the systems view blog

Applying our perspective to industry topics and trends

June 21, 2022

Beyond Moore: A Look at the Semiconductor Sector’s Expansion and Accompanying Trends

While the semiconductor shortage is still ongoing, the semiconductor sector itself is, at the same time, seeing a new wave of expansion, with demands for chip innovation growing larger each day.

While chip innovation has taken off, Moore’s Law 2D scaling is stalling. Now, with each successive iteration, chip shrinking takes longer and is more expensive. As chipmakers drive continuous advancements in power, performance, area, cost, and speed to market, new design and production methods are truly necessary.

According to the Electronic Engineering Times, chipmakers are accelerating the trend through advanced packaging techniques. The next revolution in advanced packaging offers a multitude of improvements compared to conventional multi-chip packaging techniques, with the substrate’s wiring used to complete the electrical interconnections between chips. Each successive technology offers higher I/O density and a lower power consumption per bit of data transfer.

This blog post will look at some key trends and exciting innovations during the semiconductor industry’s expansion beyond Moore.

Heterogeneous Integrations & Hybrid Bonding

The role of packaging has significantly changed over the years, as computing has evolved from PCs to mobile devices and more advanced technologies. Today, advanced packaging enables heterogeneous design and integration, which provides an alternative way to continue the PPACt benefits (power efficiency, performance, area, cost & time-to-market—a term coined by Applied Materials) associated with traditional Moore’s Law 2D scaling. Global chip and system leaders are adopting this new approach as a competitive differentiation.

According to an article by Applied Materials’ corporate VP of advanced packaging in the Electronic Engineering Times, heterogeneous approaches allow engineers to disaggregate a large design into smaller chiplets that can be connected in a single package to offer better PPACt. With hybrid bonding, it provides improvements over conventional multi-chip packaging techniques. Hybrid bonding connects chips and wafers with direct copper-to-copper bonding, reducing wiring distances and improving power efficiency and system performance. Compared with through-silicon vias, hybrid bonding enables a 10X increase in I/O density and 2X improvement in energy per bit.

Innovative Platform: Silicon Photonics

Silicon photonics is a material platform from which photonic integrated circuits can be created. It uses silicon on insulator wafers as the semiconductor substrate material, and most of the standard complementary metal-oxide semiconductor (SMOS) manufacturing processes can be applied. Silicon photonics has evolved from a niche market technology to a more accessible technology for higher-volume markets, like consumer electronics. It’s designed to address growing bandwidth demands and Industry 4.0 applications that rely on artificial intelligence and machine learning.

The modular architecture of photonic chips can simplify the design, fabrication, and integration of optoelectronic solutions. The architectures’ modularity and speed also enable the development of quantum computers through the use of photonics.

Increased 3D Chiplets

The adoption of chiplets in the packaging industry is increasing, and growing well beyond just a few major chip vendors. This increased usage sets the stage for next-generation 3D chip designs and packages to become more prevelant than ever before. Two important factors regarding 3D chiplets  today are new standards, and a cost analysis tool for determining the feasibility of the design. The ultimate goal of chip innovators is to propel the chiplet model forward.

With this new methodology, a packaging house can offer a menu of modular dies or chiplets with different functions and process nodes, and chip customers can select any of the chiplets and have them assembled in an advanced package, resulting in a new, complex chip design as an alternative to a system-on-a-chip. Advanced packaging provides a more cost-effective way to combine chips at different technology nodes.

Better Thermal Management

Every passing year increases the demand for smaller, lighter, and more powerful semiconductors. But with the ever-increasing complexities of these materials comes thermal management concerns. Proper thermal management is essential when ensuring optimal semiconductor performance and reliability. However, when semiconductors are in operation they produce a large amount of heat, which can diminish their performance if unmanaged.

The management is made possible by heat dissipation techniques that transfer the heat from the semiconductor to the ambient environment. But with the decreasing size of semiconductors comes an increasing magnitude of heat flux densities, and now design engineers must be innovative in their thermal management solutions. Products that can help include flexible absorbent material, thermoelectric cooling chips, heat sinks, thermal interface material, heat pipes, and vapor chambers, and thermal simulations. Designers are utilizing these solutions to more effectively address thermal management concerns as semiconductors shrink.

Move Beyond Moore with the Right Partner

Even post-Moore, semiconductor technology will continue to advance at lightning pace, with new efforts around yield improvements, advanced packaging, thermal management, and many other areas. It’s crucial to choose a partner who understands the evolving demands of the industry, and implement a gas delivery system that upholds excellence in all semiconductor processes.

Applied Energy Systems is committed to helping semiconductor fabricators and industry innovators drive their operations forward with production-ready equipment, systems, and services that have a proven track record of renowned quality and reliability.

Our wealth of experience in the highly stringent and rigorous demands of semiconductor processes makes us uniquely equipped to meet the gas delivery and distribution needs of this fast-paced sector while upholding the highest standards of precision and purity. Tier 1 semiconductor leaders around the world choose to partner with us as the industry continues to evolve.

Click here to learn more about our partnership with customers in the semiconductor industry.


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