Adding New Dimensions to Power Electronics Packaging

April 3, 2020
The PSMA is celebrating its 35th Anniversary. This article is the third in a year-long series that will highlight the ongoing activities of the PSMA Committees and Forums that contribute to the advance of power-electronics and power-conversion tech.

This article is part of the Power Management Series: Power Sources Manufacturers Association

Brian Narveson, Independent Consultant and PSMA Board Member, and Greg Evans, CEO, WelComm Inc., and PSMA Marketing Committee, contributed to this article.

It’s always been inevitable, that in system design architecture, the power-management designer will be the last to know exactly how much power is required by the system. That designer will also have the unfortunate task of designing the final power supply into whatever footprint is left in the system and/or on the printed circuit boards (PCBs). Challenging today’s power designers are such areas as the exponential growth of cloud data centers/servers and 5G mobile.

Enter 3D Power Packaging

The Power Sources Manufacturing Association (PSMA) Packaging and Manufacturing Committee has taken up the gauntlet to help designers learn to pack more power into this difficult electronics architecture landscape by producing a dedicated Packaging Industry Session during the Applied Power Electronics Conference (APEC) every year (which, unfortunately, has been cancelled due to coronavirus pandemic; see the article “Greetings from Virtual APEC”). In addition, since 2016, the Committee has also produced and published three 3D-Packaging Technology reports in collaboration with three different power contractors.

These technology reports have chronicled the research-and-development incentive in the power industry that’s leading to high power density (W/cm3), while lowering cost and striving toward higher efficiency. This work involves advances in embedded passives and innovation in nanostructured passives.

It’s clear that the PSMA Packaging and Manufacturing Committee is solidly dedicated to power packaging advances since it’s also sponsoring or co-sponsoring two biannual workshops plus a biannual symposium on power packaging. International attendance is growing:

International Power Supply-on-Chip (PwrSoC) Workshop, a biannual workshop event, will be held in 2020 at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia

3D Power Electronics Integration and Manufacturing (3D-PEIM) Symposium, a biannual symposium event, held at Osaka University in Osaka Japan, would have been held this coming June, but has now been postponed until June 21-23, 2021.

International Workshop on Integrated Power Packaging (IWIPP), a biannual workshop event, was held in 2019 in Toulouse, France. There will be another workshop in 2021. The 2019 workshop had a 30% increase of attendance over the last workshop in 2017.

A minimum of two PSMA Committee members serve on the Steering Committee and/or the Technical Committee for each of these events.

So, What Exactly is 3D Power Packaging?

Since board real estate is at a premium, the industry has cleverly chosen to go vertical in the z-axis. Semiconductor ICs and passive components, including magnetics, are stacked upwards.

To aid in achieving higher-power-density architectures, clever usage of new technologies (Figs. 1, 2, and 3) is shrinking the conventional PCB with the goal of eliminating it altogether.

Some Techniques at the Chip Scale

The advent of wide-bandgap (WBG) devices like gallium nitride (GaN) and silicon carbide (SiC) has revolutionized the power transistor. To enhance the advantages of these WBG power devices, the IC itself needs to be addressed and enhanced.

There’s a major shift coming from Si to WBG with 3D gate-drive integration being a major goal, replacing wire bonds with planar interconnects plus thicker copper substrates or plating and integrated heat-spreaders as part of the package. This lowers parasitics and improves heat removal from the IC, enhancing performance and reliability, and easing the need for external heatsinking and fan usage.

Other Key Innovations in Power Packaging

A sampling of the key, on-going research areas that will enhance power-management designs in size, weight, and power (SWaP) plus efficiency includes:

Satellite Power Events Worldwide Now Produced by the Committee

The PSMA Packaging and Manufacturing Committee has just begun a series of “Satellite” events. It began with a PwrSoC event at Arizona State University (ASU) from October 31 to November 1, 2019, which raised awareness of the International 2020 PwrSoC Workshop. I attended this satellite event, which had presenters from Intel, Texas Instruments, Dialog Semiconductor, Samsung, TSMC, Georgia Tech, and more.

Some topics covered involved advanced packaging architectures with respect to process and integration of multi-die power delivery in package, highlighting Integrated Voltage Regulator (IVR) infrastructure, automotive IC packaging, embedded capacitors, IVR for computing, and 3D SiP modules, among others. I was thoroughly amazed at the level of information presented, which enriched the attendee technical education in so many useful key packaging areas.

Esteemed presenters included Dr. Ravi Mahajan, Intel Fellow; Dr. Sungwook Moon, Samsung; Dr. Alexander Kalnitsky, VP at TSMC; Dr. Madhavan Swaminathan, Georgia Tech, and Dr. Karim Arabi, CEO, Atlazo.

Having such small, separate events around the world raises awareness of the excellent work done by the PSMA Packaging and Manufacturing Committee regarding the advancement of technologies in manufacturing miniaturization and integration of power-conversion and power=management solutions. Attendees left this event technically informed as well as excited about attending the 2020 Philadelphia event.

Some of the PSMA Packaging and Manufacturing Committee activities include:

  • Organizes and executes a Packaging Industry Session at APEC every year.
  • Managed the writing and publication of three 3D-Packaging Technology Reports with three different contractors.
  • Provides a speaker every two years for the PSMA biannual Power Technology Roadmap project.

The parent organization (PSMA) is involved in many areas:

  • Co-sponsoring Applied Power Electronics Conference (APEC)
  • Develops standard industry terminology in power
  • Provide a regulatory agency interface
  • Conduct surveys of members with the goal of identifying areas of importance/concern
  • Generates and publishes a number of technology and marketing reports

The PSMA increases their members’ tech knowledge and developments related to power sources. They educate the electronics industry and academia, along with government and industry agencies, about the applications and importance of power sources and conversion devices. Their mission is to integrate the resources of the power sources industry to more effectively and profitably serve the needs of the power sources users, providers, and PSMA members.

With packaging options, component availability, and manufacturing technology advancing at a rapid rate, the committee is presently focusing on providing at least two events yearly (APEC Industry Session, Workshops or Symposiums) to provide state-of-the-art presentations from industry, academia, and government. To find a list of upcoming events go to and select APEC, IWIPP, 3D-PEIM or PwrSoC.

Join PSMA and Help Keep This Work Going

PSMA is made up entirely of volunteers for industry who have an abiding desire to advance the interests of our industry and to growing their personal involvement. A modest annual membership fee enables member companies to access timely and essential committee reports as a free benefit of membership, discounts on registration fees at APEC and other PSMA-sponsored events, discounts on selected technical publications, and many other valuable benefits. All of these benefits accrue to members’ companies and for the individuals who choose to serve on a PSMA Committee. It offers the opportunity to network with others while aiding in our important work. Learn more about joining PSMA.

Read more from the Power Management Series: Power Sources Manufacturers Association


“Significant Developments and Trends in 3D Packaging of Power Products,” PSMA Packaging Committee, Brian Narveson and Ernie Parker, Co-Chairmen, Tyndall National Institute and PSMA.

3D Power Packaging made Real with Embedded Component and Substrate Technologies, PSMA Phase III Report, P Raj, H Sharma, V Smet, RG Spurney, H Lee, R Tummala, 3D Systems Packaging Research Center, Georgia Institute of Technology.

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