A Fab Life: Everything you need to know about working in a cleanroom

By Engine Room Posted 9mth(s) ago Reading Time: A few minutes

A cleanroom in SSMC (Photo courtesy of SSMC)

Cleanrooms. While most of us have heard of it, not all of us have been inside one. Today, we demystify the cleanroom by showing you what it’s like to work from inside a wafer fabrication facility.

First things first. What is a cleanroom? Ultra high tech and home to multimillion-dollar equipment, cleanrooms are found in select industries like semiconductor manufacturing, pharmaceuticals and biotech. They are where the building blocks of ever-shrinking electronic devices, autonomous driving and just about every technological advancement you can think of are born.

There are more than 60 semiconductor companies in Singapore. Leading names like SSMC have cutting-edge wafer fabrication facilities that produce chips to power the most in-demand, next-gen IoT technology for our digital nation.

Cleanrooms are the heart of these facilities and where the critical production (or some might say, the magic) happens. Let’s take a look at how they came about and what the work looks like.

Humble beginnings

A silicon wafer in SSMC (Photo courtesy of SSMC)

It all started with a chip. A semiconductor chip, that is.

One of the most important inventions of our time, the humble semiconductor chip is central to all modern technology that we know today. From the laptop or smartphone that you’re probably reading this on, the smartwatch you might be clocking steps on, or any kind of card payments you make, everything is made possible by a tiny chip.

These chips are made from silicon, which are refined to 100% purity before it passes the bar for manufacturing. Paper-thin wafers of silicon are created from a series of processes to produce chips – to accomplish this, they must be created in pristine working environments, hence, the “cleanroom”.

A single strand of hair or speck of dust can have devastating effects on wafer quality. In fact, SSMC’s class 100 cleanrooms are 350,000 times cleaner than the outside environment!

Putting the clean in cleanroom

Working in a cleanroom requires you to wear the signature “bunny suit” – the coveralls, knee-high boots, gloves and face mask are all part of the look. Apart from looking cute while you work, this suit is germ-defying and lets you do some of the most important tasks while ensuring that your hygiene is at top-notch levels.

Bunny get-up aside, a semiconductor technician or process engineer plays an incredibly important role in these facilities. They monitor, test and maintain state-of-the-art machinery, and work daily alongside robots and AI that automate and digitalise the manufacturing operations. Sometimes, shift work is in the cards too (though if you have reservations about shift work, we tell you how to make it #werk for you).

It’s no secret that the semiconductor industry forms the backbone of modern technological advancements. In Singapore, it is a fast-evolving sector and highly resilient during these uncertain times, as semiconductor companies have increasingly moved up the value chain. To work in such essential services requires a special kind of individual – not one that needs to be decorated in academic achievements, but one excited by making an impact every day.

Ok, that’s enough talk. Come see what a cleanroom is like by taking a step inside our 360 tour of SSMC. 

For an immersive viewing experience, make sure you watch the video on your desktop browser or through the YouTube app on your phone. 

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