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Thursday, March 3, 2011
It's A Living - Part 9
A 300mm tool that I helped install.
In 1999, I was looking to boost my income, so I left the world of cash registers and made a career move to
SCP Global Technologies. It no longer exists because it was taken over by Akrion Systems.
SCP manufactured "wet benches" for the semiconductor industry with which silicon wafers are processed and eventually become computer chips, to put it simply. My job was to go as part of a team to various places, nationally and internationally, to install wet benches. At the time, our primary customers were Intel and Motorola. It was very interesting work and very multifaceted. The machines, referred to as 'tools', contained various technologies, including:
1. Robotics to move the silicon wafers around.
2. Pneumatics to control valves.
3. Computers to manage the automation.
4. Fire suppression systems for safety.
5. Ultrasonic systems for cleaning.
6. Plumbing to handle the fluids.
7. Plastic welding technology to fabricate the tool.
8. Electrical technology for the power distribution through the tool.
9. Chemical engineering to develop the proper 'recipies' to process the silicon wafers.
10. Air filtration systems to keep the air clean to a 'Class 10' category where there are no more then 10 particles that are ≥0.5 µm per cubic foot.
Because the air has to be kept very clean, anyone working around the tools has to wear a 'bunny suit'. A person's body is loaded with contaminants that can get into the processing equipment and ruin the product. A tiny particle smaller then cigarette smoke particles can get onto the silicon wafer and literally 'short out' the micro circuitry on it. So to prevent this, we cover ourselves up.
300mm Silicon Wafer
One of the worrisome parts of the job was working around dangerous chemicals. These were necessary to process the silicon wafers by dipping them into hot chemical baths. Some of these lovely liquids were hydrochloric acid, sulphuric acid, and hydroflouric acid, among others. Hydrochloric and sulphuric you can feel if it gets on you, because it burns. Hydroflouric, however, you don't really notice, if it gets on you, because it is quickly absorbed into the skin and interferes with nerve function, so you don't feel it. It has an affinity for calcium and will react with the blood calcium and cause cardiac arrest. I have also heard that, because it reacts with calcium, it can break down the bone material in your body. Nasty stuff!
After almost four years, I was laid off from SCP. The semiconductor industry is very unstable with constant hirings and lay offs. To add to the mix, SCP was in financial straits and had to trim down. So they let a bunch of people go. Deep down, I was somewhat relieved, partly due to the dangers in the job, and partly because all the traveling was starting to get old.
Take heart! The next installment of this series is the last!.....