There are some interesting new developments occurring in the chipmaking industry. Taiwanese chip manufacturing giant, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC), will be working with Google and other well-known US tech heavyweights to develop a brand new way of making semiconductors more powerful.

The tried and true technique of cramming more and more transistors onto a single chip is starting to show its weakness. In response, the world’s largest contract chipmaker is focusing on chip packaging – an often overshadowed process of making semiconductors but one that is becoming an industry battleground.

Chip packaging is one of the final steps in the chipmaking process, in which semiconductors are mounted into a supportive case before being placed on a print-circuit board. It was long regarded as less technologically demanding than chip manufacturing.

Unfortunately, the process of maximising space usage on a chip has finally reached its limit, bringing the issue of how they are packaged to the fore.

TSMC is now taking chip packaging vertically and horizontally, using a new 3-D technology that it dubs SoIC. It makes it possible to stack and link several different types of chips – such as processors, memory and sensors – into one package, according to the company. This revolutionary chipmaking technique has resulted in a smaller chipset that is both more powerful and energy-efficient.

With plans to employ this new 3D stacking technology in its Miaoli factory relatively soon, Google and Advanced Micro Devices, Intel’s smaller rival, will be among its first customers for SoIC chips, while also helping the manufacturer to test and certify the effectiveness of the new tech.

TSMC is not the only chipmaker investigating the possibilities of more advanced chip packaging.

Smaller rival Semiconductor Manufacturing International Co., China’s biggest contract chipmaker, is looking at building similarly advanced chip packaging capacity and has ordered equipment from some of TSMC’s suppliers to run a small-scale advanced packaging line.

Everything considered, we could very well be seeing the beginnings of a chipmaking revolution. The future developments of the industry is certainly something to keep an eye on.


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