Process Animations

You can view short animations (Quicktime format) of the steps needed to produce a silicon wafer. If you have the Quicktime viewer loaded, just click on the step name or the image of the step to display the animations. Enjoy the show.

If you need to download the free Quicktime player, click here.

1 - Crystal Pulling

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The first step in the wafer manufacturing process is the formation of a large, silicon single crystal or ingot. This process begins with the melting of polysilicon, together with minute amounts of electrically active elements such as arsenic, boron, phosphorous or antimony in a quartz crucible.

Once the melt has reached the desired temperature, we lower a silicon seed crystal, or "seed" into the melt. The melt is slowly cooled to the required temperature, and crystal growth begins around the seed. As the growth continues, the seed is slowly extracted or "pulled" from the melt. The temperature of the melt and the speed of extraction govern the diameter of the ingot, and the concentration of an electrically active element in the melt governs the electrical properties of the silicon wafers to be made from the ingot. This is a complex, proprietary process requiring many control features on the crystal-growing equipment.

 

2-Rod Grinding

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After we grow the ingots, we extract them from the crystal pulling furnaces and allow them to cool. We grind the ingots to the specified diameter.


3-Wire Cutting

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Next, we slice the ingot into thin wafers using a 10-ton wire saw. The basic principle of wire sawing is to feed the ingot into a web of ultra-thin, fast moving wire. The cutting action of the wire is actually created by dispensing an abrasive slurry over the web while the wire is transported in a rapid, back and forth lateral motion. The wire web is in effect, a single wire being fed from one large spool to another. Depending on the wire diameter, each spool can hold hundreds of kilometers of wire on it. The wire saw technology allows for the entire ingot to be sliced simultaneously, thus, lowering cycle time while minimizing "kerf" loss.

4-Edge Profiling

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After the sawing process, the individual slices have sharp, fragile edges. These edges must be rounded or "profiled" in order to provide strength to the wafer. Profiling will ultimately prevent chipping or breakage in subsequent internal processing and during device fabrication. Without edge profiling, the wafer is susceptible to edge fractures.

5-Lapping

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Lapping removes controlled amounts of silicon from a wafer using a slurry. This process removes saw damage and positively impacts the wafer flatness.

6-Polishing

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Final polishing and cleaning processes give the wafers the clean and superflat mirror polished surfaces required for the fabrication of semiconductor devices. For wafer polishing, we currently use our proprietary, ninth-generation polishers together with an innovative chemical-mechanical polishing process. This form of polishing was one of our early inventions that first allowed solid state devices to move from individual circuits to the complexities of today's integrated circuits.

7-Laser Inspection

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For certification requirements, wafers are 100 percent inspected using the latest particle detection tools. These tools use a scanning laser beam that sweeps the wafer's surface. Any particles present on the wafer surface will scatter the incident laser beam. By measuring the reflected light, it is possible to "map" the number, size and location of any particles.

8-Epitaxy

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We further process some of our products into epitaxial wafers. An epitaxial wafer consists of a thin, single-crystal layer grown on the polished surface of the basic wafer substrate. The substrate, which is designed to have different composition and electrical properties from the layer of single-crystal silicon on the wafer surface, among other things, helps to improve isolation between circuit elements fabricated on the silicon film surface of the wafer. Trichlorosilane gas is injected into a high-temperature, single slice, epi reactor. As the wafer spins, the gas flows over the top of the wafer. The silicon atoms adhere to the crystalline wafer substrate.