Researchers to brief industry this month on three-dimensional heterogeneously integrated microelectronics

Nov. 7, 2023
3DHI technology may represent the next major wave of microelectronics innovation for leading-edge aerospace and defense electronics applications.

ARLINGTON, Va. – U.S. military researchers will brief industry later this month on a project to spur the next major wave of microelectronics innovation by developing manufacturing capability for three-dimensional heterogeneously integrated (3DHI) microelectronics.

Officials of the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in Arlington, Va., will brief industry on 28 Nov. 2023 on the Next-Generation Microelectronics Manufacturing (NGMM) Phase 1 and Phase 2 project. Briefings will be in-person and via webcast.

The DARPA Microsystems Technology Office seeks to establish a domestic capability for research, development, and production of 3DHI microelectronics, with the goal of sustaining U.S. leadership and innovation in microelectronics manufacturing.

The next major wave of microelectronics innovation is likely to come from integrating heterogeneous materials, devices, and circuits through advanced packaging to produce a tightly coupled system that extends into the third dimension with performance that exceeds what is available from today’s monolithic approach.

Related: Military researchers seek to start domestic research center for 3DHI microsystems design and manufacturing

The NGMM program will advance the state-of-the-art in 3DHI microelectronics by forming a domestic open-access prototyping and pilot line center accessible to users in academia, government, and industry.

The first and second phases of the NGMM program will take five years. The first phase will focus on establishing baseline fabrication processes, a three-dimensional assembly design kit (3D-ADK), and electronic design automation (EDA) and simulation software tailored to 3DHI.

The second phase will create hardware prototypes, automate processes, and develop emulation and digital twin capabilities. The goal is to create a non-federal self-sustaining 3DHI manufacturing center that is accessible to users in academia, government, and industry to help design high-performance 3DHI microsystems quickly and at reasonable cost.

Industry leaders today use 3D integration of modestly dissimilar silicon digital technologies for a narrow range of commercial products, from stacked dynamic random-access memory (DRAM) to complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor (CMOS) imagers to high-performance computing.

Related: Northrop Grumman eyes research into 3D integrated circuits chip packaging for artificial intelligence (AI)

Today’s mature integration techniques, even those often referred to as 3DHI, focus primarily on low-power leading-edge CMOS, legacy CMOS, and silicon-based memory. Still, the opportunity to improve defense systems relies on expanding the types of microelectronics that can be integrated and assembled. Advancing digital integration requires increasing interconnect densities well beyond today’s state-of-the-art.

The U.S. today has no open-access center with capacity for sustained 3DHI research and development. With very few exceptions, U.S. companies engaged in 3DHI research rely on offshore facilities.

An open-access domestic center for 3DHI research could promote an expansive wave of innovation, promote shared learning, and ensure that start-ups, academia, and defense companies could engage in 3DHI research for low-volume products.

Related: DARPA ERI:DA project focuses on integrated circuits for trusted computing and artificial intelligence

In-person industry briefings will be from 8:30 12:30 p.m. on Tuesday 28 Nov. 2023 at the Booz Allen Hamilton Conference Center, 8283 Greensboro Drive, McLean, Va. 22102, and streamed simultaneously via webcast. The solicitation for the project (DARPA-PA-24-03) should be released before the industry briefings. All briefings are unclassified.

Register for the in-person or online industry briefings no later than 21 Nov. 2023 at

Email questions or concerns to DARPA at [email protected]. Refer to DARPA-SN-24-09 in all correspondence. More information is online at

About the Author

John Keller | Editor

John Keller is editor-in-chief of Military & Aerospace Electronics magazine, which provides extensive coverage and analysis of enabling electronic and optoelectronic technologies in military, space, and commercial aviation applications. A member of the Military & Aerospace Electronics staff since the magazine's founding in 1989, Mr. Keller took over as chief editor in 1995.

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