By Samer Kabbani, President (AEM International) & Chief Technology Officer
The world of artificial intelligence (AI) is rapidly evolving and has the potential to revolutionise many aspects of our lives. From self-driving cars to intelligent personal assistants, AI is making it possible to automate complex tasks and make decisions based on data. One area where AI is having a significant impact is the insatiable demand for computer processing power.
CPUs (central processing units) and GPUs (graphics processing units) are the engines that power our computers, allowing them to perform complex calculations and render graphics. These processors have traditionally been optimised for specific types of workloads, with CPUs designed for generalpurpose computing and GPUs optimised for graphics and parallel processing. However, as AI algorithms become more complex and data-intensive, the demand for processor power is skyrocketing. Hence, large hyperscale companies that provide cloud computing services are making substantial investments to drive new chips that will allow them to gain a leading market share in this new gold rush.
Capitalising on The New Test Paradigm: Test 2.0
On the other hand, shrinking semiconductor transistor nodes below 10nm, and new packaging technologies have a significant impact on the performance and power efficiency of processors and memory modules. As transistors become smaller, they also become more sensitive to variations in temperature and voltage, which can lead to reliability issues. Similarly, 3D packaging and chip-on-wafer-on-substrate (CoWoS) also come with their own set of challenges, such as thermal management.
This rapid demand for more processing power, coupled with increasing testing challenges, presents a fantastic opportunity for AEM. In the past, AEM mainly focused on the CPU market where we have a strong foothold and record of enabling powerful solutions. The need for this capability is now becoming more ubiquitous across many markets and customers. As a result, AEM has been making aggressive investments in R&D to produce disruptive platforms that offer a wide customer base a clear value proposition as compared to traditional test solutions. Specifically, our Test 2.0 vision focuses on enhancing the chip production yield while reducing the cost of test, starting from wafer probe and all the way to System Level Test.
Driving Efficiency Through Streamlined Processes and Innovation
In an effort to enhance AEM’s efficiency, AEM underwent an organisational restructuring to establish the Test Cell Solutions (TCS) Business Unit (BU) in early 2022. The TCS BU is split into two main groups: the Package Test Solutions (PTS) and Wafer Test Solutions (WTS).
For our WTS group, the team launched our highly differentiated Cryogenic Wafer Prober, a partnership with Bluefors, that exclusively tests quantum computing chips in early 2022. This solution is expected to leverage an increasing market for quantum computing, which is poised to grow significantly in the next five years, driven by increasing investment from public and private sectors and expanded practical applications for quantum technology. Through this collaboration, AEM will be strategically positioned as a leader in this nascent and exciting market.
On the other hand, the automotive integrated circuits (ICs) market is expected to grow at a CAGR of around 8%-12% in the coming years due to increasing demand for advanced and connected vehicles. As a result, AEM’s WTS group expects to continue to see a stable demand from a well-established automotive MEMS supplier, despite global shortages of materials and components.
To continue to play a critical role in AEM’s Test 2.0 vision of shifting test content upstream, we have also increased our R&D investments in WTS in 2022.
Through early demonstrations, the team was able to effectively showcase to compute chip manufacturers our unique ability to test thermally demanding ICs during probe, rather than after chip packaging. To this end, the WTS group is currently working closely with several major semiconductor companies to qualify our first solution in this area. We plan to announce this exciting product introduction in the second half of 2023.
For our PTS group, the team has successfully deployed our flagship AMPS test platform at a leading memory IC supplier in 2022. The success of the AMPS platform to test ultra-high-power AI and advanced server microprocessors highlights its unique flexibility and versatility to span multiple markets. We are excited to see strong interest in the platform and anticipate being able to make a major win announcement in the second quarter of 2023.
In addition, the PTS group has also released the most advanced thermal engine to date based on our innovative Heatlet® technology. The new thermal technology underwent extensive evaluations at three major processor companies in 2022 and outperformed all legacy solutions. As the clear market leader with the ability to scale, we are poised to deploy this new Heatlet® technology on three new opportunities in 2023 covering Compute, Mobility, and Automotive applications.
Test Innovation for A Zero Failure World
AEM has established a robust growth track record through focused engineering and high levels of intimacy with key customers. This has allowed us to create full turnkey, application-specific solutions that are optimised for a rapidly evolving market. To enhance our global capabilities, we have opened three new development and local support offices in San Diego, Seoul, and Penang in 2022. Attracting and developing the best talents will remain our top priority as we actively pursue our multi-year Test 2.0 vision.