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Semiconductor industry doubts reliability of copper bonding wire

Anuradha Shukla | Jan. 26, 2010
Findings from first study by Global Semiconductor Industry Association

SINGAPORE, 26 JANUARY 2010 The semiconductor industry has begun to doubt the reliability and yield of copper bonding wire, according to a survey by the Global Semiconductor Industry Association (SEMI).

This survey was conducted on behalf of the World Gold Council that is dedicated to stimulate and sustain the demand for gold and to create substantial value for its stakeholders.

Although gold is a more reliable metal in this industry, more companies are using copper for some new products. This finding is evident from a survey by SEMI that interviewed people from 46 established semiconductor companies across the world. The association wanted to know the extent of copper bonding wire programmes in the industry and aimed to identify the important issues related to decisions in selecting bonding wire material.

Concerns with copper usage

Companies surveyed included both integrated device manufacturers (IDMs) and fabless semiconductor enterprises and they showed serious concerns about the move to copper usage. Thirteen companies out of the total 46 surveyed are headquartered in Asia.

The respondents said they were concerned about in-service product reliability, process yield and the unproven historical performance of copper. Perhaps these concerns are the reason why about 59 per cent of the companies surveyed do not use copper wire technology in their products.

About 41 per cent of those surveyed said they use copper wire in some products and nobody is using it in the majority of products. But the benefits of gold are not apparent to many and about 72 per cent of the companies are considering the switch to copper wire for some new products.

Proven reliability of gold

The companies have several concerns about the use of copper and these are specifically related to the automotive market. They want to use gold but the past several months have not been good financially and this has prohibited people from investing in new equipment.

Half the companies surveyed know that more than 50 per cent of the economic value of some end-of-life electronic products is derived from the gold content. About 21 per cent of companies consider recyclability of waste electronics when selecting bonding wire material.  

The results of this survey show that there are still serious reservations in the industry over the use of copper wire in packaging technology, said Dr Richard Holliday, director, industrial at the World Gold Council. It is clear that gold has a proven reliability and a track record; industry professionals still recognise this. We plan to undertake further research to discover the extent of the difference in reliability of gold versus copper.


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