Friday, June 22, 2018
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Semicon Backend in Big Sky Country
Technician closely monitors copper wire bonding process.

Why would anyone want to start up an IC manufacturing services company in Kalispell, Montana? Aside from the fact that it is beautiful Big Sky Country, and there's no retail sales tax, there happens to be a base of high-tech manufacturing and a large educated workforce readily available. There are over 150 high tech companies in Montana with capabilities that range from software to semiconductors.

Enter IC Assembly Services, a fledgling, fast growing, dynamic back-end services company with an entrepreneurial spirit — just what you'd expect from Montana. The company is quickly becoming one of the fastest growing high tech firms by investing in capabilities to meet the ever changing IC assembly industry.

While every customer has different needs and is not always supported by the same service provider, IC Assembly Services has demonstrated the willingness and the ability to expand its capability to make even the most challenging assembly projects successful. In addition to investing in its own future and consistently bringing on new capabilities, the company has developed relationships with specialist partners to assure any customer a streamlined solution to meet assembly needs.

"We realized that many customers have a want and need to `on-shore' many of their prototype or sensitive products for security and IP reasons," said Michael Bartkoski, Managing Partner at IC Assembly Services. "Our goal is to offer the same or better services here in Montana for the same cost as the off-shore service providers."

Offshore Is Not the Answer
In recent years many US-based semiconductor and fabless semiconductor companies have been stuck in the offshore paradigm where it is sometimes the first and only place they will look for back-end services. There is a perceived cost benefit of going to Asia, but an evaluation of the true cost of going off-shore can be surprising.

There are a number of problems with offshore sourcing, including shipping, time, travel requirements, and potential communication (or miscommunication) issues And there is always the great potential of compromising intellectual property (IP) especially for a start-up whose principal asset is its IP. All of these problems can conspire to make the once perceived advantage of "off-shore" become instead a disadvantage. Now consider the same scenario where time becomes a critical element and the shipping costs can suddenly become astronomical; in the worst case scenario, the product is not available when it is needed at any cost.

With the philosophy and a willingness to apply resources needed to get the job done right, the company offers a reliable on-shore alternative based in Montana. One of the charters of IC Assembly Services is to offer "Ultra Quick Turns" on prototypes. With FedEx and UPS providing overnight delivery from anywhere in the US, most of their jobs come in one day and go out the next and in some cases they are able to send assemblies back to the customer the same day. "We are focused on offering a versatile suite of services to the semiconductor and micro-electronics industries, related to device final manufacturing, engineering prototyping and low-to-high-volume production," states Mike Bartkoski.

"What we are seeing out there, are customers either heading straight offshore, not ever knowing that there are very good domestic choices. We also see a lot of small competitors focused on only one or two different aspects of the production flow," says Gary Lopiccolo, Western Regional Applications Manager. "When I meet a new customer for the first time they are surprised at the range of services we offer, saying that they had no idea there were options like this here in the US. We are also adding capabilities constantly when they make sense for our customers and for us. We have no desire to be like the others, we have an aggressive growth plan and will do whatever we need to do to be a force to be reckoned with."

Target Markets
Most Start-ups and Fabless semiconductor companies focus on IC design, IP and marketing, and will have little or no internal manufacturing resources, as well as limited options when it comes to testing and evaluating their new designs. They could get a wafer from their fab but it will need grinding and polishing, potentially backside metal application, sawing, die attach and wire bonding. IC Assembly Services is an ideal place to turn, a one-stop shop. Few research or college labs have the resources or budgets to buy equipment and hire the people needed to operate the equipment and do the required research. IC Assembly Services has engineers and process people running the equipment, so the business model lends itself perfectly to such stringent requirements.

Applications Support
Sometimes the internal resources of even the biggest, most successful semiconductor houses do not include a specific capability that is needed, or the internal resources are too slow or overburdened. Since IC Assembly Services can handle up to 12-in. wafers in many cases and has high-speed pick-and-place capability, the company is able to step in at a moment's notice and add to that quick-turn capability, making it a great resource that is available.

IC Assembly Services is on the fast track including back side metal application via PVD, sawing up to whole 12-in. wafers, pick-and-place, die attach, flip chip, wire bonding in Au, Cu, Al, ball bumping, and more with several pieces of ground-breaking (at least in the US) equipment either on order or being negotiated. The company can do cavity packages, QFN and is looking at several alternatives to augment its molded package capability. On the list of equipment scheduled for late 2011/early 2012 are; 12-in. grind and polish, a new Cu ball bonder, new high speed pick-and-place, over mold and integral etch clean station for PVD.

There are even plans to expand with facilities to better serve specific markets including San Jose, Dallas, and Phoenix.

Contact: IC Assembly Services Inc., 4426 U.S. Hwy 2, East Kalispell, MT 59901 406-756-0167 E-mail: Web:

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