6 Benefits of Die and Wafer Utilization for Electronics OEMs

By Logan Wamsley

One of the most exciting developments in the electronics world over the last few years is the increased adoption of application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs), and by extension, die and wafer banking, into OEM designs across all industries and disciplines. While some may experience difficulties upgrading their infrastructure to a level suitable for die utilization, once achieved, the OEM is poised to reap significant benefits in several quantifiable ways.

Below are just a few such way OEMs stand to benefit from the incorporation of die and wafer into their supply chains:

1. Smaller Footprint

The electronic components market always adapts itself to what consumers want — and combined with the inherent competition in a crowded market, that means change can come rapidly as designs are continually refined and expanded upon. Over the last decade, as consumers have become accustomed to portable/wearable products, much of this change has taken the form of smaller footprints. The incorporation of ASICs into their designs provides engineers the additional flexibility to optimize the limited space available to them without any sacrifices in functionality.

2. Energy Efficiency

Going hand-in-hand with space efficiency is the ability of ASICs assembled from raw die to do far more with less. As the space between electronic circuits is reduced, the length of the interconnections between chips is also reduced. As a result, capacitance inductance is mitigated, which has a profound effect on switch latency. Such technology also minimizes electrical noise, which is particularly valuable for electronics that rely on radio frequency signals.

3. Sensor Accuracy

Sensor-based products, which are prevalent in a variety of industries such as healthcare and energy, depend on their ability to accurately read temperature. Engineers who are tasked with the design of such tools covet die utilization as die is known to be particularly sensitive to environmental fluctuations and is very useful for temperature compensation effects.

4. Long-term Storage Capability

The aforementioned benefit comes with a notable caveat: Due to the sensitivity of raw wafer and die to humidity, it is particularly sensitive to moisture and environmental humidity. To address this, OEMs that choose to pursue this avenue must ensure that their infrastructure is capable of insulating such inventory from any and all environmental variables that could compromise its ability to function. If such a responsibility can be upheld, however, either in-house or through a trusted third party, then die and wafer can be banked securely for several years — long enough, in fact, to complete virtually any OEM product lifecycle. Many healthcare OEMs, for example, rely on die and wafer banking to fulfill lifecycles well over 15, or even 20 years. Factor in the added benefit of having all the inventory consolidated in a single, secure location as opposed to scattered facilities, and die utilization can significantly streamline OEM supply chains and result in significant savings.

5. Insulation from Market Instability

As a side effect of long-term storage capabilities, OEMs can also use die and wafer banking to bypass any market-based factors that commonly result in significant and costly supply chain disruptions. Price inflation, political factors such as tariffs, market shortages, and unexpected product obsolescence and allocation issues become negligible when all the critical inventory necessary in an OEM’s design is already in hand. For those who wish to adopt a business model that prioritizes inventory procurement early in the design phase, die and wafer banking makes a lot of sense.

6. Intellectual Property (IP) Protection

In addition to the points already provided, one should not discount the inherent IP protection ASICs provide OEM designs. Unlike generic ICs that can be quickly duplicated and spread throughout the industry, ASICs are created and customized for a single client — usually for a length of time determined by an exclusive long-term contract. Not only are such features crucial for forging a unique identity and standing out in a competitive market, but they also present an added deterrence against a counterfeit market that grows by the day. This fact alone should be enough to make any OEM, regardless of industry, at least consider how the utilization of die can be incorporated into their product designs and overall business strategy.