Intel and Samsung Join TSMC in Fierce Advanced Packaging Race

2023-08-11 Semiconductors editor

As semiconductor process technology nears known physical limits, the spotlight among major industry players is shifting towards the development of advanced packaging. Concurrently, the rise of applications like artificial intelligence and AIGC has propelled the concept of advanced packaging into a new technological wave. In the midst of the semiconductor industry’s global competition, securing more orders has become a core objective for major players.

A Competitive Landscape in Advanced Packaging

The competition in advanced packaging technology is intensifying, with companies pouring substantial investments into the field, resulting in a landscape of vigorous competition. Various packaging technologies have emerged, with notable offerings from industry giants such as TSMC, Intel, and Samsung.

TSMC introduced 3DFabric, an integration of its TSMC-SoIC front-end technology with CoWoS and InFO back-end technologies, providing maximum flexibility for diverse innovative product designs.

Intel, on the other hand, features its 2.5D EMIB and 3D Foveros packaging technologies. EMIB is applied in the connection of logic chips and high-bandwidth memory, as seen in the Intel Xeon Max series and Intel Data Center GPU Max series.

Foveros allows top dies to overcome size limitations and accommodate more top and base dies, connected through copper pillars to reduce potential interference from through-silicon vias (TSVs).

Samsung also exhibits strong competitiveness in advanced packaging, with its 2.5D I-Cube4 and H-Cube, along with 3D X-Cube packaging technologies, achieving breakthroughs in multi-chip interconnects and integration.

Samsung’s I-Cube4, for example, integrates four HBM stack dies and one core compute IC on the silicon interposer layer, while H-Cube enhances packaging area through the stacking of HDI PCBs to accommodate designs with six or more HBM stack dies.

Advantages of the Three Giants

In recent years, the three semiconductor giants have directed substantial capital expenditure towards advanced packaging. Their diverse technological developments and marketing strategies are poised to ignite a global battle in the semiconductor advanced packaging industry.

TSMC holds the advantage with its dominant wafer process technology and an end-to-end comprehensive service approach. Coupled with Taiwan’s robust semiconductor ecosystem, TSMC leads the way in the advanced packaging domain.

Intel, while slightly trailing TSMC in advanced process technology, matches it in advanced packaging capabilities. Emphasizing flexible foundry services, Intel allows clients to mix and match its wafer manufacturing and packaging offerings. With manufacturing facilities scattered worldwide, Intel leverages geographic advantages, particularly in Western countries, to expand capacity and services, leading to anticipated gains in the future.

Samsung, like TSMC, offers end-to-end services, but its packaging technology lags behind TSMC’s. It secures a share in constrained supply situations. Notably, Samsung, in June 2022, was ahead of TSMC in unveiling the innovative GAA 3nm process, and is poised to combine it with 3D packaging technology, potentially marking a pivotal point in the next semiconductor generation.

With semiconductor technology’s continuous evolution and surging market demand, the competition among the three giants in advanced packaging will remain fierce. While wafer fabs currently prioritize processes, the next three to five years are expected to witness a gradual shift towards advanced packaging. Different packaging technologies and marketing strategies will ultimately determine companies’ positions and influence in the market.

(Photo credit: TSMC)

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