are unique substances, which, under different conditions, can act as
either conductors or insulators of electricity. Semiconductor processors
turn one of these substances -- silicon -- into integrated circuits,
also known as microchips. These integrated circuits contain anywhere
from dozens to millions of tiny electronic components, and are used in a
wide range of products, from personal computers and cellular telephones
to airplanes and missile guidance systems.
processors -- often referred to in the industry as technicians or
process technicians -- oversee the manufacturing process of microchips.
process begins with the production of cylinders of silicon called
ingots. The ingots then are sliced into thin wafers. Using automated
equipment, robots polish the wafers, imprint precise microscopic
patterns of the circuitry onto them using photolithography, etch out
patterns with acids, and replace the patterns with conductors, such as
aluminum or copper. The wafers then receive a chemical bath to make them
smooth, and the imprint process begins again on a new layer with the
next pattern. A complex chip may contain more than 20 layers of
circuitry. Once the process is complete, wafers are then cut into
individual chips, which are enclosed in a casing and shipped to
manufacturing and slicing of wafers to create semiconductors takes place
in clean rooms -- production areas that are kept free of all airborne
matter, because the circuitry on a chip is so small that even
microscopic particles can make it unusable. All semiconductor processors
working in clean rooms must wear special lightweight outer garments
known as “bunny suits.” These garments fit over clothing to prevent lint
and other particles from contaminating the clean room.
Semiconductor processors troubleshoot production problems and make
equipment adjustments and repairs. They take the lead in assuring
quality control and in maintaining equipment. They also test completed
chips to make sure they work properly. To keep equipment repairs to a
minimum, technicians perform diagnostic analyses and run computations.
For example, technicians may determine if a flaw in a chip is due to
contamination and peculiar to that wafer, or if the flaw is inherent in
the manufacturing process.
Note: Some resources in this section are provided by the US Department
of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics.