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PCB | October 23, 2007

New consortium for Embedding Chips in PCBs

A consortium led by the Technical University of Berlin has developed a commercially viable technique to embed active chips in Printed Circuit Boards (PCBs), opening the door to a new generation of electronic devices that can pack more features and functionality into a smaller space.
Embedded chips are also more robust and reliable, have better radio frequency properties and displace heat more readily than their packaged counterparts.

This consortium is called the Hiding Dies project, an EU-funded initiative coordinated by Andreas Ostmann, a researcher at the Technical University of Berlin. It involves partners such as Phillips and Nokia, among others. Over three and a half years, the team developed and tested a method to embed chips in PCBs, creating components that are not only remarkably small but also relatively cheap to produce. The first products incorporating them are due to go on sale in less than three years.

“There are two ways to use the Hiding Dies technique: you can create chips that are integrated into the PCB or modular Systems in a Package (SIPs) in which each integrated chip has a specific functionality,” Ostmann says.

The microchips are around 50 micrometers thick while the smallest module produced with the Hiding Dies technology is around 100 micrometers. That compares with the minimum of 500 micrometers for current chip packages.

The auto industry is one major market for the embedded chips, not so much because of their small size but because of their reliability and robustness. Ostmann foresees the chips being incorporated into a broad variety of everyday devices, from TVs and stereo systems to air-conditioning units and kitchen appliances, Technologynewsdaily reports.

One project partner, AT&S, Europe’s largest PCB manufacturer, has already carried out several customer evaluations and is looking to start incorporating the chips into products in 2009.

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