Sam Naffziger, an AMD senior vice president, said it wasn’t a slam-dunk for the company to bet its chip business for server computers on chiplets. Packaging complexities were a major hurdle, he said, which were eventually overcome with help from an undisclosed partner.
But chiplets have paid off for AMD. The company has sold more than 12 million chips based on the idea since 2017, according to Mercury Research, and has become a major player in microprocessors that power the web.
Packaging services still need others to supply the substrates that chiplets require to connect to circuit boards and one another. One company driving the chiplet boom is Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, which already makes chips for AMD and hundreds of others and offers an advanced silicon-based substrate called an interposer.
Intel has been developing similar technology, as well as enhancing less-expensive conventional plastic substrates in an approach favored by some such as the Silicon Valley start-up Eliyan. Intel has also been developing new packaging prototypes under a Pentagon program and hopes to win CHIPs Act support for a new pilot packaging plant.
But the United States has no major makers of those substrates, which are primarily produced in Asia and evolved from technologies used in manufacturing circuit boards. Many U.S. companies have also left that business, another worry that industry groups hope will spur federal funding to help board suppliers start making substrates.