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  • Introduction to Semiconductor Processing

    SLEC Wiki-rtp-chamber-applied-jpgWe introduced you to Semitracks last week with an interview of their CEO, Chris Henderson. This week, we thought it might be worthwhile to continue that introduction with an overview of one of their more popular online and in-houses courses:

    Introduction to Semiconductor Processing.

    One of the big challenges in our industry for new people is the breadth of knowledge required to do one's job effectively. While many of today's universities put out electrical engineering graduates, many of them will not have had coursework specifically focused on the semiconductor industry. Chris mentioned to me that in a recent poll he did during an introduction class for engineering new-hires at a large US-based semiconductor company, only about 20% had taken a course in Semiconductor Processing (Wafer Fabrication), and less than 10% had taken a course in Semiconductor Testing, and none had taken a course in Semiconductor Packaging. These are fundamental activities of our industry, and yet few people knew anything about them. This means that upwards of 90% of all incoming engineers would require additional training in order to even have a basic understanding of how we make chips. Furthermore, although most engineers have had a course in statistics, they do not typically remember this information well enough for it to be useful in the industry's analysis efforts, that are so common with high volume manufacturing.

    Granted, there are universities that run research efforts in semiconductor fabrication, packaging and test, but the students that take these advanced courses or participate in the research efforts are graduate students (Masters and PhDs). The bulk of today's hiring in our industry is in the form of product and test engineers, as well as engineers that can help manage the company's interactions with the foundry. These roles are not typically occupied by PhD graduates, but instead by BSEEs. These individuals need to understand the manufacturing process, if for no other reason than to know how manufacturing impacts their work. In many instances, there are subtle interactions between wafer fabrication and design, wafer fabrication and test, wafer fabrication and packaging, and so on, that cause our industry great pains and grief. To even begin to address these problems, new product and test engineers need to have a basic understanding of these topics. They need to know the language, the terminology, the basic processes, and so on, to know what questions to ask.

    A useful analogy is interacting in a foreign language. Imaging you are the concierge at a hotel in a foreign country. If you see two people in a foreign country arguing at a counter over a problem they're having, and you don't know the language, you can't even begin to help them. Once you learn the language though, you can begin to understand their concerns and then come up with a way to help them. The better you learn the language, the better you'll be equipped to provide help. The same is true in our industry. If you don't have a basic understanding of the manufacturing process, you won't be able to help solve the problems that your company experiences.

    So Semitracks can help you learn this language then. If you're new to this industry, I would encourage you to look into "learning our language" by enrolling in a course like this. This is like taking the first year of a foreign language. Just like you begin to understand what people are saying in a foreign country after you take a year of their language, you'll learn enough to begin to understand how our industry works. You'll need further education to become truly effective, but this type of course provides the basis for that understanding, absolutely.