Electronic Design

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Ever-Smaller Component Packages Avoid Performance Erosion

The size of all discrete passive and active components will continue to melt away in order to match advances in shrinking IC geometries. The basic resistor, capacitor, and inductor components will increasingly go to chip form, and may eventually have to become part of the IC manufacturing process as they get integrated on the same chip as the active silicon element.

One issue that chip component manufacturers now face is the rising cost of mounting these chips, either on the same chip as the silicon element, in a hybrid package, or on the pc board. In many cases, it costs a lot more to mount the component than the component's actual price. Surface-mount form factors and leadless packages have helped automate the component assembly process and thus control costs. However, there's a limit to how far these can go before it becomes too costly to incorporate tiny passive and active components in the circuit.


  • EXPECT LARGER-VALUE AND LOWER-COST SUPERCAPACITORS to arrive to power hybrid electric vehicles. As supercapacitor manufacturers ramp up production and manufacturing processes improve further, volume unit prices should tumble from $3 to $2 and lower.
  • LOOK FOR IC DIGITAL POTENTIOMETERS to take on more features, much like the MAX5400 family of 32-tap potentiometers from Maxim Integrated Products. An on-chip nonvolatile EEPROM stores wiper-arm positions prior to power-down, resulting in large size reductions compared to their mechanical counterparts.
  • CHIP RESISTORS AND CHIP-RESISTOR NETWORKS will become tinier and more precise yet will still be able to handle large amounts of power thanks to improved film materials. Vishay Intertechnology's SMN bulk metal-foil resistor networks offer 1-ppm/°C temperature-coefficient of resistance (TCR) tracking and 0.01% stability at 0.1 W.
  • PLANAR INDUCTORS WILL COME DOWN IN COST to compete with wirewound types. Thus, they will better suit products that demand small form factors, such as RF devices, cell phones, and digital cameras. Tremendous advances are occurring in planar inductors that are made on MEMS processes with very high Q values.
  • EXPECT VERY SMALL ELECTROSTATIC DEVICES to come along for greater ESD protection in consumer and communications applications. Philips' introduction late last year of its PESD3V and PESD5V 3.3-V and 5-V ESD devices in an ultra-small leadless SOT883 SMT package, with their 1- by 6- by 0.5-mm footprint, signals things to come.
  • MANY COMPONENTS LIKE OSCILLATORS WILL BE FORMED on standard CMOS processes, resulting in lower costs and much smaller sizes than traditional crystal and ceramic resonator types. Proof of this can be seen with Micro Oscillator's MOI-2000.
  • ULTRAVIOLET LEDs with high-power outputs will emerge. Researchers at Sandia National Labs, for example, recently demonstrated two deep-UV devices: a 1.3-mW device that emits light at 290 nm and a 0.4-mW device that emits light at 275 nm.
  • LOOK FOR LCDs to penetrate larger-diameter flat-panel display applications as liquid-crystal display (LCD) manufacturers gear up their production facilities. Sharp Corp. will open up its 6th-generation LCD production facility this year, solely dedicated to large-format (26 in. in diameter and larger) flat panel displays.
  • ORGANIC LEDs WILL RECEIVE NEW materials technologies that will lend higher-resolution, lower power-dissipation, and increased operating-temperature advantages to flat-panel displays. eMagin Corp. has demonstrated this with its patented thermostable hole-injection and hole-transport compounds.
  • EXPECT SENSORS TO EMERGE in the form of tiny specks to enable future wireless sensor networks. Dust, a spinoff of the University of California at Berkeley, is trying to market "smart dust" 4-mm2 sensors, the world's smallest networked sensors.
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