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Si2 to form 3-D IC standards group

April 26, 2011 // Mark LaPedus

Si2 to form 3-D IC standards group

The Silicon Integration Initiative (Si2), an organization focused on the development and adoption of standards to improve IC design, is quietly forming a standards group for 3-D chips.

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The so-called Open3D Project will enable interoperable 2.5-D/3-D design and EDA flows with open standards, according to Si2.

Over a dozen companies are interested in the effort, which hopes to devise standards for 3-D chips based on through-silicon vias (TSVs), according to Si2. Si2 is an organization of industry-leading companies in the semiconductor, electronic systems and EDA tool industries.

The plan is to have a ''kickoff meeting'' at the upcoming Design Automation Conference (DAC) In San Diego, the group said. DAC will be held June 5-9. The goal is to set the initial standards by Q1 of 2012.

Many wonder if mainstream 3-D chips based on TSV technology is feasible-or will even fly-amid ongoing problems in the arena. The progress remains slow and the technology still appears to be in the ''power point stage.

Still, a plethora of others are also scrambling to develop TSV-based technology-and for good reason: There are fears that IC scaling is becoming too costly for most chip makers-or will end in the distant future.

So instead of scaling, there is another concept on the table: stack and connect existing devices in a 3-D configuration using TSVs. For years, chip makers have been talking about 3-D chips based on TSVs. But except for select products-such as CMOS image sensors-the technology has not moved into the mainstream, due to costs, lack of standards and other factors.

In theory, 3-D chips could evolve in two steps. The first step is a 2.5-D scheme using silicon interposers. Then, eventually, the industry could move to 3-D TSV-if it can solve the multitude of problems with the technology.

In 3-D packaging, the lines blur between front-end manufacturing and packaging. However, many of the IC-packaging houses say have no plans to do the actual TSVs, that is, drilling and filling the holes. That, according to some, will be left up to the foundries.
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