The Future of Semiconductors (Logic): Transistor Design and Advanced Packaging

October 16, 2023 / Ben Bajarin

This week on The Circuit, Ben Bajarin is joined by guest Huiming Bu Vice President, Global Semiconductor R&D. Below is a summary of the topics covered in their conversation.

The semiconductor industry is currently in a period of unprecedented complexity and competition. As we look to the future, major innovations will be needed across hardware, software, and applications to keep driving progress.

## Moving Beyond FinFET Transistors

For the last decade, chip manufacturing has relied on FinFET transistor architectures. Now, we are transitioning to using nanosheet transistors which will take us to the 1.5-1.7nm node. After that, there is uncertainty around what comes next. Two possibilities are VTFETs (vertical transport field effect transistors) and more horizontal transistor designs. More research is still needed to determine the optimal path.

## The Critical Role of Advanced 3D Chip Stacking

Moving to advanced 3D chip stacking and packaging will be essential but extremely challenging. New design and optimization tools are required to properly connect 3D chip technology with overall system architecture. This will likely need major innovations in the next 2-3 years to avoid slowing progress.

## Collaboration is Key

Driving future innovation will require collaboration across the technology stack – from hardware to software to applications. It will also require partnerships across different companies and strengths. No single company can do everything alone. Building an ecosystem of partnerships will be critical for success.

## A Competitive, Complex Environment

We are currently in one of the most competitive environments ever seen in semiconductors. There are more options and players than before across foundries, chip designers, tool providers, and more. At the same time, the industry faces unprecedented technical complexity. Solving the hard problems ahead will require creativity and tenacity.

## The Promise of Chiplets and Heterogeneous Integration

For future systems, chiplets and heterogeneous integration will likely play a big role. As monolithic dies reach their limits, packaging together different chiplets allows for continued gains in transistors and compute power. This will require optimizing across system architecture, packaging, and software to make the most of these modular, mix-and-match designs.

The future of semiconductors will be challenging but also full of opportunities. With collaboration, innovation, and a “full stack” approach, the industry can pave the way for the next era of computing.

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