Monday, June 25, 2007

Chip Fabbing

Chip Fabbing

If you have a one-track mind that thinks chips and wafers are only about food, think again. There’s a lot of jargon you’ve probably heard every day that applies to the manufacture of chips (the silicon kind you put in gadgets), too.

Fab: 1. v. To “fabricate” chips once they’ve been designed. E.g. “These designs are ready to be fabbed.” (also see foundry). 2. n. The production system itself—“Did you hear about AMD’s new fab line in <insert city name here>?”

Note: Should never be interpreted as “fabulous.”

65nm n. : The latest chip manufacturing process. The name means that the transistors on the chip are 65 nanometres (a billionth of a metre) wide. For reference, your hair is about 80,000 nanometres thick.

Nanoacre n. : An area about 2 square millimetres on a chip design—the smallest acre. Really, though, a nanoacre can cost as much as an acre of land if you factor in all the expenses. Foundry n. : The company that does the fabbing. Few chip design companies have their own foundries—these facilities eat up billions of dollars just by existing.

Wafer n. : What results when you cut up a silicon crystal into thin slices. Chips are built on wafers. Note: These wafers are inedible, and perhaps even toxic.

Doping v. : The process of adding silicon to make it conduct electrons better—in its pure form, silicon is about as useful as the sand it’s made from. So if you hear someone talking about “doping silicon,” the connotation isn’t as negative as it might seem. And now, the best way to explain away a chip malfunction:

Magic Smoke n. : A supposedly magical blue smoke that is present inside all chips and keeps them from going “poof!”. E.g. “It failed? All right, WHO let out the magic smoke?”

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