Visiting an IC fab

10.11.2005 14:40

Today I had the opportunity to visit my Faculty's integrated circuit fabrication line. It was quite fascinating although not exactly what I expected

My first reaction was that it looks like a set for an 80s science fiction movies. They are using some quite old technology - the line was originally meant for a 5μm process, but thy gradually upgraded it and today they can manage everything up to around 1μm. Green monochrome monitors, big clicky keyboards, 5.25" floppy disks, blinking lights, large racks of equipment, people in protective suits, low vibrating hum everywhere...

There were of course a few objects that quite obviously didn't fit there. First a modern washing machine with a box of detergent (?! - probably for washing protective suits, forgot to ask, but it was like seeing a ghost). Then there was a single modern PC (running Windows XP) - Excel was running when I saw it so it probably isn't running anything critical.

The whole process isn't as automated as I first thought. Silicon wafers are transferred by hand between various furnaces and machines. Etching is also done by hand as far as I could see. In temperature controlled baths and with carefully controlled chemicals but they still put the wafers in and out by hand.

Also I expected I wouldn't be allowed in the actual rooms where the fabrication takes place. I was told that those places need to be kept very clean and that anyone entering the room can bring dust particles. But in the end I only had to put on a protective coat and that was it.

Posted by Tomaž | Categories: Life

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