How are modern integrated circuits manufactured?

I’ve worked with integrated circuits (I.C.s) since the 1960s, but haven’t been involved in their manufacture — only their application.

Haswell wafer
Intel Haswell wafer with a pin for scale
photo: Intel Free Press
Today’s integrated circuit manufacture is a high stakes capital intensive business whose players use trade secrets to maintain their market advantage. I’ve never been inside an I.C. “fab” (factory), so it was a treat to find an hour-long presentation by an industry manufacturing engineer on YouTube. The technologies used at nano dimensions are mind-boggling.

Here’s the excellent presentation, in full:

The speaker mentions that lithographic imaging of the mask is now being done at 193 nanometer (nm). As you can see, we’re well above visible light and on our way to x-rays(!). Here’s the electromagnetic spectrum in that region:

spectrum
Click for full-size
graphic by: Shigeru23

The presentation is aimed at the layperson and is filled with surprises. For instance, one gigabyte of semiconductor memory can be produced on a flat substrate within the diameter of a human hair. I give it two (gloved) thumbs up.

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