The MQUAD Package Is a Survivor, but Its Future Is Still Cloudy
Whatever became of the MQUAD, a package introduced by Olin Corp.-with much fanfare-10 years ago?
It's not a question we often ask ourselves, and apparently we're not alone, judging from the MQUAD's slight acceptance.
The reason we bring it up now is that the MQUAD's current owner, Advanced Interconnect Technologies of Manteca, Calif., has mounted a new drive to win wider acceptance for this anodized aluminum package. (AIT is a merger of Hana Technologies, Hong Kong, and Astra Micro-tronics Technology, Batam, Indonesia.)
To date, through its decade-long history, the MQUAD has survived the continued vagaries of the packaging market and several years of what politicians might term "benign neglect" from its former owner, the Olin Corp.
In a recent visit to the AIT plant, Tim Veile, who recently joined the company as sales manager, boasted of the pack-age's inherent qualities, such as massive heat dissipation. Additionally, Tim says its cavity-based design ensures low chip surface stress, no wire sweep with long wires and good electrical performance.
I mentioned to Tim that I was among the large roster of trade press at the grand opening of Olin's Intercon-nect Division (OIT)-the inventor of the MQUAD-in Santa Clara, Calif. This took place more than a decade ago. On hand were several of the very top eastern suits from Olin Corporate. The press kits were lavish, and so was the on-site buffet.
A few years later, Olin fled the high-priced Silicon Valley for Manteca, some 60 miles to the east.
Tim, imbued with an almost evangelical ferver for the MQUAD, joined AIT less than a year ago, with one of his goals to resurrect the faltering package.
Tim points out that some 75 chip makers have qualified the package. More-over, he notes, about 50 million units of the MQUAD have been assembled over the years, tucked inside such appliances as the original Sony Playstation. It was also the package of choice for IBM's 386-based computer CPU.
AIT, like Olin, licenses the process and sells the package. There are currently about eight licensees. The newest is AIT's own packaging foundry on Batam Island. Although the island belongs to Indonesia, it sits closer to Singapore.
One of the possible sticking points on the road to future success for the MQUAD may be its AIT ownership. Many potential MQUAD customers are also AIT competitors in IC package assembly.
"I think it is important to point out," Tim emphasizes, "that AIT-Manteca operates as a completely separate, stand-alone business unit of AIT Inc., and we do not share proprietary information with our sister companies."
The MQUAD's bragging point is good thermal performance.
On balance, the MQUAD has shown re-markable staying power for a package that was, at first, promoted only briefly and then, at best, sporadically by its former owners.
The "M" in "MQUAD" is for metal. The leadframe die attach pad is bonded to the anodized Al base with silver-filled adhesive. The major selling point, Tim says, is that the entire package is one mammoth heatsink and floating ground plane offering enhanced electrical properties.
A former Olin insider, one who is intimately familiar with the package, notes, "The primary purpose of the MQUAD was good thermal performance, and it does, in fact, perform well thermally."
However, he adds (without attribution for obvious reasons), "It was always seen as a non-standard niche package with no broad supply base for either the materials (cap and base) or the assembly process. Over a period of time, pricing dropped much faster on the heatslug packages than on the MQUAD, which was more expensive to manufacture."
Packaging luminary Dr. Gerald K. "Skip" Fehr of IPAC, San Jose, agrees, "The MQUAD is a niche package. It offers certain advantages that fit devices with particular needs.
"The cost to manufacture, along with a limited number of suppliers (licensees), are probably the largest detractors for the use of this package," according to Dr. Fehr. "Also, as a QFP, the number of leads is limited, as opposed to a BGA package. However, I think the MQUAD will continue to find limited use in the future."
While the package also has many admirers, Veile realizes that he faces an uphill battle-which he appears to be relishing-to make the MQUAD an industry-wide choice.
Here's a brief chronology of AIT's Manteca operation:
1980 Founded as Indy Electronics by Jacob Ratinoff, as a merger of Interlek (Santa Clara) and Dynetics in the Philippines.
1984 Purchased by Olin Corp., as their first venture into electronic materials. They changed the name to Olin Inter-connect Technologies and bought Indy's Manteca assembly plant at the same time. (Olin also owned Winchester and Hunt Chemical Co. at the time. Hunt Chemical, to those with long memories, was found responsible for discharging cancer-causing agents into the Love Canal in upstate New York.)
1993 Olin sold the IC assembly plant to Alphatec. OIT remained in the Alphatec building until 1995, when it moved about a mile away.
1998 Hana Technologies bought OIT.
2000 Hana merged with AMT, forming AIT.