Date Visited: October 5, 1993
Report Author: J. Peeples
Mr. Hidetoshi Yamauchi
Mr. Kazuhisa Ohno
Mr. Osamu Fujikawa
Mr. Koji Hosada
Mr. Keiji Adachi
Ibiden began life as a power company and is now a manufacturer as well. It offers products in the following three areas:
IBI Electronics Branch
IBI Inorganic Chemical Branch
IBI Building Materials Branch
Ibiden shares its product branches between manufacturing plants. Any given plant may be involved in the production of electronics, building materials, inorganic chemicals, and/or new products. Generally, however, one or two plants specialize in production for a particular branch.
R & D ACTIVITIES
IBI-Techno is the calling card of Ibiden's R&D activities. Advanced product development is conducted in the New Products Development Branch. When ready, the technology is fused into one of the major product branches. The development of plastic pin grid arrays (PGAs) and application-specific integrated modules (ASIMs) were discussed as examples of this advanced product development process. Ibiden discussed the ASIM concept with me during my April 1990 visit. I could not detect that the concept was any closer to product at the time of the JTEC visit in late 1993.
Fundamental technology development is the charter of the Technology and Development Department. Activity in this area includes investigation of biotechnology, superconduction, ceramats, and optical materials.
Ibiden Electronics is working mainly in two product areas: IC packages and printed wiring boards (PWBs).
IC Package Products
Ibiden has leveraged its competency in laminate substrates technology into an IC package business. It makes small interposer substrates with facilities for chip attach (plated wirebond pads, semi-cavities, etc.) and add pins. Its major product line, by far, is the plastic pin grid array (PGA). It is very intense in this product development area, which is driving performance as well as costs. Our hosts showed examples of plastic PGA substrates in the 2 nH inductance range.
Ibiden has chosen to get out of the TAB package business because it feels that it was unable to compete with the major suppliers of TAB packages. It has just begun prototype production of BGA; it has one package of over 500 pins. Our hosts characterize this program as being very U.S.-centric but realize that some devices may have to be provided to U.S. end users by Japanese semiconductor vendors, and it therefore must do the package development.
Ibiden is a major supplier of PWBs. It produces subtractive laminate substrates at a rate of 25,000 square meters per month of double-sided substrates and 15,000 square meters per month of multilayer substrates. It is also active in several more advanced substrate areas, alternate materials for CTE and power dissipation, and additive processes for higher routing densities. Topan, which began life as a printing company, is a very important Ibiden competitor in laminate substrates. Yamamato and Compaq are also viewed as important competitors, especially for U.S. business. Samsung is a licensee of IBI-Techno.
Ceracom is a ceramic-cored PWB and is Ibiden's "low-cost," low-expansion substrate for flip chip. Ibiden currently single-sources Ceracom substrates but is interested in supplying the raw material and technology to U.S. substrate suppliers. It is not interested in supplying end products (substrates) of Ceracom to the United States. Ceracom currently has two major Japanese customers and few applications. Ceracom costs are between thin film metalized ceramic and FR-4 at the finished circuit board. Material cost is higher than ceramic substrate and FR-4.
Ibiden's additive process is still in the prototype stage of development. Development seems focused in the areas of adhesives, dry film plating resists, and plating technology. Plating technology is critical to the additive strategy. Ibiden is doing the work to ensure thickness consistency and peel strength. Thickness consistency is not a given, even in the electroless process. Peel strength is the major reliability concern. Ibiden's adhesive resin for additive process consists of two different epoxy resin systems (one is solid and the other is liquid). These resins show different strength against some chemicals by having different hardeners (e.g., acid and amine). This process additionally mitigates cracking in the high-stress regions of small vias. Peel strength is also a bit of a "specsmanship" issue in that strength levels have been characterized as appropriate to the older, much more macroscopic technologies, which may not extrapolate reasonably to the very-fine-pitch additive products. Ibiden is also investigating what can be done with solder resist height to make assembly of additive boards easier. Its researchers think that a product with a resist 20 mils higher than the copper trace can eliminate solder bridging.
Ibiden's build-up multilayer PWB product is still in development. Build-up is intended to be similar to IBM's surface laminar circuit (SLC). It is anticipated to be a double-sided subtractive core with two build-up fine-line layers on each side of the core (a total of six layers). Build-up will have a very high routing density due to the 50 micron conductor widths and the 100 micron vias. It is currently about five times the cost of a normal laminate substrate but about eight times less than an MCM-D substrate. Laminate substrates are the cost target for this technology.
The major changes in Ibiden's MCM-D substrate technology are the move away from polyimide to an epoxy dielectric for cost reduction and the deployment of a "hot press" aluminum nitride core for enhanced thermal conductivity and dimensional stability. This extra stability results in a 1 mil line and 1 mil space capability for wiring. Ibiden feels that the $6-8 subtractive board of today would cost $40 in the MCM-L build-up technology, but sees a path to drive that to $15. The same circuitry would cost $300 today in a copper/polyimide MCM-D substrate or $120 for a copper/epoxy implementation.
GAMA PLANT TOUR
Mr. Fujikawa gave us a tour of the package production at the Gama plant. He feels that the current staffing level may be too high at about 300 persons, of which 20% are considered indirect. The plant was somewhat eclectic in layout and was literally covered in paper: SPC control charts with goal lines extended into 1995 were everywhere. There were safety and "one-point" displays in every section, as well. The "one-point" concept is an interesting one. A cache of visual aids is kept in each section from which the section supervisor or engineer can present a "one-point" discussion daily to the workers. The subject will be a very specific commentary on some facet of their job, like the correct way to use a tool or the details of why a particular process step is performed. There is no effort to tie the daily events together; the intent is rather to expose the workers daily to some level of very specific training.
The IC plastic package substrates and the Ceracom substrates are processed on very similar, if not the same, production lines. Drilling and routing of the package substrates takes place in a single room. Production control appears to be totally paper-based. There were paper travelers with every lot of material, and no bar code readers were seen to be integrated into any of the production steps. The design area was a large, well-lighted open office space that housed about 50 uniformed Ibiden and contract designers. Mr. Fujikawa again mentioned his concern that overhead support was duplicated within the various departments of the facility.
A major distinction between the package business at Ibiden and its substrate business is that the package business can focus on a relatively small customer set: the Gama plant deals with tens of customers, whereas the substrate plants must deal with five hundred to a thousand customers.
AOYANAGI PLANT TOUR
Ibiden manufactures laminate printed wiring boards at its Aoyanagi plant. It provides layout services for about 60% of its printed wiring board orders. This plant employs about 1,500 persons and exports about 30% of its production to Europe, the United States, and Singapore. This is the most active of all the IBI plants. It seemed busier, more disorganized, and a bit dirtier during this visit than it did during my visit in 1990. There were definitely more people in areas that were essentially fully automated during my last visit.
While safety awareness was apparent, there was no evidence of safety requirements. The smocking that did exist seemed much more focused on protection of the product (e.g., hats and masks to keep the product clean) than on human safety (e.g., lack of eyewear). The factory is by no means a "smoke-free environment." As in all Japanese factories, no street shoes are allowed.
GENERAL OBSERVATIONS AND CLOSING REMARKS
Below is a list of general observations and impressions:
My summary impressions of Ibiden are very aligned with my overall impression of the visit to Japan. Having visited some of the same facilities and having met with some of the same people three years prior to this trip, I was very impressed with the company's consistency of technology and product strategy. Ibiden seems to understand its core competency very well, although our hosts never spoke in those terms.
Ibiden Electronics does laminate PWB well. It is willing to drive that technology to new product opportunities (plastic PGAs), align it with other Ibiden technologies for new product opportunities (with ceramic for Ceracom), augment it for new product opportunities (with novel surface science for additive processes), and repeat the process (new ceramic cores and additive processes for the build-up MCM-D products).
I did sense a lack of visible progress. The laminate facility appeared very much as I had seen it three years earlier. Process control and worker communications technology seemed stagnant as well; however, neither of these seemed to limit the capability of the plants.