Since they are used in so much of the equipment that makes up modern life, many people will wonder: how are computer chips made? In a broad sense, microchips are made of layers of a silicon lattice. Depending on a computer chip’s design, conductive and insulating layers of silicon lattices are stacked to create numerous transistors, which control the flow of current and voltage within a circuit. Microchip manufacturing requires a design and layout process which maps out billions of transistors that will create the microchip.


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Once designed, the many layers of the microchip’s architecture are laid out in a 3D model. The 3D model serves as a blueprint for photomasks, which will act as templates for chip fabrication. A series of complex equipment is used to create all of the layers that will comprise the microchip or semiconductor. Once this is complete, the chip is encapsulated to create a component that can be fixed to a circuit board or other electronic system.

How Are Semiconductors Made?

Semiconductors are made by layering dozens of conductive and isolating films onto a silicon wafer foundation. This is done according to a carefully designed architecture that controls the current and voltage within each microchip. The silicon wafer serves as a base while a microchip is built up through a sophisticated process of photosensitive material coating and light exposure, which is carried out with a lithography machine. Depending on the design and end-function of the chip, different types of lithography are used in this process.  During the lithography stage of manufacturing, the reticle of the pattern is printed onto the wafer.

The next step is the baking and development of the wafer, which leaves a pattern of spaces to create the semiconductor’s resist. During the development stage, a 3D version of the pattern is etched onto the chip. After this step, the chip will be measured and checked for errors. Additional ion implantation may also be applied to tune certain semiconductor properties.

This entire process is then repeated, possibly up to 100 times, based on the complexities and design of the semiconductor. Once all layers are built, the semiconductor is encapsulated and can be incorporated into a circuit board for its end application. Semiconductors can serve many functions within a system, including passing current more efficiently to serve as voltage amplifiers, acting as switches that respond to heat and light, and affecting resistance.

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What Are Microchips Made Of?

Microchip manufacturing starts with silicon manufacturing, which is the process of separating oxygen from silica particles to create silicon. This is completed with a chemical and thermal process. The silicon is then further processed to create a form that’s called a boule or ingot. Silicon boules are made in a series of standard diameters. The silicon boule is cut into extremely thin layers. Each layer is referred to as a wafer, provides the foundation for the microchip—also called a wafer chip because of its silicon wafer base.  Silicon is used in the microchip manufacturing process because its atomic structure facilitates a combination of electrical conductivity and insulation.


However, in its monocrystalline form and at room temperature, silicon is non-conductive. The addition of what are known as impurity atoms, such as boron and phosphorus, are integrated into the silicon lattice through a process known as doping. By layering different conductive lattice layers, numerous transistors are built, which serve as control units on the microchip.  Because of its complex architecture of transistors, a microchip can function as a microcontroller, semiconductor, or another highly complex circuit. Although incredibly sophisticated, microchips can be made extremely small. Their small size and various capabilities enable them to be incorporated into all types of equipment.

Microchip Manufacturing And Clean Rooms

Microchip manufacturing is completed at a microscopic level. Microchips are printed onto extremely thin layers of silicon, also known as silicon wafers. Depending on the complexity of the chip, this process may involve layering dozens of perfectly aligned printings of microchips. A single stray particle, a speck of dust, or fluctuations in temperature or humidity could disrupt the process. This is why chips are made in a manufacturing environment referred to as a cleanroom.

Cleanrooms are maintained with powerful and sophisticated ventilation and air-circulation systems, which ensure the interior air volume and any airborne particles are controlled on a micrometer level. All personnel must wear special equipment and undergo a special “airlock” to enter the cleanroom and ensure no contamination occurs.

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