been mapping out strategies for both growth and the future direction of packaging technologies for some time. Simultaneously, investors have become notably more evaluative in what they demand for supporting these new opportunities. They are also aware of the impact of inflation. Beyond this, the merging ecosystems of semiconductor manufacturing, silicon photonics, material sciences, digitization and AI, means that physical operations—especially chip fabrication—can no longer be considered in isolation. The need is not just for product in quantity and quality, but for machines that self-diagnose, learn, are modular and easy to use, and, on the very rare occasions that they fail, even easier to fix. With chips going into (as it seems) almost everything, it is vital that these new generation bonders communicate seamlessly across the entire supply chain. The aftermath of COVID-19 is driving a wave of supply options, both internally and externally. Disruption and the unknown have pulled some, indeed, potentially much of the commercial legitimacy from LEAN, “just in time” and other such protocols. With shortages so acute, strictly maintaining these former approaches is not even a matter of debate. Machines that can communication across both factory and supply-chain, can, through ubiquitous digital communication, effectively replace “just in time” with “optimum time”, and a great deal more. Connected to AI a large number of problems—from machine function to machine use—can be identified, and opportunity given to correct errors before production has even been remotely affected. The result is that the entire semiconductor manufacturing ecosystem ratchets up one more notch in the never-ending marathon to make more with less, and make it better.

High-yield volume manufacturing is not the whole semiconductor story, however. While the current range of bonders—and their soon-to-be next generation successors—deserve to be celebrated as an engineering feat, there is more to the ecosystem than full-scale industrial production. Mature chips did not come out of nowhere, but arrived at commercialization through an evolutionary process. Most of the time beginning in someone’s head at a research university, institute, lab or innovation center. Clearly, at these earlier stages, these are very different kind of chips, requiring a very different approach to packaging, and a very different kind of bonder to undertake that work. If bonders within manufacturing need to be fast, dedicated to tight specifics and ultra-reliable, they must be dedicated to an equally demanding, but quite different range of metrics.

At the heart of these requirements is flexibility. Evolution, by its very nature, is a bridge of adaptation that facilitates what is known into what is yet to become. If, on this journey, nature embraces randomness, science embraces informed fluidity guided by intuitive serendipity. Bonders serving this environment must not only be adaptable, facilitating many packaging approaches, but must do so to the most exceptional of standards. Not only in precision and repeatability, but in tooling, vision guidance, software support and capable of handling an ever-growing range of materials, including those that are man-made, in fact, every potential element involved in packaging a device. Maybe the easiest analogy is to consider in such machines is the “Swiss army knife” of bonders. If today’s packaging did not evolve in a vacuum, neither did the machine that facilitated that evolution. “Pedigree” is the term used to indicate a constant upward iteration of improvement across biological generations. Successful engagement in the design and development of future chips requires the equivalent in machine form, one whose function and processes are proven by history and reputation.

Palomar Technologies’ systems and machines, are universally recognized in this respect. Inside the company we witness this reality every day, as our Innovation Centers and Assembly Services are approached by companies—ranging from overseas multinationals to local start-ups—to facilitate lab-built prototypes on the steps towards full scale commercialization. If confidentiality is cast-iron in this line of work, the packaging skill-sets Palomar engineers can collectively provide, are equally strong. Premium bonder capabilities are never better optimized than through an experienced packaging engineer. Working with our clients, we perfect the process and ensure by the end of the day they know it as well as we do. Once completed, the option is there to acquire Palomar systems for high-value, low volume production. Where large numbers are the goal, our service is sufficiently comprehensive that our clients are enabled to seamlessly move to the next stage of development.      

Watch out for our up-coming Webinar on 6G and Quantum Technologies for a more specific example of the kind of packaging development work we do and how we approach problem solving. You can register for it now at https://www.palomartechnologies.com/events/webinar-packaging-developments-in-6g-and-quantum-communications.