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Apple Explores Glass Substrate Chip Packaging Technology to Help Chips Break Through Performance Bottlenecks

Apple Explores Glass Substrate Chip Packaging Technology to Help Chips Break Through Performance Bottlenecks
April 01, 2024

According to Digitimes, citing supply chain sources, Apple is actively discussing with multiple suppliers to apply glass substrate technology to chip development. Industry insiders generally believe that the application of glass substrates will bring revolutionary breakthroughs to chip technology and is expected to become one of the key directions for future chip development. 


Traditional chips’ printed circuit boards ( PCBs) are typically made from a mix of fiberglass and resin. This material does not dissipate heat well, and the heat generated during operation of the chip can cause its performance to degrade ( thermal throttling). This means that the chip can only maintain maximum performance for a short period of time, and has to run at a reduced frequency once the temperature gets too high. 


The glass substrate is resistant to high temperatures, allowing the chip to maintain peak performance for a longer period of time. At the same time, the ultra-flat properties of the glass substrate allow for more precise etching, allowing components to be arranged more closely together and increasing circuit density per unit area. 


Currently, Intel leads the way in this technology, but other companies are trying to catch up. According to reports, Samsung has begun developing glass substrate technology, and Apple is also in close discussions with it and other undisclosed suppliers. 


Industry experts point out that glass substrates are not only an innovation in materials, but also a global technology competition. In addition to substrate manufacturers, global IT equipment manufacturers and chip manufacturers will also actively participate. Samsung has a unique advantage in this area because the production process of glass substrates is similar to that of advanced multi-layer displays. 


In the past, chip performance improvements mainly relied on continuous shrinkage of manufacturing processes, and this shrinkage is about to reach physical limits. The industry is skeptical about the future development of Moore's Law, so new materials such as glass substrates are regarded as the key to breaking through bottlenecks and maintaining chip performance growth. 


However, glass substrates also have many technical problems, such as fragility, insufficient adhesion to metal wires, and difficulty in controlling the uniformity of through-hole filling. In addition, the high transparency of glass and the different reflectivity from silicon will also cause difficulties in the detection and measurement process. Many existing measurement techniques are designed for opaque or translucent materials, and measurement accuracy may be compromised when using these techniques on glass substrates. 


Despite the challenges, glass substrates are still regarded by the industry as one of the future development directions of chip packaging. Apple's active participation may accelerate the maturity of glass substrate technology and bring new breakthroughs in improving chip performance. 

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