Intel Unveils Industry-Leading Glass Substrates to Meet Demand for More Powerful ComputeSeptember 18, 2023 | Intel
Estimated reading time: 3 minutes
Intel announced one of the industry’s first glass substrates for next-generation advanced packaging, planned for the latter part of this decade. This breakthrough achievement will enable the continued scaling of transistors in a package and advance Moore’s Law to deliver data-centric applications.
“After a decade of research, Intel has achieved industry-leading glass substrates for advanced packaging. We look forward to delivering these cutting-edge technologies that will benefit our key players and foundry customers for decades to come,” said Babak Sabi, Intel senior vice president and general manager of Assembly and Test Development.
Compared to today’s organic substrates, glass offers distinctive properties such as ultra-low flatness and better thermal and mechanical stability, resulting in much higher interconnect density in a substrate. These benefits will allow chip architects to create high-density, high-performance chip packages for data-intensive workloads such as artificial intelligence (AI). Intel is on track to deliver complete glass substrate solutions to the market in the second half of this decade, allowing the industry to continue advancing Moore’s Law beyond 2030.
By the end of the decade, the semiconductor industry will likely reach its limits on being able to scale transistors on a silicon package using organic materials, which use more power and include limitations like shrinkage and warping. Scaling is crucial to the progress and evolution of the semiconductor industry, and glass substrates are a viable and essential next step for the next generation of semiconductors.
As the demand for more powerful computing increases and the semiconductor industry moves into the heterogeneous era that uses multiple “chiplets” in a package, improvements in signaling speed, power delivery, design rules and stability of package substrates will be essential. Glass substrates possess superior mechanical, physical and optical properties that allow for more transistors to be connected in a package, providing better scaling and enabling assembly of larger chiplet complexes (called “system-in-package”) compared to organic substrates in use today. Chip architects will have the ability to pack more tiles – also called chiplets – in a smaller footprint on one package, while achieving performance and density gains with greater flexibility and lower overall cost and power usage.
Glass substrates will initially be introduced into the market where they can be leveraged the most: applications and workloads requiring larger form factor packages (i.e., data centers, AI, graphics) and higher speed capabilities.
Glass substrates can tolerate higher temperatures, offer 50% less pattern distortion, and have ultra-low flatness for improved depth of focus for lithography, and have the dimensional stability needed for extremely tight layer-to-layer interconnect overlay. As a result of these distinctive properties, a 10x increase in interconnect density is possible on glass substrates. Further, improved mechanical properties of glass enable ultra-large form-factor packages with very high assembly yields.
Glass substrates’ tolerance to higher temperatures also offers chip architects flexibility on how to set the design rules for power delivery and signal routing because it gives them the ability to seamlessly integrate optical interconnects, as well as embed inductors and capacitors into the glass at higher temperature processing. This allows for better power delivery solutions while achieving high-speed signaling that is needed at much lower power. These many benefits bring the industry closer to being able to scale 1 trillion transistors on a package by 2030.
Intel has been researching and evaluating the reliability of glass substrates as a replacement for organic substrates for more than a decade. The company has a long history of enabling next-generation packaging, having led the industry in the transition from ceramic package to organic package in the 1990s, being the first to enable halogen and lead-free packages, and being the inventor of advanced embedded die packaging technologies, the industry’s first active 3D stacking technologies. As a result, Intel has been able to unlock an entire ecosystem around these technologies from equipment, chemical and materials suppliers to substrate manufacturers.
Building on the momentum of recent PowerVia and RibbonFET breakthroughs, these industry-leading glass substrates for advanced packaging demonstrate Intel’s forward focus and vision for the next era of compute beyond the Intel 18A process node. Intel is on the path to delivering 1 trillion transistors on a package by 2030 and its ongoing innovation in advanced packaging including glass substrates will help achieve this goal.
Oved Shapira is CEO of PCB Technologies, the Israeli-based printed circuit provider. PCB Technologies has recently invested in facilities and expertise to design, fabricate, and assemble substrates, a key component for advanced packaging technologies. Oved spoke with Barry Matties and Nolan Johnson about how advanced packaging will influence the industry. He said it will shift everything, including design, fabrication, assembly techniques, and capital equipment development. Some of these shifts might be subtle, and others more seismic. Whatever the changes, Oved says it’s coming.
Despite being a leader in R&D investment in semiconductors and packaging with greater than $50 billion per year, the U.S. has seen its market share decrease to less than 3% in areas like advanced packaging and advanced substrates. The cause for this market share erosion was a laser focus in Asian countries to attract semiconductors and advanced packaging investment through ecosystem development and incentives. If the U.S. is serious about changing the momentum to onshore advanced packaging and advanced substrates, an ecosystem approach to innovation and manufacturing incentives must be employed. It is not enough to have the most innovative technology if the supply chain and manufacturing economics do not deliver competitive commercial opportunities.
When I stop to consider the dynamics in our industry at this moment, I keep coming back to the idea of “convergence.” Aspects of our industry historically thought of as distinct and separate are blurring the lines and overlapping. As I look back on our coverage in the past five years, I see convergence taking place, moving like a glacier—slow and steady but with formidable force. In this issue of PCB007 Magazine, the three areas of convergence we consider are materials, advanced packaging, and UHDI.
BTU International, Inc., a leading supplier of advanced thermal processing equipment for the electronics manufacturing market, will highlight its TrueFlat™ reflow oven technology at SEMICON Taiwan in booth #M1039. The expo is scheduled to take place September 6-8, 2023 at TaiNEX 1 & 2 in Taipei.
With the ever-increasing diversity of performance needs in printed circuits, substrates are an ongoing area of development and innovation. At IMS Microwave Week, we caught up with Daniel Barish, a global strategy and west commercial leader at Celanese, to discuss substrates, low temperature co-fired ceramics, in particular.