At the launch of the Chip Integration Technology Center (CITC) in Nijmegen, the objective was to lead in the development of the latest generation of chips: faster, smarter, and cheaper. Since then, CITC has been around for just over four years. The initiative of international companies NXP, Ampleon and Nexperia and the knowledge institutes TNO, Radboud University, TU Delft and the HAN plays a valuable role in the chiptech ecosystem in (East) Netherlands. Ron van der Kolk, project manager Tech at Oost NL and Mark Luke Farrugia, General Manager at CITC take a look at the future of chiptech. "Every innovation activity at CITC is part of a broader effort to address the various societal challenges we face."
The eastern Netherlands in general and Nijmegen in particular play an important role in the Dutch chip technology ecosystem. What role does CITC play in that?
Mark Luke: Over the years, we have seen chip packaging – the housing of the chip, which protects the chip and allows it to interact with other components in machines and equipment - play an increasingly critical role in semiconductor and integrated photonics devices. This applies to new chips with ever increasing complexity, but also to relatively simpler chips, where the pressure on performance improvement, cost reduction and reduced environmental impact create the need for improvements in existing technologies but also completely new technology platforms. Innovation is the driving force behind the creation of these new and improved technologies. CITC is an open innovation center specifically dedicated to embark on innovation activities in these packaging areas.
Ron: Yes, and choosing the right IC package for your applications starts already at the Design stage. CITC specializes in the skills to be able to integrate various new technology platforms. We call this heterogeneous integration and advanced chip packaging technology. To support this we are also building collaboration in Chip Technology on a national level, together with the areas of Twente, Eindhoven, Delft and Nijmegen. Connecting and expanding the value chain from Chip Design to Advanced Packaging.
"We refer to our ultimate objectives as ‘moon-shots’ as they are very challenging, yet in our view achievable."
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What are the main challenges in the field of (integrated) chip technology that CITC is addressing?
Mark Luke: CITC is active in four key packaging innovation areas. We are currently setting up a CITC Technology Roadmap, in which we define, per innovation area, the steps we are currently envisaging that will lead to achieving our desired ‘moon-shot’ objectives. We refer to these ultimate objectives as ‘moon-shots’ as they are very challenging, yet in our view achievable:
- ‘Thermal High-Performance Packaging for power semiconductor’ – The main challenge here is the drive to increase the thermal performance of the package, while at the same time improving reliability performance and eliminating harmful substances.
- ‘RF mmWave and Antenna-in-Package (AiP) Packaging’ – The main challenge here is developing packaging technologies for very high-frequency Radio Frequency applications, where package geometries and material properties have a dramatically larger impact on device performance, making current packaging technologies incompatible with these demands.
- ‘Advanced Additive Manufacturing Packaging’ – The main challenge here is to develop technologies that have the potential to make advanced packaging much more cost-effective and environmentally friendly, compared to established technologies.
- ‘Integrated Photonics Packaging’ – The main challenge here is to ‘semiconductorize’ the photonics packaging technology. The current state-of-the-art packaging for this segment is very slow and expensive. We intend to use our extensive semiconductor packaging know-how to achieve technological breakthroughs that will allow these semiconductor packaging technologies to be repurposed for the needs of integrated photonics.
"Companies can commission research from CITC, what specifically can CITC help companies with?"
Mark Luke: In each of our four research areas, we work with and for companies to develop new technology building blocks that enable the next generation of semiconductors and integrated photonics devices. Such new technology building blocks not only contribute towards new technology platforms, but also contribute to groundbreaking improvements in existing platforms.
Ron: CITC is an open innovation center where knowledge institutes and companies come together and share their knowledge. They help to bridge the gap by converting a ‘proof-of-principle' into a market-ready concept. Their labs are also available to third parties to enable them to develop, test and implement new packaging solutions.
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The innovations being worked on at CITC, what do they contribute to society?
Mark Luke: Every innovation activity at CITC is part of a broader effort to address the various societal challenges we face. The technologies we develop enable solutions to the future challenges in energy, healthcare, mobility, agriculture, and food.
Our work in Thermal High-Performance Packaging is an essential component of our energy transition, while our Advanced Additive Manufacturing Packaging technology aims to develop packaging technologies with a dramatically reduced environmental footprint.
Our RF mmWave Packaging program includes work on technologies that will enable tomorrow’s communications ecosystems as well as automotive safety, among others.
And our work in Integrated Photonics Packaging work is greatly contributing toward creating components that satisfy humanity’s insatiable need for data communications, as well as technologies that enable breakthroughs in life sciences, health care, security, and safety.
The technologies we develop enable solutions to the future challenges in energy, healthcare, mobility, agriculture, and food
Ron: In addition to and in support of these innovations, CITC is also a center of education and human capital. To be able to address the societal challenges, the semiconductor industry needs to attract more talent. CITC plays an important role in talent development. It gives students the opportunity to contribute to chip integration issues, while gaining experience on various aspects of the chip industry to enable the increasing degree of intelligence to be built into future products.
Oost NL is one of your partners, what role do they play for you?
Mark Luke: For a young organization like CITC, a partner like Oost NL, with its broad national and international network, is important to make itself known to the industry. Equally important is the connection to local, regional, and national stakeholders, without whose cooperation we would not be able to grow into a world-class research institute providing cutting-edge technology solutions, as well as the human capital required for our national and European ambitions in the chip business.