Surprisingly, complex computer chips are made from something quite technically unimpressive: sand. Microprocessors are one of the most complicated products to manufacture, and creating these chips is a difficult and precise process. The steps, from isolating silicon from sand to silicon wafer dicing to layering interconnects, are the most basic stages in an amazingly sophisticated fabrication process.
Start With Sand
The process of creating a computer chip begins with silica sand, comprised of silicon dioxide. Silicon is the base material for semi-conductor manufacturing and must be isolated from the sand and pure before it can be used in manufacturing.
Multiple purification processes are performed to deliver electronic-grade silicon. A purified silicon ingot weighs around 100kg and is made ready for the next step.
Silicon Wafer Dicing
The circular silicon ingot is sliced into wafers as thin as possible. The silicon wafers are then refined and polished to provide the best possible surface for the next fabrication steps.
A layer of photoresist is spread thinly across the wafer, and this layer is then exposed to a UV light mask shaped in the pattern of the microprocessor’s circuits. The exposed photoresist becomes soluble and is washed off by a solvent. A pattern of hard material is applied to the wafer creating thin silicon ridges.
Using a process as complex as silicon wafer dicing, an insulation layer is applied to the surface, and holes are etched into it. Electroplating is used to deposit copper ions on the surface, forming a layer of copper on top.
The transistors are now connected in an architecture that allows the chip to function as a processor.
Test and Sliced Dies and Packaging
The chips are now ready to be tested, and the wafer is sliced into dies. Dies are packaged and assume the familiar form factor of a desktop processor. Processors are then tested for power efficiency, frequency, and other performance metrics.
Silicon is an extremely common element on Earth and is responsible for inviting white sand beaches, as silica, an oxide of silicon, is the most common component of sand. Modern computing also owes a lot to silicon, as it is a crucial component in microelectronics and computer chips. A silicon wafer manufacturer provides silicon wafers that are used as a part of the original manufacture of coordinated circuits or similar gadgets.
As silicon wafer manufacturers have shown that silicon has many other practical uses as well. Silicon is neither metal nor non-metal; it’s a metalloid, an element that falls somewhere between the two. Metalloids generally have properties of both metals and non-metals. Silicon is a semiconductor, meaning that it does conduct electricity.
The Hotter, the Better
Unlike a typical metal, silicon gets better at conducting electricity as the temperature increases (metals get worse at conductivity at higher temperatures). This is why there are many silicon wafer manufacturers that supply the market.
As a semi-conductor, silicon is used to make transistors, which amplify or switch electrical currents and are the main elements in electronics from radios to iPhones. These manufacturers look to silicon wafer manufacturers as a key supplier.
Silicon is also used in a variety of ways in solar cells and computer chips, for example, as a metal-oxide-semiconductor field-effect transistor, or MOSFET, the basic switch in many electronics.
Silicon also has future potential in the creation of tiny lasers called nanoneedles, which can transmit data faster and more efficiently than traditional optical cables. Superconductor lasers shed heat much easier than glass lasers, meaning they can create more power than traditional lasers.
Silicon must turn into a wafer before silicon wafer polishing and before a semiconductor can be built. This process begins with growing a silicon ingot. Growing a silicon ingot can take anywhere from one week to one month, depending on a variety of factors, including quality, size, and the specification. Here’s a closer look at silicon wafer processing and precisely how they are made.
The first step to grow an ingot is to heat the silicon to 1420°C. This is above the melting point of silicon and long before silicon wafer polishing. Once the dopant combination and polycrystalline has been liquefied, the seed, a single silicon crystal, is positioned on top of the melt, barely touching the surface. The seed has the same crystal orientation required in the finished ingot.
After the ingot is fully-grown, it is ground down to roughly a diameter that is slightly larger than the target diameter of the final silicon wafer. After being passed through several inspections, the ingot goes to slicing next. With silicon wafer polishing not far off, the silicon is sliced. Due to the silicon’s hardness, a diamond edge saw is needed to carefully slice the silicon wafers to a width slightly thicker than the target specification.
The final and most critical step in the manufacturing process is silicon wafer polishing. This process takes place in a cleanroom. To maintain cleanliness, workers must wear cleanroom suits that cover their bodies and do not collect any particles. They also stand under a fan that blows away any small particles that might have accumulated before entering the room.
Pick and place automation systems are commonly used in modern manufacturing because they speed up the process of picking up items or parts and placing them in other locations, and automating this process can significantly increase production rates. The robots in a pick and place system handle repetitive tasks and free up human workers to focus on the more complex processes and work.
Pick and place robots are usually mounted on a stable stand and positioned to reach different areas to perform work. They have advanced vision systems that allow them to identify, grasp, and move objects from one place to another. With many design options available, pick and place system robots can be configured with various tooling options for the ends of their arms, which can be used in different applications, such as assembly, packaging, or bin picking.
Applications for Pick and Place Systems
Pick and place robots are also used in applications such as bin picking, packaging, and inspection. Here are a few of the most common applications for pick and place system robots.
Assembly – Used to grab incoming parts from one location, and place or affix the part on another piece of the item before it is transported to the next assembly area.
Packaging – Pick and place system robots grab items from an incoming source or area and place the items in a packaging container.
Bin Picking – Here, they grab parts or items from bins. Advanced vision systems help them to distinguish shape, color, and size to pick the right items from bins of randomly mixed items.
Inspection – Advanced vision systems allow them to pick up objects, detect anomalies, and remove defective items or parts.