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Semiconductor Manufacturing
January 24, 2024

Forgings for Semiconductor Manufacturing

Do you know what the complete supply chain for semiconductor manufacturing looks like and what it takes to get those materials or build those machines?

Most people know that our modern economy runs on semiconductors, the tiny electronic brains for millions of devices, including space vehicles, car computers, smartphones, medical equipment, appliances and more. But do you know what the complete supply chain for semiconductor manufacturing looks like? Of course, initial thoughts are the elements that must be processed to create a wafer and the machines that do the processing. But what does it take to get those materials or build those machines?

As mining plays a huge role in obtaining the materials required for the wafers and producing the machines that make the wafers, so does forging in creating the components that are strong enough to withstand the processes to create a wafer. We learned during the COVID-19 pandemic that the vast majority of semiconductors were being manufactured and shipped from overseas. As chipmaking companies like Intel bring semiconductor manufacturing back to the U.S., setting up a complete supply chain will be key.

With cost being critical to semiconductor manufacturing, using near-net-shaped parts can help mitigate price differences from Asia to the U.S. Forged components are viable because they are stronger and more material efficient than other methods. Forgings for the machines that make semiconductors are made through the hot forging process, which is a metalworking process that involves heating a piece of metal until it is pliable and then shaping it into the desired shape using a die. The metal is cooled and hardened to achieve the desired properties, then finished and machined to the desired dimensions. This process is often used to create complex shapes and tight tolerances that have better properties than can be produced using other manufacturing methods.

Saving time and money, forged components are an excellent alternative to burning out or machining away bar or plate because of the near-net shaping capabilities. As a result, forgings can be found in various stages of semiconductor manufacturing, including wafer production machines, fabrication and packaging. Forgings used in semiconductor manufacturing are typically made from high-strength materials such as stainless steel or aluminum that have properties to withstand the high temperatures and pressures it takes to create wafers.

One common type of forged component used in semiconductor manufacturing is the base frame of the machine. The base frame is a structural piece that allows the machine to move seamlessly in all directions to produce chips. Base frames are typically made from a high-strength steel alloy or aluminum and are precision-machined to ensure a tight, secure fit within the lithography machine.

Another important forged component used in semiconductor manufacturing is the heat exchanger. These devices are used to cool the wafers during processing and are typically made from aluminum or aluminum alloy. They are designed to maximize heat transfer between the hot process fluids and the coolant and are often precision-machined to ensure optimal flow and heat transfer.

Forged components are also used in semiconductor packaging, which is the final step in the manufacturing process. These include lead frames and substrate carriers, which are used to hold and position the semiconductor die during the packaging process. Lead frames are typically made from a high-strength steel alloy, while substrate carriers generally are made from aluminum alloys.

Overall, forged components are important in the semiconductor manufacturing supply chain. Selecting a forging partner who is reliable and will work to manufacture the most effective part for your needs will help ensure this type of work comes back to the U.S. It will also help the machine shops working with these large OEMs or bidding on projects have better opportunity for success.