Integrated circuits are a combination of wide-ranging electronic circuits integrated into a semiconductor chip. They are designed to perform the advanced computational functions which are used in key processor programs. Let's learn more about these fascinating integrated circuits.
While global semiconductor sales were $412 billion in 2019, down slightly from 2018's all-time high, the overall industry remained strong, with U.S. companies accounting for nearly 50 percent of the market. The artificial intelligence (AI) related semiconductor market had revenue of $6 billion in 2019, and will exceed $30 billion in revenue by 2022, with an expected annual growth rate (CAGR) of nearly 50%.
Semiconductors: The Heart of the Electronics Industry
"Semiconductor" refers to the key components of millions of electronic devices used in education, research, communications, healthcare, transportation, energy, and other industries. Today's personal computers, smartphones, automobiles, data center servers, and game consoles rely on semiconductors for their core computing and advanced functions.
When we operate a mouse, swipe a card, type on a keyboard, or speak into an electronic device, we expect immediate and accurate responses to our commands. The laptop's semiconductor-based central processing unit (CPU) and graphics processing unit (GPU) enable computing functions that instantly turn questions into answers.
What is a semiconductor?
Integrated circuits (ICs) are made from semiconductor materials, such as silicon, and are fundamental components of modern electronic devices throughout the commercial and consumer industries. These circuits must be able to act as electrically controlled on/off switches (transistors) to perform basic logic operations in a computer. To achieve this near-instantaneous switching capability, the circuit is constructed of semiconductor material, a material that has an electrical resistance between that of a conductor and an insulator. The manufacturing process of semiconductor devices requires the execution of multiple steps in specialized facilities called wafer foundries or wafer fabs. It takes years of industry experience and research to develop, design, manufacture, release, and service a single semiconductor product family.
Semiconductor companies must simultaneously produce multiple product families at different stages of the life cycle. Today's semiconductor manufacturing process is becoming more and more mature, and a standardized production process has been derived, from wafer (substrate + epitaxial) → design → manufacturing → packaging.
Semiconductor production is an extremely complex process with long lead times. Semiconductor production time can be affected by the level of complexity, but it takes an average of three to five years from initial research to finished product. Once a product is released, some customer contracts may require the supplier to continue supplying the product for a while.
What are semiconductor materials?
Semiconductors are some materials whose conductivity is between conductors and insulators. Among them, "silicon" is the mainstream semiconductor material, accounting for about 90% of the global semiconductor market. Secondary types of semiconductors such as gallium arsenide (GaAs) and indium phosphide (InP), mostly used in communication and sensing related products, have relatively small output values and application ranges. In terms of semiconductor materials, due to the difficulty in obtaining raw materials and processing difficulties, an oligopolistic market is formed.
What is an Integrated Circuit (IC)?
Integrated circuits consist of many tiny active and passive components. Active components include transistors and diodes, while passive components include capacitors and resistors. The surface of the chip is covered with a plastic shell to protect the numerous integrated circuits inside, and by combining multiple chips, electronic products can be manufactured.
In the past, circuits made to connect components such as resistors, capacitors, inductors, transistors, diodes, etc. were composed of copper wires. Due to their bulkiness, it was difficult to manufacture small electrical products. The development of integrated circuits has changed the face of electronics technology, and now circuits have much smaller dimensions but higher power and safety.
Integrated circuits are manufactured by doping different types of materials into a silicon substrate, to produce various semiconductor components. The materials doped into the silicon control the movement of electrons through the material, forming a so-called "electricity crystal".
Definition of Integrated Circuit:
An integrated circuit (IC) is a small chip of semiconductor material and the circuit material connected to the chip. The body is small compared to standard circuits composed of independent circuit components. The most commonly used IC is a single-crystal integrated circuit.
Integrated Circuit (IC) Design:
The analog design method is used to design integrated circuits, focusing on perfect power consumption, amplification, and resistance, and is mostly used in oscillators, filters and regulators.
Digital integrated circuits:
Microprocessors are digitally designed to use binary input data, which maximizes circuit density. This ensures maximum overall efficiency, and is mostly used in computer memory (such as RAM and ROM).
Hybrid designs combine the principles of analog and digital ICs. Mixed-signal ICs are used in digital-to-analog converters, analog-to-digital converters (D/A and A/D converters), and clock and timer ICs.
The structure of the integrated circuit (IC):
Integrated circuits (ICs) have complex structures composed of semiconductors interconnected by copper and other materials to form resistors, transistors, and other components. The cut and formed combination of these materials is sometimes called a wafer. The chip is very fragile, and the connection between the layers is also quite complicated. Since the integrated circuit chip is too small to be connected by soldering, the integrated circuit needs to be packaged into the common black chip which we are familiar with.
An IC is packaged in such a way that it can be easily connected to its application product. There are many different types of packages, each with a unique size and mounting style. Every pin and function in an IC is unique. Uniquely, ICs use notches or dots to represent the first pin, and once the first pin is identified, the remaining PINs increase sequentially around the die in a counter-clockwise fashion.
Characteristics of Integrated Circuits (ICs):
- Structure and Packaging: An integrated circuit consists of resistors, diodes, transistors, and capacitors, all connected with highly conductive connectors. Connectors are often made of highly conductive material such as gold to keep the chip from overheating.
- Dimensions of the integrated circuit: The size of integrated circuits varies from 1 square millimeter to more than 200 millimeters.
- Integration of integrated circuits: An integrated circuit can combine many different devices with just one chip. A single integrated circuit chip can combine microprocessors, memory, ports, etc.
Technological trends in 5G, augmented and virtual reality, IoT, and autonomous driving are driving unprecedented demand for smaller devices with higher functionality, memory, and speed. From manufacturing and advanced packaging to component packaging and manufacturing, equipment support and maintenance, the industry is committed to continuously improving product performance, process efficiency, and yield to create more semiconductor applications.