Samsung Electronics' PLP technology of will be used for entry- and medium- level products
Samsung Electronics has confirmed that the device Solution (DS) division, which oversees the semiconductor business, is building R&D for Fan-Out & Wafer-Level Package (Fo-WLP) and pilot lines. It is said that their goal is to apply Fo-WLP technology from the next-generation Premium Exynos Application Processor (AP) to the Galaxy S11, which is scheduled to be launched next year.
According to an industry report on 23rd, Samsung Electronics recently ordered equipment and materials to perform the fan-out process at the WLP level in the Cheonan package site. Summarizing the inside information related to the multi-partnership company that supplies equipment to Samsung, Samsung is procuring various pieces of equipment and materials necessary for the Fo-WLP process such as exposure and plating in addition to the existing mold and bonder equipment that they already own. Because it’s a pilot line, the investment size is small. It was reported that one item of each type was purchased.
Samsung Electronics' semiconductor division will produce R&D-level samples of the high-performance AP packages utilizing the Fo-WLP process by the end of this year. By June next year, the ultimate goal is to package the Exynos AP for the Galaxy S11, which will be launched in 2020, into the Fo-WLP process. If the schedule follows this goal, there will be new large investments in the packaging sector.
Since the fan-out process moves the input/output (IO) terminals to the outside of the chip to reduce the thickness of the technology to expand the IO, and doesn’t use the package board, the original cost can be lowered. Taiwanese TSMC achieved mass production for the first time. The A Series application processor (AP) on the Apple iPhone will be packaged with TSMC fan-out technology.
An industry source said, "Fan-out technology has already become a general trend in the high-performance AP field" and “TSMC, which was the first to commercialize fan-out technology, is supplying the post-production process by “turnkey” to Apple. One of the reasons that all of Apple’s quantity has gone to TSMC is the fan-out package technology.
According to a Taiwanese report, TSMC plans to invest in a large-scale package plant in Miaoli County. The company is showing its willingness to expand its “turnkey” sales in the post-war process by increasing its package production capacity. Samsung Electronics, which is competing in the foundry field with TSMC, has no choice but to respond to this technology.
Samsung Electronics aims to commercialize the technology by 2020, but if the development fails, the schedule may be adjusted according to the delay. Currently except for TSMC, worldwide outsourced semiconductor assembly and test (OSAT) companies have not succeeded in mass-production with the fan-out processes. An insider said, "Samsung knows that this technology is difficult, so they’re trying to scout executive-level experts from global package companies such as Amkor and JCET STATS ChipPAC.”
If Samsung Electronics succeeds in applying WLP technology to premium AP packages, the panel-level package (PLP) method under development by Samsung Electronics will naturally be allocated to mid- to low-priced and small-sized packaging.
Meanwhile, with the introduction of Fo-WLP technology, Cheonan, Chungnam is expected to be fully positioned as Samsung's high-tech semiconductor package production base. Samsung Electronics’ Semiconductor Business division leased L5, a production line of the 5th generation liquid crystal display (LCD) used by Samsung Display since last year in Cheonan, and turned it into a high-tech package plant. High-bandwidth memory (HBM) based on through silicon via (TSV) technology and the 3-layer stacked image sensor post-processes are being performed here.