Packaging refers to the process steps that form the protective enclosure around a finished chip and create the external connections for input/output. Consumer demand for smaller, faster, and more powerful mobile electronics is driving the development of alternate packaging approaches. Strategies include wafer-level packaging – where chips are packaged while still on the wafer, then separated – using bumping, redistribution layers, and fan-out packaging approaches. Another technique is the use of through-silicon vias (TSVs), which are conductive pillars of metal that connect stacks of chips. These strategies generate multiple challenges for the processing steps involved, such as managing a range of feature shapes, multiple material types, and strict thermal budgets.
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Ever open the body of your smartphone (perhaps unintentionally) and see small, black rectangles stuck on a circuit board? Those black rectangles are packaged chips. The external chip structure protects the fragile integrated circuits inside, as well as dissipates heat, keeps chips isolated from each other, and, importantly, provides connection to the circuit board and other elements.