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Chip Assembly: Behind the scenes: Inside Intel’s advanced chip packaging, assembly, and testing facilities in Malaysia

It’s not every day that you get a chance to see the processors and chipsets that power your laptops, desktops, and other devices. We often associate chipmaking with fabrication, turning particles of sand into wafers, which is a quintessential step, and what happens next are critical steps in this whole complex journey.
intel took us on a special journey of advanced chip packagingAssembly and testing facilities are located on the island Penangand another in the mainland city Kulim, malaysia And it was quite an experience.
During the tour, we visited two facilities. Penang Assembly and Testing The (PGAT) facility is where the silicone die is assembled, verified, and tested for errors. Again, Intel Kulim Dye Sort Dye Preparation (KMDSDP) Convenience is where the real magic happens. The facility processes silicon wafers and prepares these silicon wafers for die preparation and classification for packaging and testing at Intel facilities around the world.

We’ve got silicon, but now, what after that

The Kulim Die Sort Die Prep (KMDSDP) facility has two main operations – die preparation and sorting. Nowadays, 300 mm wafers are produced as the standard size, and they are obtained in kulim. Here, they go through a series of processes that integrate them into individual chips.

intel malaysia 1

Wafers are attached to flexible Mylar sheets and undergo various processes, such as grinding and thinning into precise profiles, to create individual chips. Using vacuum and UV light, the chips are separated and placed in trays before sorting. Intel uses giant sorting modules to test and sort chips, as big as a bus, with 20 test cells weighing 1,000 pounds each. There was so much yellow that it seemed as if we were in Mexico.
A specially designed lifting mechanism that hovers above the floor using an air cushion operates these modules. The chips are loaded onto trays and distributed among different test cells.

dsdp intel

One of the tests is to ensure that the chips are reliable and free from defects; Each person undergoes testing using a test card. The test card contains thousands of thin needles, thinner than a human hair, which connect to integrated circuits inside the test device. This allows measurement of the chip circuit’s power and analysis of any defects that may be present.
Then, there are automated guided vehicles to transport these trays throughout the testing facility.
After going through a tray testing and characterization stage, it is returned to the area where the wafer was cut into individual chips. Chips that do not pass the test are discarded, thrown away, or recycled. Trays containing chips that successfully pass all tests are sorted and assigned a specific SKU. Each chip is removed from the tray and sealed between two film layers. The sealed chips are then rolled on reels and transported to assembly and test facilities located around the world for further processing.
Intel also makes its own testing equipment

intel sims

During the tour of Intel’s facility, we also toured the Systems Integration and Manufacturing Services (SIMS) facility, which manufactures test equipment for CPUs. Some of the machines manufactured at this facility include high-density burn-in (HDBI) testers, high-density modular tester (HDMT) testers, and system level testers (SLT). These devices are used by Intel facilities in Malaysia and around the world to test CPUs.
A glimpse at Intel’s testing practices
One of the assembly and testing facilities is in Penang, where these chips are received and undergo further processing and testing before reaching the OEM. Upon receiving the reels, the facility removes the die, and packages and tests the chips before distributing them. The assembly and testing process of the PGAT consists of six steps.

intel chip

The first is chip attach, where the chip is bonded to the substrate using the Phovaros face-to-face (F2F) chip-on-chip bonding process. An additional layer of epoxy underfill is added to remove microscopic gaps. The next step is to attach the Integrated Heat Spreader (IHS) using thermal interface material and adhesive. This allows efficient heat dissipation. Now, the CPU is ready, but there is one last step left before it is shipped to the OEM.

Malaysia Design and Development Lab

At the Design and Development Lab in Penang, the CPU undergoes burn-in, electrical and PPV testing. Chips are exposed to high temperatures and voltages to identify defects. Once passed, all electrical traces and functionalities are tested. Then, these undergo PPV testing, the purpose of which is to confirm functionality in real customer computer systems by simulating tests in a controlled environment. Now, these CPUs are finally ready to be loaded into trucks and reach their destination.

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