The semiconductor industry is facing a new era in which device scaling and cost reduction will not continue on the path they followed for the past few decades, with Moore's law in its foundation. Advanced nodes do not bring the desired cost benefit anymore and R&D investments in new lithography solutions and devices below 10nm nodes are rising substantially. In order to answer market demands, the industry seeks further performance and functionality boosts in integration. While scaling options remain uncertain in the shorter term and continue to be investigated, the spotlight turns to advanced packages. Emerging packages such as fan-out wafer level solution aim to bridge the gap and revive the cost/performance curve while at the same time adding more functionality through integration.

In this work we will focus on Fan-Out packaging, an embedded package of most interest at the moment. The principle of Fan-Out technology is to embed products in a mold compound and allow redistribution layer pitch to be independent from die size. This approach is already mature for several years thanks to high volume products claimed by Nanium and JCET/Stats ChipPAC using eWLB type of Fan-Out, and with many other developments from OSATs and an aggressive technology from TSMC (inFO).

2016 was a turning point for the Fan-Out market with Apple A1O application processor being packaged using TSMC solution. This partnership changed the game and may create a trend of acceptance of Fan-Out packages for complex applications. The market for Fan-Out packages in 2016 already reached $500M, with potential breakthrough events in store in 2017 that could make the market reach $2B in 2020.

Understanding the potential of that market and the high demand from telecom industry for a thin and cheap package, capable of embedding complex ICs, other important OSATs like Powertech or Amkor are willing to enter the market with their own technologies. TSMC being the first example, foundries too could look at the OSATs reserved market through wafer-level packages, Samsung's reaction being interesting to follow.

Each player has its own view on how to gain market share and meet the technical and financial challenges associated to Fan-Out packaging such as cost reduction, yield improvement, die shift… This work brings analysis of the strategies and offers of main players involved and describes potential success scenarios for them. It also helps to define what is Fan-Out Packaging and what are the different products and platforms, player per player, avoiding confusion already visible in the industry where many players call their solution a “Fan-Out” to benefit from the buzz created by Apple despite having significant differences from one to another (chip-first, chip-last, face-up, face-down, etc…).

As package price represents the final verdict, carrier size evolution is also an important topic, both for wafers and panels, since it can help to drastically reduce the cost. This work shows that the main trend is still to keep wafer carriers but some players are already investing and developing panel-based solution and we expect volume production soon. While end-customers are pushing for a switch to panel, numerous challenges are limiting its widespread though. This work describes technical, economic and maturity challenges associated to panel manufacturing.

Overall, the presentation will provide an overview of the products announcements, commercialization roadmaps as well as market forecasts per application. Insights and trends into the different fan-out packaging approaches by applications, business models and major players will be reviewed.

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