The global 3D integrated circuit market is forecast to grow by 19.7 percent between 2012 and 2016, with the major growth driver being strong demand for memory products, particularly flash memory and DRAM.
3D integrated circuits help improve the performance and reliability of memory chips, and as an added benefit the resulting chips are smaller and cheaper. However, chips based on 3D circuits face thermal conductivity problems which might pose a challenge to further growth.
According to Infiniti Research, the biggest 3D IC vendors at the moment are Advanced Semiconductor Engineering (ASE), Samsung., STMicroelectronics and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC). IBM, Elpida, Intel and Micron are also working on products based on 3D ICs.
Intel was a 3D IC pioneer and it demoed a 3D version of the Pentium 4 back in 2004. The overly complicated chip offered slight performance and efficiency improvements over the 2D version of the chip, which really isn't saying much since Prescott-based Pentium 4s were rubbish.
The focus then shifted on memory chips and some academic implementations of 3D processors, but progress has been relatively slow, hence any growth is more than welcome.