A 22 year old boy he documented on his Youtube channel how managed to assemble a chip with 1200 transistors at home. His name is Sam Zeloof and he lives in New Jersey, not far from where the first transistor of the Bell Laboratories in 1947. “Maybe I’m being too optimistic, but if I think another human being could do it then so can I, even if it might take a little longer” said Zeloof, according to what we learn about Wired.
Can individuals come to the rescue of the industrial system?
The boy, who has dabbled in building chips since his teens, managed to shape the wafers using ultraviolet light and dipping them in acid by hand. Zeloof had already made a chip when he was still in school, in 2018. His second chip has 200 times more transistors than the first and, although it is much less efficient than an industrially produced chip, we can say she boasts of greater improvement. higher than that envisaged by the famous Moore’s law.
The next step is to match the complexity of the Intel 4004 chip: Produced in 1971, it was the first industrial microprocessor with 2300 transistors, and was used in calculators and in the first industrial machines.
To inspire Sam Zeloof was jeri ellsworthan electronics engineer and augmented reality device expert who previously worked for Valve, before being made redundant as part of an internal company reorganization. Ellsworth has a YouTube channel where she shows how chips can be made and used using makeshift objects. Today CEO of a startup, Tilt fivewhich deals specifically with augmented reality. “It’s very good to remind the world that these sectors, which apparently are the prerogative of large multinationals, started from much more modest places, garages, and that everyone can experience” said Elsworth.
Manufacturing computer chips is considered one of the most difficult and precise manufacturing processes. The manufacture of modern chips takes place in facilities whose cost type systems HVAC remove all traces of dust which could damage machines worth millions of dollars. Naturally Zeloof could not equip himself with machines of this type and, to compensate, he began to study chip manufacturing as it happened in the 1960s and 1970swhen engineers from pioneering companies like Fairchild Semiconductor they made shavings on ordinary workbenches.
Zeloof had to purchase a variety of equipment in order to complete his project. On eBay and other e-commerce sites, he found several tools from the 1970s and 1980s that once belonged to California-based tech companies that went bankrupt over the years. One of Zeloof’s best finds was a broken electron microscope that was worth $250,000 in the early 1990s, when it cost him around $1,000. He uses it to inspect his chips for defects.
One of the processes essential to the creation of a chip is the photolithography, which requires very expensive machines (around $150 million). The photolithography behind the transition from semiconductor designs to printed circuit boards. It involves coating the chip with a light-sensitive material and using a device such as a very high-precision projector to create a pattern to guide subsequent processing steps.
To overcome these limitations, Zeloof mounted a microscope on a conference projector and coated its slices with material sensitive to ultraviolet light. If it’s the first chip, lo Z1composed of only 6 transistors, already from the second generation, lo Z2Zeloof used a type of switching transistor based on wafers composed of a form of crystalline silicon known as polysiliconthat the semiconductor industry has been using since the 1970s.
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Each chip is acid etched and baked in an oven at approximately 1000 degrees Celsius, a process that serves to regulate the conductivity of phosphorus atoms. Then it takes at least three more passes of photolithography and one in a vacuum chamber filled with bright violet plasma to etch the polysilicon. These are steps that are also used by today’s semiconductor manufacturing.
Zeloof says he still hasn’t decided what to do after graduating this spring, but is considering how the do-it-yourself chip making can contribute to the modern technology ecosystem. As we know, the raw materials crisis has had a strong impact on chip production: Can individuals somehow come to the rescue of the industrial system? Much has changed from the past and robotic equipment and 3D printers are now within reach of ordinary citizens. “Despite these advances, chips are still produced in large factories”Zeloof said. “There is no progress in making chip manufacturing affordable”.
Jei Ellsworth adds that it could be useful to allow private production of high-quality chips. “The tools we have today could make processes affordable for small-scale operations and for some issues, I think that makes a lot of sense”, he pretends. Ellsworth says chip technology considered obsolete by large factories can still be useful for small-scale projects and DIY operations. Of course, it will be difficult to be able to build a PlayStation 5 with your own hands, but for minor calculation operations some skills could become invaluable.
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