The future of US semiconductor manufacturing requires more than just chips

VP of Manufacturing and Product Industrialization at Jabil Global Operations. Leading global teams using state-of-the-art manufacturing.


Semiconductor chips are as American as apple pie, which is partly why CHIPS (Creating Helpful Incentives to Produce Semiconductors) and the Science Act of 2022 hold such great potential to revitalize domestic electronics manufacturing.

The ambitious industrial strategy, passed into law last August, includes “historic investments” to increase US competitiveness, innovation and security while strengthening our country’s capacity to manufacture semiconductors, advanced packaging and complex integrated systems.

By strengthening American manufacturing and increasing supply chain resilience, the CHIPS and Science Act provides a much-needed respite from years of chip and advanced packaging shortages that continue to impact the automotive, computing and consumer electronics markets. Additionally, this welcome investment could help position the US electronics manufacturing ecosystem to be at the forefront of new developments in communications, diagnostics and therapy, clean energy, quantum computing, and artificial intelligence (AI).

Building an innovation ecosystem for electronics manufacturing

At the American Semiconductor Innovation Coalition (ASIC), of which my company is a member, a broad coalition of companies, universities, national laboratories and non-profit organizations envisions a national technology network with geographically distributed centers and coalitions of excellence to provide leadership in the US ecosystem for strengthen electronics manufacturing. ASIC members have proposed an ultra-functional organizational framework that could enable an agile proving ground for research, development, testing and transfer of technology and manufacturing breakthroughs to secure a stronger, domestic supply chain for chips and advanced packaging.

There is an urgent need for an electronics manufacturing innovation ecosystem that brings together the most forward-thinking thinkers in Industry 4.0 and smart manufacturing to create a more scalable, sustainable U.S. supply chain for semiconductors and advanced packaging. To achieve this, ASIC members, representing all different stages of the electronics manufacturing supply chain, came together to submit a proposal for the establishment of the National Semiconductor Technology Center (NSTC) and the National Advanced Packaging Manufacturing Program (NAPMP) by be funded under the CHIPS and Science Act.

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ASIC’s proposal to build an NSTC Innovation Center in just six months is part of an ambitious technical agenda that leverages its members’ broad expertise in semiconductors, advanced packaging and complex integrated systems in research and development, ranging from simulation, Design and materials ranging through to processing, manufacturing and testing equipment and final assembly. If selected by the Department of Commerce, ASIC would follow its NSTC Innovation Center with university- and corporate-led Coalitions of Excellence (COEs) to support the center’s operations.

The non-profit International Electronics Manufacturing Initiative (iNEMI) also plays an important role. This organization facilitates scouting and roadmapping efforts for research and development, and leads technical projects with members who are electronics manufacturers and suppliers, associations, government agencies, and academia. By mapping the future direction of the global electronics manufacturing ecosystem, iNEMI identifies and addresses technology and infrastructure gaps to deliver creative and strategic solutions to accelerate the development and deployment of electronics manufacturing technologies.

New models of collaboration, cooperation and connectivity

New models of collaboration that encourage increased collaboration in this electronics manufacturing innovation ecosystem are exactly what is needed to solve a variety of problems in the semiconductor supply chain. Diverse experiences and ideas are among the greatest benefits of participating in coalitions that bring together leaders and entrepreneurial thinkers from universities, start-ups and SMEs, national laboratories and multinational organizations. Each has a unique perspective on solving some of the most perplexing problems impacting the future of semiconductors, advanced packaging and the manufacture of complex integrated systems.

It also requires reading a page or two from the annals of intelligent manufacturing to move quickly from innovation to commercialization. As I wrote earlier, intelligent manufacturing is a team sport. Driving the manufacturing sector forward requires representatives from operations, engineering and IT. Semiconductors, advanced packaging and complex integrated systems manufacturing require similar data exchange and connectivity between people, systems, tools and machines to close critical data gaps while enabling higher levels of data intelligence.

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Advanced packaging and complex systems

After all, a chip is just a chip until it’s packaged or integrated into a complex system, which is why outsourced semiconductor assembly and test (OSAT) and printed circuit board assembly (PCBA) companies are important elements in the overall electronics manufacturing ecosystem.

The demand for smaller, lighter, and lower-power chips for new consumer electronics, medical devices, and autonomous vehicles further complicates the design and development of these complex integrated systems. Embedding miniaturized chips, advanced 3D packages, and electro-optical and electro-mechanical devices into sophisticated products—such as high-resolution camera modules, vehicle ADAS systems, AR/VR optics hardware, photonic devices for quantum computing and high-speed communications, and micro-LED displays—require advanced AI capable, automated manufacturing technologies, including active alignment, and high-precision assembly and dispensing.

We need a greater appreciation for everything beyond the chip to more efficiently collaborate with upstream and downstream participants in the semiconductor supply chain. For this purpose it is essential to know how chips are packaged or if the application requires no packaging at all. Bare chips are increasingly being handled from a wafer for integration into smaller, lighter, and lower-power complex systems found in consumer electronics, aerospace, defense, industrial, healthcare, automotive, and communications products.

Chipmakers are also accelerating heterogeneous integration development activities and exploring innovative chip disaggregation structures by combining “chiplets,” which are small integrated circuit chips with specialized functionality. Interconnecting chiplets requires system-level chip design, advanced packaging, and complex systems integration techniques. OSAT and PCBA companies are evolving to offer a portfolio of capabilities and services that include wafer grinding and dicing, interposer and embedded bridge assembly, wire bonding, wafer-to-wafer bonding, bare die handling, chip -Bumping and more includes.

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As I have said many times on countless manufacturing issues, it will take a whole village to advance this vital industry. Thanks to the CHIPS Act, investments will be made to accelerate research and encourage increased levels of collaboration and innovation across all aspects of the electronics manufacturing ecosystem. It is an exciting time and a great opportunity to help ensure the future of semiconductors, advanced packaging and the manufacturing of complex integrated systems reach their full potential.

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VP of Manufacturing and Product Industrialization at Jabil Global Operations. Leading global teams using state-of-the-art manufacturing. Read Dan Gamota’s full leadership profile here.

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