• JamieNitePSE

The Semiconductor Circle - how the front end effects the back end.

I have been fortunate enough to attend two excellent conferences this year on behalf of two of PSE's longest standing clients - SignaKey and EKSS Microelectronics. The first event was a Counterfeit Avoidance Conference which is run annually by the Anti-Counterfeit Forum and most recently the IMAPS Microtech 2019.

Both conferences deliver informative, educational and thought provoking content but at first glance they bare very little relation to each other. IMAPS has a strong focus on the leading edge of semiconductor technology and gives a forward view on how future applications and requirements drive change in semiconductor assembly, test & manufacturing techniques. In stark contrast, the Counterfeit Avoidance scenario has its roots firmly planted in obsolete products, long lead-times, component shortages and the very real threat of fake semiconductor components seeping into the supply chain. Indeed the latest counterfeit threat relates to cloned devices that are almost impossible to distinguish from the original product and of course the ever increasing threat of cyber security. So what's the link between the two differing ends of the Semiconductor Spectrum ?

The connection lies in the demands of the leading edge and how it impacts the back end. The rapid growth of Vehicle Electrification/Driverless Vehicles has impacted the trailing edge with component shortages, which of course extends lead-times and provides an opportunity for counterfeiters to flood the market with sub-standard, unreliable and fraudulent products.The IMAPS conference focused on Power Electronics and in particular how the automotive and energy industries are hungry for product and innovation. One particular presentation by Ricardo Automotive showed a clear vision of the future with electric vehicles dominating growth during the next 30-50 years.It is important to note the legislative element of this growth pattern, governments have set clear targets for vehicle electrification, it will happen.

Over the last two years component lead-times on a range of products have moved out drastically because of the demands of the automotive industry. Key products go onto allocation and delivery cycles of even simple components like Capacitors run at a 12 month lead-time. The Obsolescence end of the spectrum is interesting in itself, think about a Defence or Mil/Aero application and the design cycle, think how long this equipment remains in service and then compare that, to how quickly the consumer end of the electronics industry moves. Our phones and tablets get smaller, faster and denser with computing power by the year, which in turn means the semiconductor product life cycle is now shorter and parts are obsoleted frequently. So a system designed 30 years that is still operational today, has to plan in great detail how to manage this inevitable cycle. This problem is of course exaggerated when the leading edge demand gobbles up existing capacity and those counterfeits leech back into the market. The risk of counterfeits can be managed by working with companies with AS6081, AS9120, AS6171 and AS9100 accreditations.

In summary the leading edge is very exciting and full of challenges and innovation. It will be fascinating to see how technology drives manufacturing techniques to new levels and how the existing supply chain evolves to support the future. At the other end of the spectrum we have the threat of cloned devices to contend with and cyber security threats - maybe there is an opportunity for the leading and trailing edge to work together to come up with solutions to prevent counterfeits from entering the supply chain and establishing techniques to detect cloned product.

A big thanks to the organisers of the two events - IMAPS and The Anti-Counterfeit forum and to all of those who presented and participated. The content at both was excellent.

A final word about my two clients - SignaKey in partnership IECQ have launched an e-seal product which is aimed at the counterfeit avoidance market, for more information about participating in a Beta Trial please contact me.

EKSS Microelectronics offer a range of Assembly,Test & Supply Chain services for Fabless and ASIC design companies.