Want to learn what a semiconductor process engineer does? Learn what processing engineering is and all the responsibilities that come with semiconductor process engineer jobs. Find out about all the skills a process engineer needs to perform their role and what their day is like working in a highly demanding semiconductor manufacturing environment.
Process engineering is about designing, implementing, controlling, and optimizing the various chemical processes and equipment that turn raw materials into a finished product. A process engineer is a highly skilled and qualified person who performs these duties. They may work in an office or a laboratory setting and are also posted onsite at manufacturing plants to monitor and be in charge of operations.
A process engineer’s main role is to research and develop new manufacturing processes and equipment. The main goal of this is to drive continuous process improvement to increase manufacturing yield, increase efficiency, and reduce costs. They also need to ensure any new processes or equipment are fully compliant with internal company protocols and external regulations. Simply creating innovative technologies and solutions and introducing them into the production environment is not enough. They have to be certified and comply with a specified industry standard as well.
A process engineer needs to perform regular testing and monitoring of these processes and provide reports to upper management based on collected data. They also have to be good project managers and have impeccable technical writing skills.
Process Engineering in the Semiconductor Environment
The global demand for semiconductor equipment is extremely high at the moment. Semiconductor-based technologies are present in everything from solar cells to the powerful integrated circuits that make up nearly every type of modern consumer device. These devices are also getting smaller, more powerful, and more complex every year. Fabricating semiconductor components to meet this demand presents major challenges to the process engineers who work in the semiconductor industry.
Semiconductor manufacturing involves process development in multiple areas. A semiconductor process engineer has a role to play in photolithography, ion implantation, and wet etching. These processes alter the electrical properties of the semiconductor materials and create the circuitry that transforms them into powerful microchips that power our modern devices. A semiconductor process engineer gets involved in developing, integrating, scaling, and performing quality control over the processes from a lab to the factory floor.
What Do Semiconductor Process Engineer Jobs Involve
A semiconductor process engineer needs to be qualified and demonstrate strong technical skills to perform their duties. They need knowledge of materials science, understanding of the manufacturing steps involved, experience in how manufacturing equipment works, as well as project management and IT literacy to handle all of the process engineering responsibilities mentioned below.
Understanding of Semiconductor Device Properties
Semiconductor devices exhibit unique electrical properties based on their chemistry, physics, and structure. A process engineer needs to have a strong grasp of the underlying fundamental principles, such as band theory that makes semiconductor devices work, their material science, and how their electrical properties vary. To learn more about this topic, read Understanding the Chemistry of Semiconductors.
Semiconductor fabrication is the manufacturing process that turns raw materials into a finished semiconductor device which is a building block of more sophisticated electronic products. This involves growing artificial silicon ingots, cutting these into disc-shaped slices called ‘wafers’, followed by etching and depositing to create the circuit layouts on the surface of a wafer.
Etching can be a dry process using plasma-based techniques or a wet process using liquid chemicals. Each method has its benefits and drawbacks, which have an effect on the type of semiconductor devices that can be produced, as well as costs and safety concerns. To learn more, read What Is Dry Etch Semiconductor Processing?
After the circuit layouts are created, the wafers are then cut into separate ‘dies’, each containing the desired circuit that will be packaged to form a microchip. A semiconductor process engineer needs to understand the steps involved, as well as the equipment and raw materials used since they are responsible for monitoring and controlling this process.
Semiconductor Process Development and Integration
A process engineer has to design new processes and introduce them into the production line to obtain improved material properties of the finished product. New production lines may need to be opened if the existing ones don’t work for the next generation of semiconductor devices.
This will involve an understanding of process recipes, control plans, and process flow diagrams to communicate the new process to the rest of the production team. A process engineer will need to run simulation programs to predict device performance during the development cycle before they implement any changes to the process.
Improving Quality and Manufacturing Yield
In high-volume manufacturing, it is important that a newly introduced process produce devices capable of better performance but also be produced at a high yield to make it worthwhile. A process engineer needs to identify any issues that may be leading to manufacturing defects, understand the root cause, and take corrective actions to minimize this. One way to identify issues is to inspect the wafers during manufacturing through the use of semiconductor imaging techniques. Through this, a process engineer can minimize defects that compromise the performance of semiconductor devices and optimize the yield.
The latest equipment used in manufacturing produces real-time data, which can be collected and analyzed by a process engineer. This new technology process can reveal trends and give clues to which parameters can be adjusted to optimize manufacturing. It is also a great way to measure the performance of a newly introduced process or equipment in the production line.
Industry 4.0 smart manufacturing methods such as the Internet of Things (IoT) and big data analysis are now being implemented in the semiconductor field and have the potential to make a massive difference. A process engineer needs to stay on top of this type of technology development to perform their duties better.
Working In Cleanroom Environments
Semiconductor fabrication is done in cleanrooms where the environmental conditions are tightly controlled. This is to prevent contaminants like dust particles from settling on top of the delicate semiconductor wafers and compromising their integrity. A semiconductor cleanroom comes with special air-filtration systems, unique room designs, work benches, and protocols to carefully control their environment. Internal process engineers who work in a fabrication plant need to understand these protocols and follow them precisely.
Using Equipment and Maintenance
The industrial-grade equipment found in semiconductor manufacturing plants requires certified professionals to handle them. Not only do they need to understand how to properly calibrate the instruments, but a key process engineer assigned to a specific stage in production has to be able to identify any issues or faulty equipment that may lead to manufacturing defects in the products.
Fortunately for them, this is now simplified since most modern manufacturing equipment comes with sensors that warn their operators if anything is amiss and may even have advanced predictive systems that notify if preventative maintenance is required.
A semiconductor process engineer has to draft reports detailing the performance of newly introduced processes or equipment and specification documents that describe the steps, the recipes of raw materials, and the precise calibration of instruments used during manufacturing. Any newly introduced process has to be properly documented, and training materials need to be prepared for the various technicians and production team members that are involved in it.
Why Are Semiconductor Process Engineer Jobs in High Demand?
In addition to an electrical engineering degree and technical know-how, a semiconductor process engineer needs excellent communication skills to work with the production team and problem-solving skills to successfully resolve issues that may arise during their duties. The frequently changing challenges and demanding nature of this role mean that semiconductor process engineer jobs are always in high demand since not many are capable of handling it. To learn how to be a process engineer, read How to Qualify for Semiconductor Engineer Jobs.
Moving Forward with Inquivix Technologies
In conclusion, semiconductor process engineers play a pivotal role in bridging the gap between theoretical design and practical application within the constantly evolving field of technology. They hold the keys to innovation, optimizing processes, troubleshooting, and actualizing the production of semiconductor devices. Their increasing demand in the industry is a clear testament to the indispensable role they play in propelling our digital world forward.
We hope you learned something valuable about semiconductor production from this blog. If you want to learn more, we regularly bring you information on the semiconductor industry in our Insights section. Inquivix Technologies is a premier distributor and exporter of semiconductor parts and equipment from South Korea. If you are looking for high-quality industrial products used in semiconductor manufacturing, we are your best solution. Check out our products and contact us for more information.
A semiconductor process engineer designs, implements, controls, monitors, and optimizes the manufacturing processes and equipment that is used during the production of semiconductor components and devices.
Yes. A semiconductor process engineer will require knowledge of the chemistry and physics of semiconductor materials to understand how their electrical properties work and to optimize manufacturing processes that improve these qualities.
Yes. Qualified process engineers are highly valued in the semiconductor manufacturing industry due to the demanding role and responsibilities that come with this position.