Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Manufacturing Semiconductor

The process of Semiconductor device fabrication used to create the integrated circuits that are present in everyday electrical and electronic devices. It is a multiple-step sequence of photographic and chemical processing steps during which electronic circuits are gradually created on a wafer made of pure semi-conducting material. Silicon is almost always used, but various compound semiconductors are used for specialized applications.
The entire manufacturing process, from start to packaged chips ready for shipment, takes six to eight weeks and is performed in highly specialized facilities referred to as fabs.

The leading semiconductor manufacturers typically have facilities all over the world. Intel, the world's largest manufacturer, has facilities in Europe and Asia as well as the U.S. Other top manufacturers include 

  • Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (Taiwan), 
  • STMicroelectronics (Europe), Analog Devices (US), 
  • Integrated Device Technology (US),   
  • Atmel (US/Europe),  
  •  Freescale Semiconductor (US),   
  • Samsung (Korea),   
  • Texas Instruments (US),   
  • GlobalFoundries (Germany, Singapore, future New York fab in construction),   
  • Toshiba (Japan),  NEC Electronics (Japan), Infineon (Europe), 
  • Renesas (Japan), 
  • Fujitsu (Japan/US),  
  •  NXP Semiconductors (Europe and US),  
  •  Micron Technology (US),   
  • Hynix (Korea) and SMIC (China)   

  • Deposition--  is any process that grows, coats, or otherwise transfers a material onto the wafer. Available technologies consist of physical vapor deposition (PVD), chemical vapor deposition (CVD), electrochemical deposition (ECD), molecular beam epitaxy (MBE) and more recently, atomic layer deposition (ALD) among others.
  • Removal processes--  are any that remove material from the wafer either in bulk or selectively and consist primarily of etch processes, either wet etching or dry etching. Chemical-mechanical planarization (CMP) is also a removal process used between levels.
  • Patterning--  covers the series of processes that shape or alter the existing shape of the deposited materials and is generally referred to as lithography. For example, in conventional lithography, the wafer is coated with a chemical called a photoresist. The photoresist is exposed by a stepper, a machine that focuses, aligns, and moves the mask, exposing select portions of the wafer to short wavelength light. The unexposed regions are washed away by a developer solution. After etching or other processing, the remaining photoresist is removed by plasma ashing.
  • Modification of electrical properties--  has historically consisted of doping transistor sources and drains originally by diffusion furnaces and later by ion implantation. These doping processes are followed by furnace anneal or in advanced devices, by rapid thermal anneal (RTA) which serve to activate the implanted dopants. Modification of electrical properties now also extends to reduction of dielectric constant in low-k insulating materials via exposure to ultraviolet light in UV processing (UVP).
Modern chips have up to eleven metal levels produced in over 300 sequenced processing steps.

Front-end-of-line (FEOL) processing

FEOL processing refers to the formation of the transistors directly in the silicon. The raw wafer is engineered by the growth of an ultrapure, virtually defect-free silicon layer through epitaxy. In the most advanced logic devices, prior to the silicon epitaxy step, tricks are performed to improve the performance of the transistors to be built. One method involves introducing a straining step wherein a silicon variant such as silicon-germanium (SiGe) is deposited. Once the epitaxial silicon is deposited, the crystal lattice becomes stretched somewhat, resulting in improved electronic mobility. Another method, called silicon on insulator technology involves the insertion of an insulating layer between the raw silicon wafer and the thin layer of subsequent silicon epitaxy. This method results in the creation of transistors with reduced parasitic effects.

Gate oxide and implants

Front-end surface engineering is followed by: growth of the gate dielectric, traditionally silicon dioxide (SiO2), patterning of the gate, patterning of the source and drain regions, and subsequent implantation or diffusion of dopants to obtain the desired complementary electrical properties. In dynamic random access memory (DRAM) devices, storage capacitors are also fabricated at this time, typically stacked above the access transistor (implementing them as trenches etched deep into the silicon surface was a technique developed by the now defunct DRAM manufacturer Qimonda).

BEOL Processing (Back-End-Of-Line)

Metal layers

Once the various semiconductor devices have been created, they must be interconnected to form the desired electrical circuits. This occurs in a series of wafer processing steps collectively referred to as BEOL (not to be confused with back end of chip fabrication which refers to the packaging and testing stages). BEOL processing involves creating metal interconnecting wires that are isolated by dielectric layers. The insulating material was traditionally a form of SiO2 or a silicate glass, but recently new low dielectric constant materials are being used. These dielectrics presently take the form of SiOC and have dielectric constants around 2.7 (compared to 3.9 for SiO2), although materials with constants as low as 2.2 are being offered to chipmakers.


Historically, the metal wires consisted of aluminium. In this approach to wiring often called subtractive aluminium, blanket films of aluminium are deposited first, patterned, and then etched, leaving isolated wires. Dielectric material is then deposited over the exposed wires. The various metal layers are interconnected by etching holes, called vias, in the insulating material and depositing tungsten in them with a CVD technique. This approach is still used in the fabrication of many memory chips such as dynamic random access memory (DRAM) as the number of interconnect levels is small, currently no more than four.
More recently, as the number of interconnect levels for logic has substantially increased due to the large number of transistors that are now interconnected in a modern microprocessor, the timing delay in the wiring has become significant prompting a change in wiring material from aluminium to copper and from the silicon dioxides to newer low-K material. This performance enhancement also comes at a reduced cost via damascene processing that eliminates processing steps. As the number of interconnect levels increases, planarization of the previous layers is required to ensure a flat surface prior to subsequent lithography. Without it, the levels would become increasingly crooked and extend outside the depth of focus of available lithography, interfering with the ability to pattern. CMP (chemical mechanical planarization) is the primary processing method to achieve such planarization although dry etch back is still sometimes employed if the number of interconnect levels is no more than three.

Wafer test

The highly serialized nature of wafer processing has increased the demand for metrology in between the various processing steps. Wafer test metrology equipment is used to verify that the wafers haven't been damaged by previous processing steps up until testing. If the number of dies—the integrated circuits that will eventually become chips— etched on a wafer exceeds a failure threshold (i.e. too many failed dies on one wafer), the wafer is scrapped rather than investing in further processing.

Device test

Once the front-end process has been completed, the semiconductor devices are subjected to a variety of electrical tests to determine if they function properly. The proportion of devices on the wafer found to perform properly is referred to as the yield.
The fab tests the chips on the wafer with an electronic tester that presses tiny probes against the chip. The machine marks each bad chip with a drop of dye. Currently, electronic dye marking is possible if wafer test data is logged into a central computer database and chips are "binned" (i.e. sorted into virtual bins) according to predetermined test limits. The resulting binning data can be graphed, or logged, on a wafer map to trace manufacturing defects and mark bad chips. This map can be also used during wafer assembly and packaging.
Chips are also tested again after packaging, as the bond wires may be missing, or analog performance may be altered by the package. This is referred to as "final test".
Usually, the fab charges for test time, with prices in the order of cents per second. Test times vary from a few milliseconds to a couple of seconds, and the test software is optimized for reduced test time. Multiple chip (multi-site) testing is also possible, since many testers have the resources to perform most or all of the tests in parallel.
Chips are often designed with "testability features" such as scan chains and "built-in self-test" to speed testing, and reduce test costs. In certain designs that use specialized analog fab processes, wafers are also laser-trimmed during test, to achieve tightly-distributed resistance values as specified by the design.
Good designs try to test and statistically manage corners: extremes of silicon behavior caused by operating temperature combined with the extremes of fab processing steps. Most designs cope with more than 64 corners.

Wafer backgrinding

ICs are being produced on semiconductor wafers that undergo a multitude of processing steps. The silicon wafers predominantly being used today have diameters of 20 and 30 cm. They are roughly 750 μm thick to ensure a minimum of mechanical stability and to avoid warping during high-temperature processing steps.
Smartcards, USB memory sticks, smartphones, handheld music players, and other ultra compact electronic products would not be feasible in their present form without minimizing the size of their various components along all dimensions. The backside of the wafers is thus ground prior to wafer dicing (where the individual microchips are being singulated). Wafers thinned down to 75 to 50 μm are common today.
The process is also known as 'Backlap' or 'Wafer thinning

Wafer mounting

Wafer mounting is a step that is performed during the die preparation of a wafer as part of the process of semiconductor fabrication. During this step, the wafer is mounted on a plastic tape that is attached to a ring. Wafer mounting is performed right before the wafer is cut into separate dies. The adhesive film on which the wafer is mounted ensures that the individual dies remain firmly in place during 'dicing', as the process of cutting the wafer is called.
The picture on the right shows a 300 mm wafer after it was mounted and diced. The blue plastic is the adhesive tape. The wafer is the round disc in the middle. In this case, a large number of dies were already removed.

Semiconductor-die cutting

In the manufacturing of micro-electronic devices, die cutting, dicing or singulation is a process of reducing a wafer containing multiple identical integrated circuits to individual dies each containing one of those circuits.
During this process, a wafer with up to thousands of circuits is cut into rectangular pieces, each called a die. In between those functional parts of the circuits, a thin non-functional spacing is foreseen where a saw can safely cut the wafer without damaging the circuits. This spacing is called scribe line or saw street. The width of the scribe is very small, typically around 100 μm. A very thin and accurate saw is therefore needed to cut the wafer into pieces. Usually the dicing is performed with a water-cooled circular saw with diamond-tipped teeth.

Types of blades

The most common make up of blade used is either a metal or resin bond containing abrasive grit of natural or more commonly synthetic diamond, or borazon in various forms. Alternatively, the bond and grit may be applied as a coating to a metal former


Plastic or ceramic packaging involves mounting the die, connecting the die pads to the pins on the package, and sealing the die. Tiny wires are used to connect pads to the pins. In the old days, wires were attached by hand, but now purpose-built machines perform the task. Traditionally, the wires to the chips were gold, leading to a "lead frame" (pronounced "leed frame") of copper, that had been plated with solder, a mixture of tin and lead. Lead is poisonous, so lead-free "lead frames" are now mandated by ROHS.
Chip-scale package (CSP) is another packaging technology. A plastic dual in-line package, like most packages, is many times larger than the actual die hidden inside, whereas CSP chips are nearly the size of the die. CSP can be constructed for each die before the wafer is diced.
The packaged chips are retested to ensure that they were not damaged during packaging and that the die-to-pin interconnects operation was performed correctly. A laser etches the chip's name and numbers on the package.

See in Intel's website-

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