Chip Manufacturing in Semiconductor Cleanrooms

Today silicon chips are everywhere. Intel creates industry-leading and world-first silicon products. These Intel® chips are some of the most complex devices ever manufactured, requiring advanced manufacturing technology. Step into a modern “fab” where Intel makes its chips, and you’ll discover a range of sophisticated processes spanning close to a million square feet of space.

Advanced Chip Design

Intel creates industry-leading and world-first silicon products that introduce more capabilities, are smaller, more powerful, and use less energy. While advancing technology, Intel incorporates environmental principles into each step of the product life cycle. And by anticipating the needs for the next generation, Intel’s success at advanced chip design has helped drive other innovations in almost all industries. WHAT IS A CHIP? A chip, also known as a die or processor, is a microelectronic device that can process information in the form of electrical current traveling along a circuit. Although they look flat, today’s chips may have more than 30 layers of complex circuitry compared to five layers on the 4004, Intel’s first processor, introduced in 1971.

Microchip Fabrication in Semiconductor Cleanrooms

The process of making chips is called fabrication. Inside Intel’s ultra-clean fabs, the world’s most complex, tiniest machines — processors and other silicon chips — are built in a sustainable manner. Intel fabs are among the most technically advanced manufacturing facilities in the world. Within these sophisticated fabs, Intel makes chips in a special area called a cleanroom. Because particles of dust can ruin the complex circuitry on a chip, cleanroom air must be ultraclean. Purified air is constantly recirculated, entering through the ceiling and exiting through floor tiles. Technicians put on a special suit, commonly called a bunny suit, before they enter a cleanroom. This helps keep contaminants such as lint and hair off the wafers. In a cleanroom, a cubic foot of air contains less than one particle measuring about 0.5 micron (millionth of a meter) across. That’s thousands of times cleaner than a hospital operating room. Automation has a critical role in a fab. Batches of wafers are kept clean and are processed quickly and efficiently by traveling through the fab inside front-opening unified pods (FOUPs) on an overhead monorail. Each FOUP receives a barcode tag that identifies the recipe that will be used to make the chips inside. This labeling ensures the correct processing at each step of fabrication. Each FOUP contains up to 25 wafers and weighs more than 25 pounds. Production automation machinery allows for this FOUP weight, which is too heavy to be handled manually by technicians.