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SK hynix exec pins high hopes on new US packaging plant

By Jie Ye-eun

Published : April 11, 2024 - 14:44

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Choi Woo-jin, vice president and head of package and test division at SK hynix (SK hynix) Choi Woo-jin, vice president and head of package and test division at SK hynix (SK hynix)

With the advances in artificial intelligence, there is a growing demand for cutting-edge memory chips. As the technology environment has evolved, SK hynix vice president expressed his ambition to contribute to the development of the highest-performance memory products through advanced packaging technologies.

“Package and test (P&T) technology is turning into a crucial factor in the battle for semiconductor leadership,” Choi Woo-jin, vice president in charge of SK hynix’s package and test division said in an interview posted on the chip maker’s blog on Thursday.

Choi is a packaging expert who has conducted and led research and development in chip memory packaging over the past three decades. The P&T division that he oversees takes care of the back-end process where wafers are packaged into products and tested to ensure they meet customer requirements.

Semiconductor packaging has become a pivotal technology for high bandwidth memory (HBM), a critical chip to generative AI tools. While packaging traditionally held the role of electrically connecting chips and protecting them from external shocks, it is vital to enabling differentiated product performances, he added.

Choi stressed the chip maker’s commitment to driving endless innovation and leveraging its technological prowess to the fullest. “In the age of AI, SK hynix is focusing on signature memories which possess diverse aspects required by customers, including various capabilities, sizes, shapes and power efficiency,” he added.

The vice president also highlighted SK hynix’s swift response to the surge in demand for DRAMs with the emergence of generative AI, such as ChatGPT, which involved the speedy adoption of through-silicon via (TSV) packaging lines to enhance production capacity without additional investment.

By advancing its proprietary technologies, such as TSV and mass reflow-molded underfill (MR-MUF), the chip maker has been able to enhance HBM performance. The vice president further hinted that the company is working on developing various next-generation packaging technologies, including chiplet4 and hybrid bonding.

So far, the TSV technology can reduce the thickness of a single DRAM chip by 40 percent and achieve the same stack height level as the 16-gigabyte product. The MR-MUF technology can place multiple chips on the lower substrate and bond them at once through reflow, and then simultaneously fill the gap between the chips with a mold material.

While SK hynix announced that will invest about $3.87 billion to build an advanced chip packing fabrication and R&D facility in Indiana, Choi has played a key role in this process by planning the strategy for the construction and operations of the fab.

"Once the factory is fully operational, we expect it to make a significant contribution to strengthening the company’s AI memory technology and business leadership," he said.

"In the short term, we plan to strengthen our domestic production capabilities to meet the demand for HBM while leveraging our global base to maximize profitability. ... In the long run, we aim to secure more innovative packaging technologies like MR-MUF, which is now a vital technology to HBM.”