Infineon Technologies says it has developed a technique to solder different types of integrated circuit chips together to form a ‘sandwich’ chip system, that packs more capability into the same area as a single chip and creating high-speed connections that allow an increase in complexity while reducing costs.
For a first sample Infineon produced the upper and lower modules of these new sandwich chips in Dresden, Germany, demonstrating the feasibility of the new approach to a problem the industry has tried to solve for 10 years. According to the company the technique uses standard chipmaking and packaging machinery. The soldering technique, called SOLID, combines the multiple chips in a single package to create a single product. The technology promises both to speed up chip performance, and to help reduce the price of current chip solutions by up to 30%.
As chips become more complex, a 'wiring crisis' is making it very difficult to implement applications that require high frequencies - such as communication technology - at the speeds required to satisfy design requirements. With SOLID technology, the tracks between the contacts are much shorter. Interior contacts within a single chip package conduct signals directly between the individual segments of a chip. Infineon claims a SOLID product can achieve clock rates of up to 200 GHz and support more communications lines between the chips in the package. Compared to existing chip systems, it is possible to pack one hundred times the number of connections into the same space. This enables manufacturers of electronic equipment to use smaller PCBs and thus to develop new and more cost-effective products.
The name SOLID is derived from the soldering process used, which is diffusion soldering (the exact term is solid-liquid interdiffusion). Prior to soldering, the upper and lower sides of the sandwich chip are coated with a very thin layer of copper. The solder is applied with a thickness of only 3 µm. Both chips are then soldered together at a temperature of 270°C and 3 bar of pressure to create a permanent bond. The combined chips are not higher than conventional chips because flat ('thinned') silicon wafers are used as a base. The 'chip sandwich' is provided with the same outer layer as for semiconductor components made of compound material and plastic - this allows a savings of up to 50% of the material and the cost for packaging according to the company.
Infineon's first prototype being produced in the new technology is a smartcard controller. Current smartcard controller products combine both a logic chip and memory chip on a single planar surface. Therefore, the controller has only a limited memory capacity, typically 32 KB of memory. The new SOLID prototype has 160 KB of nonvolatile memory. This means that it is not only possible to store more data on the chip but also that the working smartcard can use a more complex, operating system and execute more software applications.
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