The semiconductor industry has exacting environmental and production standards for the products that power technology today, such as wafers and microchips. These standards can be difficult to achieve given the conditions prevalent in the semiconductor manufacturing process. But through the use of plastic in semiconductor production, manufacturers ensure purity standards are reached and resources are utilized to their fullest.
A microchip (an integrated circuit or IC) is a set of electronic circuits on a flat piece of silicon. The pattern of the tiny switches is created on the wafer by adding and removing materials to form a multilayered lattice of interconnected shapes.
The IC manufacturing process involves hundreds of steps and can take up to four months from design to mass production. The processes used in manufacturing include photolithography, etching, cleaning, thin film deposition, and polishing — which can involve hundreds of different chemicals and gasses, many of which are corrosive.
In addition, in the cleanrooms of the chipmakers’ fabs (fabrication facilities), air quality and temperature are kept tightly controlled as robots transport their precious wafers from machine to machine. Even the smallest speck of dust is larger than a microcircuit and can ruin an IC. Additionally, the facility is dampened against vibration and the humidity is carefully maintained to minimize static electricity.
How Plastic Aids Semiconductor Production
To help maintain these highly specific conditions, plastic is frequently used in semiconductor building equipment like wet benches, IC chip carriers, filtration elements, and more.
High performance plastics are important in all phases of semiconductor manufacturing but shine particularly in their use on wet benches. These machines carry out wet chemical processes such as acid etching, as well as chemical rinsing and drying. Wet benches allow for maximum process purity and minimize the threat of chemical carry-over or the contamination of wafers during drying.
Whether it’s upholding the purity standards in the environment, limiting contaminants that negatively affect the process — like static electricity — or many other uses, today’s plastic semiconductor materials address those concerns and offer a host of benefits. With an ongoing microchip shortage affecting the entire globe, manufacturers are turning to plastic to maximize every aspect of production.
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Engage the Benefits of Plastic in Semiconductor Production
Using high-performance plastic for aspects in semiconductor fabrication offers many benefits over traditional materials like metal and ceramic. Let’s examine some of those further.
Certain elements of semiconductor production involve high levels of heat that might damage or deform other materials. High performance thermoplastics can handle these extreme temperatures and are nonflammable, reducing the risk of production-shuttering accidents or clean room issues.
One of plastic’s biggest advantages is its ability to stand up to a variety of damaging chemicals. Wet benches, for example, are regularly exposed to extremely corrosive chemicals like nitric acid, hydrochloric acid, hydrofluoric acid, and ozone. If metals were exposed to these sorts of conditions, they would corrode and cause contamination and semiconductor failure by shedding particulates into the clean manufacturing zone.
Outgassing is the process of a product releasing chemicals into the environment due to certain factors like temperature and humidity. Outgassing can be harmful to both semiconductor products and people. Common semiconductor plastics like HDPE and polycarbonate have low outgassing characteristics in vacuum-sealed spaces. That makes them ideal for a highly controlled environment like a fab clean room.
Static Dissipative (ESD)
Minimizing static electricity is one of the key functions of a cleanroom since a single discharge can wreck the delicate circuitry of an IC chip. Grades of plastic in semiconductor production help prevent electrostatic discharge, grounding any charges that might spark and ruin sensitive items.
Choosing plastic for the equipment, filtration systems, and tools used in your cleanroom is one of the most cost-effective options available in the semiconductor industry.
High performance plastics maintain excellent dimensional stability, meaning the material can hold tight tolerances over wide temperature swings. Also, plastic is easily machinable meaning it can be worked with a variety of tooling to create products and parts suitable for use in the equipment in semiconductor production, ranging from screws, gaskets, spacers, housings, handing trays, die pickup collets, and more.
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Trust Ensinger Precision Components for Your Plastic Semiconductor Needs
Thermoplastics remain essential in semiconductor production due to the strengths and advantages of the material. But, given the critical nature of the industry and the constraints that supply chain challenges have inflicted, manufacturers need to work with the best partners to ensure every element of their fab is optimized and running at peak efficiency.
Ensinger Precision Components has more than 80 years of experience in providing the plastic injection molding and fabrication services needed to help customers reach their goals across a wide variety of industries. With a deep portfolio of available materials, support from our parent company, and a dedicated quality management system, Ensinger Precision Components is the plastic semiconductor partner you need to ensure the success of your production operation. Our complete suite of plastic manufacturing capabilities means we’re equipped to handle any challenge and have the experience needed to properly work with any class of thermoplastics.