Hesperian Health Guides

Hesperian Health Guides

Making the individual chips

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HealthWiki > Workers' Guide to Health and Safety > Chapter 4: Electronics factories > Making the individual chips

illustration of the below: an integrated circuit.

The chips built up on the wafers are then cut into individual chips and glued onto ceramic or plastic frames. Very tiny electrical connections are soldered or bonded to the chip, and dozens of metal connectors are soldered onto the base frame. The chip is then covered with plastic or epoxy which is heated and melted to form a shell. The chip on a frame is called an integrated circuit (IC).

Chemicals and repetitive work are important dangers workers face in this area. ICs can also break and release chemicals into the air.

Soldering and wire bonding: Workers are exposed to chemicals in solder and flux, and to the degreasers and solvents used to clean the soldered connections (see Soldering, and metals and fluxes in Appendix B).

Encapsulation: Brominated- or phosphorous-based flame retardant chemicals are added into the plastic shells to make them more resistant to heat (see Flame retardants). Workers are exposed to chemicals in the epoxy as it is heated.

Trim and form: Cutting, forming, and tooling the wires to a specific shape can cause repetitive motion strain injuries (see Chapter 7: Ergonomics). Workers are also exposed to solvents used to clean tools.

Marking, testing, packaging, and inspecting: The chip will be marked with ink or lasers, tested and packaged. Workers inspect wafer and ICs with magnifiers, computers screens, or X-ray machines. Inspection is hard on the body, especially the eyes. Keep your eye muscles strong and reduce strain by regularly looking away at something across the room. While this is no substitute for regular rest breaks, it is a good way to supplement them and protect your eyes.

a worker looking down into a magnifier.
First look at something close to you.
the same worker looking up at a clock on the wall.
Then look away to something about 3 to 4 meters away for 20 seconds.
Do this a few times each hour. Also, scan the room: hold your head still and move your eyes up one wall, around the ceiling, and down the other wall.