What Are the Differences Between Wafers and Chips?

Research says the global semiconductor industry will reach a whopping market size of 1,380.79 billion in 2029. From smartphones to medical equipment to automobiles, semiconductors have become an essential component of modern-day life.

Their importance is only set to increase in the coming years. Semiconductor manufacturing involves the use of advanced technologies to produce electronic components. Two of the primary materials used in this process are wafers and chips.

Although these terms are often used interchangeably, they refer to distinct components that play different roles in the semiconductor manufacturing process. What is a wafer and what is a chip? Let's explore.

What Is a Wafer?

Wafers are thin, circular slices of silicon that serve as the substrate for the semiconductor manufacturing process. They are made of highly purified silicon that is grown in large ingots. These are then sliced into thin wafers using advanced cutting techniques.

The resulting wafers get polished to a high degree of flatness. They are several inches in diameter. Though larger wafers are now more common.

Wafers serve as the foundation for the semiconductor manufacturing process. They provide a consistent and uniform substrate for the deposition of various materials. They also etch complex patterns.

The silicon wafers used in semiconductor manufacturing are pure. They have impurity levels on the order of one part per billion.

This purity is critical to the performance of the resulting electronic components. Even small impurities can cause defects that impair the device's functionality.

What Is a Chip?

Chips refer to the electronic components that manufacturers create on the surface of the wafer. These components can include different parts. Such as:

  • individual transistors
  • diodes
  • complete integrated circuits containing millions of transistors

The creation of these components involves a complex series of steps. This includes the deposition of various materials on the wafer's surface. It also includes the patterning of these materials using advanced lithography techniques. Plus, the etching of the desired structures.

The resulting chips get tested in a thorough manner to ensure that they meet the desired performance specifications. Manufacturers do this before packaging and selling them.

The production of wafer chips can happen in large quantities on a single wafer. One can also produce many chips on a single die, resulting in compact and efficient electronic devices.

The Differences

Wafers and chips are both critical components of the semiconductor manufacturing process. But they serve different roles. Wafers provide the substrate on which to build chips.

Chips are the electronic components built on the wafer's surface. While wafers serve as the foundation for the semiconductor manufacturing process, chips are the end product. They contain the electronic components used in various devices.

Understanding wafer and chip differences is essential for industry players. It can help to ensure that the resulting electronic devices are of the highest quality and performance.

Your Manufacturing Partner

You now understand what is a wafer and what is a chip. You know the different roles they serve in the creation of electronic devices. For those in the industry who need high-quality test wafers, Silyb Wafer Services offers a range of solutions to meet your needs.

We have a strong commitment to quality and customer satisfaction. We provide reliable and efficient test wafers for semiconductor manufacturing and research applications. Contact us today to learn more about our offerings and how they can help meet your wafer needs.

Published June 22, 2023.