“Seeking Growth” the topic of the panel discussion at Semicon West:

Xcerra Meets Current Trends in the Semiconductor Business with a Most Comprehensive Approach

The semiconductor test and packaging industry segment is being driven by adoption of increased integration, advanced packaging, and adaptive test. Well-balanced and innovative strategies will be needed to ensure further productivity gains at the semiconductor manufacturers. Equipment suppliers have to reconsider both – their portfolio and organizational structure to meet the new market challenges with innovations starting at products but reaching up to full system level solutions. A comprehensive understanding of the overall electronic market trends ranging from components to assembled modules to end products is required to actively contribute to the next generation technology in test and packaging.

Main technology drivers that will enable future market growth

Social megatrends of globalization and mobility paired with ongoing efforts for optimizing processes and speed directly influence the demand for electronics. Three major technology drivers will shape the industry while moving forward:

  • Wireless connectivity
  • Internet of Things
  • Broader usage of advanced sensors

In the test and packaging market this will enforce advanced packaging such as 3D and WLCSP. The new packaging technologies are redefining how and where (at what stage) test ought to be performed. A lot of challenges (therefore opportunities) for new handling and contacting techniques can be anticipated. From a pure “test” point of view, known good die, partial stack test, interposer and substrate test are also new “frontiers” to be explored.

Larger volumes of advanced sensors will need to be tested. Depending on the end application different cost and test quality level have to be achieved. The larger volumes will be split in a growing variety of sensor types. So flexibility in test will be a major differentiator.

In many cases these drivers will combine to drive new applications. Test cells will have to efficiently deal with more complex packages and heterogonous stacks.

How the significant productivity gains over the last decade can be continued

Over the last 10 years the focus has been on getting more productivity at lower cost from the tester. These efforts were followed by similar approaches for handling equipment and test interfaces. All these conventional ways to reduce cost and increase productivity by optimizing tester, handler, interfaces as single elements are reaching their limits. No significant returns can be expected from here. It is time to focus attention on the complete test cell.

Parallel to integrating more functions on an IC – integration can lead to higher performance at lower cost. Today OEE of the test cell with optimized single elements is at best in 70% range. There is a need to harmonize the performance of the test cell elements to effectively improve the overall OEE. The test cell needs to be considered as ONE integrated tool while maintaining widest flexibility. The ATE multisite capabilities, and probecards. Advanced packaging processes such as 3D packaging and WLCSP as well as integrated MCU/RF/Sensor applications will require more focus on the back end manufacturing flow rather than just test insertions.

For the overall semiconductor manufacturer‘s business the test cell approach will significantly contribute to their success by reducing the time to market – particularly for challenging applications. To gain security here, introduce new products as scheduled and be first to market, will easily multiply the direct from increasing test cell OEE.

Xcerra addresses the requirements for future gains

Xcerra is the parrent company for four powerful players in the electronic industry. For the semiconductor market Xcerra consolidates the product portfolio of LTXC’s ATE with Multitest’s handlers and interface products. Everett Charles Technologies and atg Luther & Maelzer expand the portfolio for the electronic market beyond semiconductors.

The market already appreciates Xcerra as a convenient and time-saving one-stop shop. Xcerra will be able to provide a fully harmonized and performance optimized test cell. Shipping a prequalified test cell will significantly accelerate time to volume for the semiconductor manufacturer. Time to volume is now a bigger issue than time to market. End customers like Apple, Samsung expects ramp from 0 to a few millions with 0dppm in a few weeks. For high growth market segments Xcerra sees additional potential in new products integration handler, contactor, loadboard and tester technology.

For developing new solutions Xcerra has a complete set of technologies and experienced resources “in house” ranging from hardware design and software engineering, to precision mechanical design to fabrication. This will ensure leading-edge solutions and fast availability.

Finally, being connected at all nodes of electronics manufacturing gives Xcerra significant insight and therefore a strategic advantage. Trends in PCB assembly and test will allow for anticipating changing demands in packaging and test.

Internet of Things: Are new test strategies needed?

The Internet of Things (loT) seems to be on a good growth trajectory. Novel sensor devices for the end nodes, combinations thereof are launched every month.

Successful test strategies need to ensure that the new sensors devices will be tested and calibrated efficiently. Sensor test typically includes providing a defined stimulus signal while the device is being tested. Today classical gravity, pick & place or turret sensor handling with a stimulus box and their economics are deployed. Whereas for some application areas they still seem to fulfill the requirements, the limits need to be considered. What will be the alternatives?

Sensor Test Requirements

Many sensors – many of them being MEMS based – require a thorough calibration and test prior to being assembled into the end node device. Sensor test typically includes providing a defined stimulus signal – e.g. acceleration, turn, magnetic field, sound, moisture, gas – while the devices are being tested not only to validate the device function but also to calibrate its output signals. Test needs to be done under challenging conditions: e.g. acceleration as high as 100g is 10 times that what electronics in a fighter jet are typically exposed to.

Over the past two decades handler manufactures have provided test handlers, with a stimulus module. Some sensor handling equipment has also been built for specific stimuli and using traditional pick & place concepts.

It is clear though that standard gravity, pick & place and turret handlers were designed for different applications – other package types, test times, tester constraints, temperature requirements etc.

Unique Features of Sensors Influence Test

Sensor devices have very unique features much different from the “average” IC:

  • low number of IOs (6-14)
  • small package outline – 4mmx4mm until a few years ago, now 2mmx2mm or smaller, the first wafer-level sensors are emerging
  • “active areas” on the package – pressure, microphone or optical ports
  • test time can be long, e.g. >30secs for pressure sensors, or short, e.g. >5secs for low g accelerometers
  • tester resources are hardly a limit and test parallelism of 256x can be achived

Particularly consumer applications sensors have other important attributes:

  • they need to be low cost to enable a high volume market penetration
  • if they ramp, they can ramp steeply – but many devices do not make it to volume
  • product life cycles are short (2-3 years)
  • the next product generation often requires an altered or totally different stimulus

Implications on Test Equipment

While testers can be reconfigured and re-used, it is not uncommon that test handlers cannot be upgraded to meet the next generation requirements and are essentially obsoleted after a period much shorter than the depreciation time. This trend is often exacerbated by device package outlines shrinking beyond the practical capability of the handling concept initially chosen for the first generation sensor device.

MEMS/sensor manufacturers will need to analyze the appropriate application areas and limits of “classical” gravity, pick & place or turret sensor handling with a stimulus box and their economics. Test equipment suppliers need to provide solutions that support alternatives including sensor calibration by electrical stimulus, wafer level stimulus, strip testing and carrier based testing.

Upcoming sensor fusion into single packages (“combos”) and the integration with radios and uControllers as driven by the loT will add further challenges and increase the need and value of a well-defined test strategy.

Xcerra – Complete Test Cells for MEMS/sensors

Xcerra combines industry-leading Multitest MEMS concepts with the long-term experience of the LTX-Credence ATE team. Xcerra is in a unique position to offer full turn-key, one-stop shop MEMS test cells comprising ATE, test interfaces, test handler and MEMS stimulus. Moreover with the Xcerra inhouse design and engineering capabilities, optimized MEMS test solutions can be offered that leverage the unprecedented ability for advanced harmonization and integration.

Fastest Availability Guaranteed – Spring Probe Supply for Today’s Fast Pace Business

Everett Charles Technologies establishes advanced inventory stocking program for standard spring probes

Everett Charles Technologies (ECT) has established an advanced inventory stocking program for standard spring probes to ensure supply chain reliability and flexibility. ECT fully recognized their customers need to shorten product development times and to react promptly to changing demand.

With this new process ECT is able to significantly reduce lead times. The majority of probes will get shipped the same day – no shipment will take more than three days. This program is based on an advanced real time inventory monitoring and control process that enables ECT to ensure optimum stock. ECT leveraged their decades of expertise and thorough understanding of the market to design this reliable process.

Tony deRosa, Product Manager, explains: “Talking to our customers we fully understand their requirements to get probes when they are needed without wait times that may delay a project. Our goal is to give our customers a competitive advantage and we are convinced a dependable supply chain partner is an essential element of their success”.