Small ICs may challenge assemblers

Handling tiny passive components has been a challenge for assemblers for so long that few assemblers pay much attention to the size of components they specify. But in active semiconductors, chipmakers are concerned about their customers’ ability to handle small, low profile devices.

Integration in chips and the relentless push to make more powerful portable systems are key drivers in the push to low profile ICs. The makers of compact, leading edge portable gear have fairly high volumes and a high need to use smaller devices, so they’re willing to do whatever’s necessary to gear up for low profile devices.

But when very low profile devices move into more mainstream applications, companies that aren’t used to handling small, thin active components may have some challenges. “When we go down below 3 x 3 x 1 mm, we will have to ask every customer if they have the equipment to handle this,” said Dave Monk, Automotive Sensors Product Manager at Freescale Semiconductor.

These extremely small packages also bring marking techniques back into discussion. Active components can have a greater impact on long-term reliability than passives, so there’s more concern about marking them so they can be traced during long product life cycles.

“Markings are becoming a challenge, especially in automotive and other long lifetime environments where traceability is an issue,” Monk said. Some groups are beginning to consider using some input circuitry to provide access to traceability data that may be stored in the devices, he added.

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