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Help me understand semi production

soAsian

New member
is there any skill, know-how or R&D that goes into the production or you just need ASML's EUV machine/equipment?

Can anyone able to make high end chip (14nm and beyond) with all the latest equipment?
 

Paul2

Member
There is an enormous amount of secret sauce in manufacturing semis. If it was as easy as buying some off the shelf equipment the Chinese would already be dominant.
You could've not summarised it better.

The industry is gigantic, and what even people in the industry work with every day is a tip of the iceberg.

I'd say, in the entire world, there are only around 1000 people on the level of senior process engineers who can make sense of all of it, and see the bigger picture.

Huali semi of China was the case of "hired hands" being entrusted with enormous sums, and a mission of making a fab capable of the latest node. They hired Taiwanese at obscene salaries, and yes, they bought latest scanners, and made few demo chips on 28nm with disastrously bad yields, and when their pay cheques arrived, all packed their bags, and went back to Taiwan as millionaires. After that, Huali was effectively down for a few years.

They since abandoned the ambition to compete on the cutting edge, and retreated into specialty service.
 
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davemillman

New member
is there any skill, know-how or R&D that goes into the production or you just need ASML's EUV machine/equipment?
I'm sure a lot of folks read this post like me, and remembered dozens (hundreds?) of meetings attended over the years, where a bunch of PhDs debated the relative merits of some tiny little detail of semi design, verification, fabrication, test, etc. Not because the meeting was unnecessary, but because the meeting was so overwhelmingly necessary to work out the myriad complexities inherent at every step. So I think the answer is, you will need a bit more than a couple billion dollars worth of ASML and related tools to build your "high end chip." ;)

In the spirit of the question, here are the class notes from UC Berkeley EE141, Digital Integrated Circuits, which provide a good introduction to the "skill, know-how or R&D" that you asked about. Google is your friend.
 
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Daniel Nenni

Admin
Staff member
There is an enormous amount of secret sauce in manufacturing semis. If it was as easy as buying some off the shelf equipment the Chinese would already be dominant.

EUV is a good example of that. Intel could not make it work for 10nm yet TSMC has EUV at 7nm, 5nm, and 3nm. Samsung also has EUV working but with less success than TSMC. SMIC can't get 14nm yielding and they say they are ready for EUV? Good luck with that.
 

Fred Chen

Moderator
EUV is a good example of that. Intel could not make it work for 10nm yet TSMC has EUV at 7nm, 5nm, and 3nm. Samsung also has EUV working but with less success than TSMC. SMIC can't get 14nm yielding and they say they are ready for EUV? Good luck with that.
It's simply a matter of having bought how many EUV tools, then you're stuck with them. So then you have to develop the cleaning procedures, etc.
 

benb

Member
Semiconductor manufacturing is mostly chemistry, with some physics. The science can be found in different departments in universities, chemical engineering, and physics engineering.

It should be possible for a person with the right academic credentials to be able to do something with these skills, put them to use, and make useful, correct decisions. Be able to do the work. But this isn't what happens. You need mentors and a learning environment, and some freedom. This is rare, and if you are in Japan, or Singapore, or Europe, the experts have all retired, there is no way to learn.

So there is a brain drain, and a big gap between what a graduate knows and what she/he needs to know. That's what is holding China back. Not just China, basically the whole industry.
 

GloryDaze

New member
I think it's mostly material science and chemistry. There is a tremendous amount of know how that can only be learned on the job, no course or seminar could ever teach all of the tricks of the trade that go into semi process development and manufacturing. The US had a huge amount of know how in two major leading edge R&D teams...at Intel and IBM and there's only one left now.
 
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