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Why IoT Pushes the Packaging Requirement Threshold

Rich Amigh, Sales & Marketing Mgr.
Amy Groossman, Marketing, Media & Public Relations COOD
AIT Technology

Currently the cultural meme of the 21stcentury is the Internet of Things (IoT), or more specifically the underlying technology dates to the 1970s and the development of the microprocessor, also known as the Central Processing Unit (CPU). Essentially an integrated circuit, the microprocessor computes vast amounts of information on ever shrinking but increasingly powerful silicon chips, courtesy of improved semiconductor device fabrication (silicon manufacturing) technology.

Today, microprocessors inhabit nearly all electronic devices, many with or moving towards the characteristically IoT svelte, discreet and unobtrusive physical profile (shape and size), perhaps none more so than suddenly popular fitness, health and lifestyle wearables. Although capable of performing sophisticated data monitoring and processing, the average wearable is no larger, or more disruptive, than most bracelet or watch (and eventually ring and earring).

Pint to pocket sized wearables require equally slim and lean microprocessors. The well written and detailed article,The Internet of things: Sizing up the Opportunity[1],reiterates the semiconductor industry and IoT connection.

IoT“The Internet of Things refers to the networking of physical objects through the use of embedded sensors, actuators, and other devices that can collect or transmit information about the objects [things] the connected devices that transmit information across the relevant networks rely on innovations from semiconductor playershighly integrated microchip designs, for instance, and very low-power functions in certain applications.”

Size matters for IoT:
“Manufacturers may also need to emphasize flexible form factors to a greater degree than they currently do. Components must be small enough to be embedded in todays smart watches and smart glasses but also amenable to further shrinking for incorporation into still-unidentified future products.”

The semiconductor industry acts:
“Semiconductor players are moving full steam ahead to address [flexible form factors and small component] challenges.”

The challenges for the semiconductor processing of a standard MPU are well known.Physical and plasma deposition of increasingly thin conductive and non-conductive X, EUV and other advanced lithography technologies, deep trench etching, wafer thinning from 500 to 50 microns, advanced wafer cleaning methods and plasma etching for final separation of wafer dies represent a fraction of the many challenges inherent to semiconductor processing.

What is not well known, or has been overlooked, is how the success (or failure) of thermal conductivity of each device will become more and more critical as the IoT market continues to grow.

Traditionally, heat sinks and fans or thermal interface gels, greases and change pads help dissipate heat from electronic devices. However, the small and soon to be smaller, profile of many IoT devices may lack the necessary space for the application of traditional cooling applications.

On the other end of the IoT packaging challenge spectrum, moisture absorption (often the result of humid conditions) into MPU or CPI structures could short out or reduce device use time.This is why all aspects of thermal interface materials have to be studied.

When selecting a thermal interface material for your IoT solution, you should ask:

  • Does the thermal grease contain nano-particles small enough such that a 10 micron layer can be repeatedly dispensed?
  • Does the thermal grease dry out over time causing the thermal properties of the product to decrease over time?
  • Do the film adhesives or thin thermal gap pads absorb water into the device that could be detrimental to its performance?
  • Can very thin layers of film adhesive be made without pin holes or voids?

The importance of having a detailed knowledge of the chemical, physical and electrical properties of an electrical circuit can not be underestimated in this area. IoT devices are projected to grow more than 9 percent annually to $7.3 trillion by 2017. Along with this high growth curve will be more and more demanding applications for products that fit in smaller and smaller areas. The design of these advanced semiconductor devices will contain MEM devices that will have to fit in a very small footprint to be effective for the user. The MPU may have all the capabilities needed to perform its job, but if not sufficiently cooled, the lifetime of the product will be diminished. An ineffective or faulty thermal dissipation method can be equally damaging.

AITcoolgreaseThis is one reason why thermal interface materials (TIMs) are so critical to the success of IoT devices. Driving IoT to the next level of performance and meeting customer demand for performance device enhancement, will require more and more efficient thermal interface solutions. Thermal interface materials (TIM) will have to be designed by a dedicated group of engineers who think outside the box and are not afraid to work with new technologies to get the desired thermal results without sacrificing space.

Raw materials will have to be to be researched more carefully and vendors will have to push the limits of their capabilities to provide leading edge product to formulators. This will include tighter QC inspection, smaller sample lots and meeting customer demands as closely as possible.

Most consumers using IoT devices will expect virtually indestructible devices. This is due to temperature fluctuations, water or body fluids, severe impact from dropping, etc. Conformal coatings will also be of the upmost importance for environmental and thermal considerations.

What good is an IoT device if it is bulky, overheats and environmentally temperamental?Packaging engineers are addressing the question.

Interesting in learning more? Contact AI Technology for more information.www.aitechnology.com

[1]http://www.mckinsey.com/insights/high_tech_telecoms_internet/the_internet_of_things_sizing_up_the_opportunity

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