This year marks the start of my fourth decade in the electronics industry, and if you find that hard to believe, well, so do I.
I was reminiscing with a couple of other “old-timers” in recent weeks over the changes that have occurred since I first stepped foot in a factory. I was a graduate of the University of Illinois, and recently relocated to Chicago, when I joined a few others on a tour of the just-revamped Allen-Bradley plant on Second St. in Milwaukee.
Who remembers any of these names: deHaart. HTI. Conceptronic. Dynapert. Sensbey. Celmacs. Those were some of the bigger names in assembly equipment at the time. Many key suppliers then were subsidiaries of end-product OEMs. Kester was owned by Litton. Dynapert was a unit of Black & Decker.
Forget “lights-out” manufacturing. Even “hands-free” was more theory than reality. Semiautomatic machines, including printers and even placement, were common. DEK had just launched the programmable automatic printer it called the 265. What we now call solder paste was in some circles referred to as solder cream. In those days, as many equipment vendors made IR reflow as forced convention.
FPGAs are a multibillion-dollar business, characterized by suppliers like Xilinx, MicroChip, Texas Instruments and Cypress Semiconductor. So why are they reliant on a single source for copper-wrapped solder column attachment?
And not just any source. Six Sigma is a small, founder-run Silicon Valley-based company. For more than 30 years, it has performed a variety of third-party services, including solder dipping, BGA reballing, and solderability testing. It also happens to be the sole supplier of copper-wrapped solder column attachment services to the major FPGA vendors. And according to industry watchers, that leaves the supply chain in something of a pickle.
The risk with any sole source is something happens that affects their ability to make deliveries. Such an outcome would spell disaster for the high-rel companies that use column grid arrays (CGAs). And loss of access to the unique copper-wrapped columns used in key programs, including military and space, would put those applications at severe risk.
When I first started in electronics back in 1991, through-hole was still dominant and SMT was just taking hold. It wasn’t long after, however, when we began hearing about multichip modules, or MCMs. Conferences sprung up, publishers dedicated entire issues to the subject, and trade groups started writing standards.
And then … not much. MCMs never became the dominant packaging style some analysts predicted.
But will they?
When the Semiconductor Industry Association ceased its roadmapping activities, a host of organizations, including IEEE, SEMI, ASME and others, jumped in. Last month, they launched the second edition of the Heterogeneous Integration Roadmap. Heterogeneous integration refers to the integration of separately manufactured components into a higher-level assembly (SiP) that, in the aggregate, provides enhanced functionality and improved operating characteristics.