The Struggle to Shrink System Size: Innovative Technologies Driving the Next Generation of Mobile Devices

April 25, 2017

Consumer electronics designers and manufacturers are in a constant balancing act to stay competitive with the addition of new innovative functionality while maintaining high yields at a competitive cost. Whether they’re smartphones or wearables, IoT devices or automotive electronics, there inevitably comes a point in the design process where designers just can’t cram any additional components or circuitry into the device without adding undesirable bulk or cost. Try as they might, they’ve reached the limit.

Or have they?

When it comes to dreaming up the next generation of electronic devices, collaboration between designers and manufacturers creates a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. Recent innovations in manufacturing processes have proven successful in improving functionality while continuing to shrink the size of devices, and if manufacturers haven’t already implemented these processes, they’re almost surely evaluating them today. Advancements worth considering that can help designers get to higher-density electronics include:

FAN-OUT WAFER LEVEL PACKAGING (FOWLP) – In conventional WLCSP (wafer level chip scale package) schemes, the I/O terminals are spread over the chip surface area, limiting the number of I/O connections. FOWLP, on the other hand, embeds individual die in an epoxy mold compound with space allocated between each die for additional I/O connection points, avoiding the use of more expensive silicon real estate to accommodate a higher I/O count. Leveraging FOWLP schemes, as seen in the A10 processor in Apple’s iPhone 7, enables semiconductor devices with thousands of I/O points to be seamlessly connected via finely spaced lines as thin as two to five microns, thus maximizing interconnect density while enabling high bandwidth data transfer.

OLED – First-generation flexible Organic Light-emitting Diode (OLED) display technology is already making its way into the consumer marketplace, but its full potential is far from realized. Samsung Galaxy Edge smartphones and Apple Watches are among the first devices to incorporate this technology. But their curved displays are not designed to be bendable by consumers since they are encapsulated in rigid, protective glass – these devices merely hint at what flexible OLED displays will be capable of in the future.

Next-generation flexible OLED displays will be foldable, rollable, and perhaps even stretchable, creating a brand-new class of electronic devices, and giving consumer electronics providers a massive new market opportunity .

FLEXIBLE PRINTED CIRCUITS – These space-optimizing circuits have been around for decades, but their density continues to increase. Conventional three-layer flex circuits comprised of copper, polyimide and bonding adhesives are giving way to thinner, smoother two-layer flex circuits that forego the adhesive layer – the copper is instead plated directly on the polyimide. These two-layer circuits may be ultra-thin with very fine line spacing. With roll-to-roll processing, manufacturers can produce these advanced flex circuits using rolls of flexible material as long as 100m, processed continuously at high speed. Using this process, manufacturers are well positioned to achieve new benchmarks for flex circuit density at unprecedented cost efficiencies.

Manufacturers are continually innovating to push the limits to gain higher yields and enable more complex and challenging designs. Designers of ultra-compact electronic devices should work with the manufacturing team to learn how they’re staying ahead of the curve with these advanced manufacturing techniques. The faster they can deploy these processes – if they haven’t already – the better equipped designers will be to create that impossibly compact device that sets their company apart from the competition.

Author: Hanoch Kopel, Corporate Business Development Director, Orbotech

Published By: Global SMT & Packaging

Cautionary Statement Regarding Forward-Looking Statements 

Some of the materials contained on this website (including in press releases, webcasts, presentations, posts and other places) contain forward-looking statements and are subject to the Safe Harbor provisions created by the U.S. Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. These statements relate to, among other things, future prospects, developments, business strategies and industry trends and involve certain risks and uncertainties. The words “anticipate,” “believe,” “could,” “will,” “plan,” “expect” and “would” and similar terms and phrases, including references to assumptions, have been used in this website to identify forward-looking statements. These statements are only predictions and actual events or results may differ materially. We refer you to the documents KLA Corporation (“KLA”) files from time to time with the Securities and Exchange Commission, specifically, KLA’s most recent Annual Report on Form 10-K and Quarterly Reports on Form 10-Q.  These documents contain important factors that could cause the actual results to differ materially from those contained in projections and other forward-looking statements including, among others, volatility and cyclicality in the semiconductor equipment industry and other industries in which KLA and its subsidiaries operate, potential fluctuations in operating results and stock price, international trade and economic conditions, the ability to compete successfully worldwide, management of technological change and customer requirements, fluctuations in product mix within and among divisions, the timing and strength of product and service offerings by KLA and its subsidiaries and its and their competitors, intellectual property obsolescence and infringement, and factors associated with key employees, key suppliers, acquisitions, and litigation. Additional factors impacting the business of KLA and its subsidiaries include integration between KLA and its acquired companies, ability to achieve synergies and other benefits of acquisitions in the timeframe anticipated, if at all.

KLA and its subsidiaries assume no obligation to update the information in this website (including press releases, webcasts, presentations, posts and other places) to reflect new information, future events or otherwise, except as required by law.


This site is provided by KLA (or its subsidiaries) on an "as is" basis. None of KLA and its subsidiaries make any representations or warranties of any kind, express or implied, as to the operation of the site, or the accuracy or completeness of the information, content, materials, pricing, services, or products included on this site. Product specifications and prices are subject to change without notice, and products may be discontinued without notice. None of KLA and its subsidiaries will be liable for any damages of any kind arising from the use of this site, or the material that is provided on this site, including but not limited to direct, indirect, special, incidental, punitive, or consequential damages.