Post COVID-19, OEMs Should Revisit the Value of Die and Wafer Banking

By Logan Wamsley

Many states including Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina are already taking measures to re-open their economies, and while the COVID-19 pandemic remains as relevant as ever before, it is only a matter of time before organizations (with the help of strict social-distancing measures) attempt a relative return to normalcy. This does not mean, however, that the “new normal” will resemble anything that has come before it. This applies to life just as much as it applies to the manufacturing processes that brings electronic products from development to the point of assembly.

Post-crisis, we will see manufacturers taking a strong “lessons learned” approach to how they manage their inventory, and what can be done to prevent mass disruption in the face of a crisis of this scale in the future. One particular strategy that may see an increase in usage is the incorporation of die and wafer banking.

Banking raw wafer and die comes with a variety of benefits. Due to the use of die banking to assemble ASICs (application-specific integrated circuits), it inherently goes a long way in securing valuable OEM intellectual property. Die, in its raw form, also has the ability to be stored for long periods of time in optimal condition — provided measures are taken to store it properly with appropriate die and wafer banking equipment. This feature makes it ideal for navigating a large-scale supply chain disruption; with the inventory already on hand, OEMs can avoid the open market and any rapid fluctuations in price and availability.

Barring significant financial investment, however, the incorporation of die and wafer banking is unobtainable for most OEMs. Properly banking die requires expensive, specialized equipment that takes up valuable warehousing space, and requires a team of trained die banking specialists to properly handle.

But despite these steep barriers to entry, die and wafer banking can be implemented by OEMs large and small with the use of third parties such as Partstat.

By working with Partstat, OEMs have access to the industry’s latest innovations in die and wafer banking technology — far more advanced than what can be done through other third parties. For example, wafer storage desiccator cabinets are traditionally infused with nitrogen, which is responsible for regulating humidity to levels suitable for raw die. While effective to a point, nitrogen is only capable of maintaining a relative humidity of six to 10 percent, along with a recovery time between 10 and 12 minutes.

Partstat’s dry cabinets considerably improve this process. Instead of nitrogen, our dry cabinets make use of a volcanic compound called zeolite, which is capable of reducing relative humidity levels as low as below 0.5 percent. With the ability to regulate humidity so quickly and so efficiently, recovery time between sessions has been reduced to below three minutes. This allows OEMs to retrieve their inventory a remarkable 10-12 times per hour!

As OEMs continue to recover from COVID-19 and have an eye toward the next crisis, they will be ready to see what strategies and solutions are available that more align with their business continuity goals. Die and wafer banking should be one of those strategies.