FOPLP technology seen an alternative to FOWLP for automotive chipmakers

Misha Lu, DIGITIMES Asia, Taipei 0

Credit: AFP

The ongoing trend of automotive electrification, intelligentization and connectivity are driving a significant increase in the quantity and cost of chips used in vehicles. The cost of a single chip in traditional automobiles is approximately US$300, while for electric vehicles (EV), it is US$600. When it comes to advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) at level 3 and higher, the cost per chip exceeds US$1000, with some reaching over US$2000.

At the recently concluded Semicon China 2023, Germany-based Manz AG showcased its FOPLP (fan-out panel level packaging) solution for advanced packaging technology. Talking to Chinese media Ijiwei, Eric Lee, assistant manager of R&D at Manz Asia, noted that a smart vehicle may require 1000 to 2000 chips - most of them are power management ICs and discrete components like IGBT and MOSFET. Lee indicated that power components in automobiles were typically packaged using wire bonding technology, but wire bonding has recently faced technical limitations. Therefore, automotive chip manufacturers are seeking new advanced packaging technologies to shorten circuit path and enhance conductivity.

As a result, automotive chip manufacturers are looking into technologies such as flip chip (FC), ball-grid arrays (BGA), FOPLP and fan-out wafer-level packaging (FOWLP).

According to Lee, FOPLP offers cost advantages compared to FC, BGA, and FOWLP, and it can even be 20% cheaper than traditional quad-flat no-leads (QFN) packaging technology. Thus, Lee sees growing opportunities for FOPLP technology. Lee previously noted in an advanced packaging fourm in Taiwan that FOPLP boasts a high area utilization rate of over 95%, compared to lower than 85% for FOWLP, and that as prices for high-end substrates ran close to those for chips, substrate-free FOPLP technology would have more potentials for mass production.

Currently, fan-out packaging accounts for only 10% of the overall advanced packaging market, and panel-level solutions represent only 10% of the entire fan-out market.

Meanwhile, foundries and traditional OSAT players with wafer-level packaging competences have little interest in panel-level packaging. Recognizing the demand for FOPLP solutions in a large number of automotive power chips, Lee believes that automotive chip customers will be the best partners for Manz to promote FOPLP adoption.

Intensifying competition in the automotive chip market might also drive auto chip IDMs to turn to FOPLP to improve product performance and reduce costs. Additionally, most of these companies have their own packaging & testing facilities, making it easier for fan-out panel level packaging to penetrate this particular sector. With China promoting its compound semiconductor industry, especially silicon carbide (SiC) and gallium nitride (GaN), Lee sees it as another opportunity, alongside RF chipmakers, for boosting FOPLP adoption.

Nevertheless, the penetration speed and quality of panel-level fan-out packaging also depend on equipment and technological progress. Wafer-level fan-out packaging has standardized dimensions, making the equipment and materials more mature. In comparison, FOPLP is still challenged by the wide variety of substrate material and size, while its equipment is often customized.

Therefore, equipment suppliers need to have the capability to provide comprehensive solutions for the entire process. Manz, for example, not only provides process technology development and equipment manufacturing. but also integrates upstream and downstream equipment via automation.