The Fans Applied in the Electronics Industry
The electronics manufacturing industry has been regarded as critical to many industries they lend a hand to, such as the telecommunications, electronic components, industrial electronics, and consumer electronics. Electronics manufacturing companies develop components that are inextricable parts of the electronic devices we use on a daily basis. This includes things as diverse as the cellphone you pick up first thing in the morning, to the television screen that you turn off at night.
With a global focus on more advanced emerging technologies and innovations, global electronics sales continue to grow year on year. However, this usually means that key players in these industries become threatened by the number of new competitors that are growing in numbers as well.
Companies that were previously focused on coming up with state of the art technologies could not grow as quickly anymore given the evolution and the turnover rate of newer technologies and new technological opportunities. To remain competitive, more companies are driving away from self-manufacturing and heading towards outsourcing.
Outsourcing in the Electronics Industry
Outsourcing what exactly? Well, in most electronic devices, their production starts off with the smallest, most important component – the drivers of the core processors or the integrated circuits (or more commonly known as a microchip) which are made up of semiconductors and transistors. It is usually these technologies that are being contracted, becoming a larger industry in itself.
Enter Electronics Manufacturing Services (or EMS), which created an all-in-one service vendor, laying a hand in the process from start to finish – from the design, assembly, manufacturing, and testing. This allows OEMS, Original Equipment Manufacturers, such as your brand owners to redirect their efforts towards building their competitive advantage – deferring to EMS companies to effectively improve their profit margins, leveraging on the fact that causes them little to no manufacturing infrastructure overhead.
The Electronics Industry and Microchips: How They’re Made
To create these microchips, the process usually begins with sourcing a material that operates how a semiconductor should. Most commonly, these semiconductors are made up of silicon – a metalloid – which makes it a good conductor of electricity under certain circumstances but can also act as an insulator during others.
Silica sand is converted to silicon through the process of mixing it with carbon and burning it at high temperatures. Silicon to be usable for the manufacturing process, has to be heated to 100% purity to ensure that the chips are working properly. The process output is an ingot monocrystalline silicon (cylindrical in shape), where the wafer-thin sheets are cut from. Once cut, these wafers move on to the next part of the fabrication process wherein it serves as a substrate.
The Importance of Microchips
So what makes integrated circuits or microchips so valuable? Within these small electronic parts, they hold transistors which drive how an electronic device is supposed to run and that means they hold millions of binary events – 1s and 0s – that dictate whether a button will mean that it switches on or off, to which light should turn change, what color, what speed will it blink, creating endless scenarios and variations. Microchips create the drivers for where electric currents pass through the boards and through the transistors which act as gates, helping complete which events get triggered or not.
Circuit boards, prior to its evolution, were simple answers to yes or no events, but in the mid-1950s, the integrated circuits were born scaling information and recreating them on a piece of silicon. Technology has taught us that, over time, the amount of information you can store grows inversely proportional to the storage unit’s size (ex. USBs or memory cards compared to the previous versions of it). Microchips are testament to that. And while circuitry design is one thing, to translate that is another. Fabrication plants of these microchips go through extreme measures to guarantee production output meets the contractor’s requirements, because when you’re talking of technologies that can be comparable to a grain of rice, or a hair’s width, the smallest dust particles that land on it renders that useless.
The Importance of Fans in the Microchip Process
Simply put, substrates are the base layers where the layers are built on and into. Since we’re talking of microscopic circuitry designs, the fabrication process of the microchip has to be done in a well-controlled environment; the slightest particle of dust that lands on the surface of the wafer will ruin it. This is where industrial fans (and its specific functions) come in.
Cleanroom fabrication has become a new practice being adopted in the manufacturing industry, which pertains to a controlled environment where the most critical aspect of the process requires all airborne impurities, contaminants, or microbes to be filtered out by high-technology fans that are efficient, heavy-duty, industrial-grade, and safe.
In the processing of silicon, it just requires that. In cleanrooms, airflow is one of the, if not the most, critical factors that needs to be controlled to create a high-yield production output.
Inside cleanrooms, the containment area has to have pressurized air – whether positive or negative air pressure. In negative pressure clean rooms, the most important factor here is to keep any contaminants from escaping the room. Having less air pressure inside the room allows an extra step that provides filtration, ridding the air from contaminants before it is released out. However, semiconductor and microchip fabrications adopt a positive pressure cleanroom in this regard. Positive pressure cleanrooms do the opposite of keeping air from escaping out, and that’s to keep air from flowing into these areas.
Industrial fans are applied into HVAC systems to allow cleanrooms to regulate the airflow inside and thus the most important role. To understand the roles of industrial fans in the electronics industry, let’s go over the main considerations in the production area – in particular, the cleanroom setup.
Main Considerations in a Cleanroom
- Inflow of Air
Managing the cleanroom requires the maintenance of a high-quality, workable atmosphere factoring in the production workers and the ability to mitigate the contaminants in the air. Industrial fans are selected to meet the demanding requirements to ensure that the levels of humidity, temperature, and constant air pressure are achieved.
For this purpose, high pressure industrial fans, backward curved impellers are fitting, connected to the inlets will allow the air to be suctioned through, creating a vacuum to direct airflow to the production area, keeping the same levels of pressure to match the requirements of the process.
- General Ventilation and the Maintenance of Airflow
During the process of etching the conductive layers on the silicon wafers (a process of printing done during photolithography – the different patterns define the circuitry imprinted on these boards), the building of layers and the process of etching require removing parts of the silicon wafer to be able to deposit layers of other materials to build the microchip. Through dry etching, the process creates toxic fumes and exhaust gases used to create the chemical reaction. However, if the chambers that encase these have proper suction and airflow, direct exposure to workers will be minimized.
Centrifugal fans are typically used for this application as these types are able to distribute airflow across vents to maintain static air pressure, compared to axial fans that distribute air across a larger surface area with more variability in output. More importantly, the cleanroom and the only reason it can be called as such is with the way airflow is managed throughout the production area. Most microchip manufacturers operate 24/7 to be able to meet the demands, and it is through the support of these industrial fans that they’re able to create a consistent cleanroom atmosphere.
- Air Filtration System
With the growing concern of their environmental impact, industries as big as electronics manufacturing have an increased social responsibility. Given the rampant growth of this particular sector, the manufacturing process, to meet the high demands, requires more process inputs and therefore, production wastes as a result.
These manufacturing companies use high quantities of water and mixing that with acids and other toxic chemicals have lately become a cause for concern. While the cleanrooms necessitate that the workers be decked in full apparel – minimizing exposure to hazardous material and simultaneously ensuring the air purity is kept constant – process outputs such as water waste, acid, and other harmful gases are byproducts of this manufacturing process.
As a remedy, air filtration systems, like the wet scrubber (a method of injecting reactants) is used, which allow the spraying of these reactants to come into contact with the hazardous gases. As a result, this removes the acidic gases in the airstream before it is released.
Wet scrubbers are usually high pressure industrial fans, whether backward curved or inclined, to serve its purpose. These particularly have to be acid resistant blowers, especially in most electronics manufacturing, that will withstand high concentrations of corrosive materials and gases. These fans allow for the air to move through the scrubber system and be able to exhaust clean air through.
For the production of microchips, these tiny pieces of information are etched or layered properly if and only when the production environment is pristine. This is why there is such great importance given to the building of electronics manufacturing facilities, including what kind of equipment is chosen, built, installed, and maintained in these facilities – industrial fans included.
For manufacturing companies, the cost of maintenance of these cleanrooms definitely outweighs the production wastes due to manufacturing defects; because pristine air quality – where no dust particles hover about – can only be attained when there is complete control of the air quality inside the production area and will be difficult to attain without integrating the right fan systems into the process.