Die and Wafer Banking Costs: Prohibitive or Accessible?

By Logan Wamsley

In addition to added IP protection and ASIC performance efficiency, one of the greatest strengths of die and wafer banking is long-term cost-effectiveness.

At the current rate of innovation and exponentially increasing demand, some critical components are transitioning to obsolescence before they even hit the market. To counter, if the OEM chooses to operate in a market that necessitates extended product life cycles between 10 and 30 years, a large bulk order or last time buy of raw die and wafer for ASIC assembly ensures that critical inventory will be available for as long as needed.

This benefit, however, only remains valid assuming the OEM has the proper infrastructure to protect its investment.

Prohibitive Upfront Costs

Nearly all electronic components are sensitive to moisture, but when stored in basic die and wafer form prior to assembly, even the humidity levels of climate-controlled ambient storage (typically averaging 30-60 percent relative humidity) are enough to corrode the silicon-based compound that die is composed of.

To account for this, companies who wish to create a long-term storage infrastructure suitable for die and wafer banking require highly specialized dry cabinets designed to absorb excess moisture and create a suitable climate at approximately 6-10 percent relative humidity. The prices for this classification of specialty equipment are not inexpensive, and quite often they are high enough to restrict die and wafer banking to only the largest and most profitable OEMs.

For manufacturers still looking to compete on the highest level of their industry, such a significant upfront cost might be better spent on innovation and product design — and as they struggle to catch up, their competitors continue to move even farther ahead. It’s a perpetual game of cat and mouse that could go on indefinitely unless a change is made.

Changing the Game

The die and wafer banking feature of Partstat’s Critical Inventory Storage Solution was conceptualized to make die and wafer accessible to manufacturers who otherwise would not have the means to do so. Instead of investing in the necessary equipment, procedures, and specialized training required for such an undertaking, Partstat has found a way to offer customers a solution where they can not only recognize the many benefits of die and wafer banking immediately, but do so in ways that far surpass anything even the most advanced OEM infrastructure can accomplish on its own.

State-of-the-Art Die and Wafer Banking Technology

SmartDRY™ die and wafer banking technology represents the current gold standard of what a supply chain partner can provide its customers. Designed specifically to store components with a low Moisture Sensitivity Level (MSL), these zeolite-enriched desiccant ECD dry cabinets are capable of intelligently maintaining a relative humidity of 0.5 percent — a feat that was once considered unobtainable.
Besides unparalleled humidity control, SmartDRY™ cabinets also possess a few other unique features. Utilizing a durable electrically conductive powder paint surface over steel construction, for example, this equipment is designed from the inside-out to prevent component degradation through electrostatic discharge.

Going even further, instead of customers coping with the standard 30-minute recovery time typical of similar offerings, SmartyDRY™ technology has reduced that window to only three minutes. As a result, wafers can be safely retrieved and prepped for assembly up to an industry-leading 12 times per hour.

Unrivaled Business Continuity

SmartDRY™ cabinets are not the only unique benefit our Critical Inventory Solution provides. In addition to our dedicated staff with extensive training in the verification, shipping, inspection, and die and wafer packaging protocols, we have also placed all of our dry cabinets within our custom storage vault. A one-of-a-kind marvel of the manufacturing industry, this climate-controlled structure is capable of withstanding every form of catastrophe a supply chain disruption may take including fire, earthquake, flood, and magnetic interference. Considering the made-to-order nature of ASICs, we feel that no stone should be unturned to ensure that irreplaceable electronic inventory functions as intended no matter how late into the product life cycle it’s needed.

In Brief

In the case of die and wafer banking, the old saying “you have to spend money to make money” holds true, but only to a point. Traditionally, the required upfront investment in storage infrastructure does render die and wafer banking somewhat unprofitable in the short-term. It’s only in the later stages of an OEM product’s life cycle where the investment starts to pay off — and pay off big.
The Partstat Critical Inventory Storage Solution, however, represents the missing piece that bridges the gap between upfront costs and long-term benefits. With access to SmartDRY™ technology and industry-leading business continuity at your disposal from Day One, there is no longer any reason to consider die and wafer banking prohibitive at all.