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  AMD's Fab 30, Simply Fabulous 
  Jan 15, 2003, 09:30am EST 

Copper Process

By: Sander Sassen

There’s a number of reasons why AMD opted to switch from aluminum to copper in their manufacturing process as it allowed their engineers to build smaller circuits of higher speed that are easier to manufacture and will scale much better in clockspeed. The driving force behind their adoption of the copper process is one that has many reasons. The most obvious being the fact that copper has less resistance than aluminum allowing them to build smaller circuits as the resistance of the wires would be smaller than that of comparable aluminum circuits. The lesser resistance also meant less power dissipation and in combination with the smaller circuitry a higher clockspeed. On top of that, the characteristics of copper make it less prone to the effects of electromigration that might prematurely end the life of a CPU and also have some benefits during the manufacturing process as copper CPUs can be manufactured in fewer steps and with less etching than aluminum.

AMD Fab 30 clean room

Fig 3. A look inside one of AMD’s clean rooms, the bunny suits are a requirement to keep it dust-free.

AMD’s Fab 30 was intended to be a plant that would solely manufacture copper-based CPUs from the start and only did a few test runs with aluminum based technology. The first engineering samples, actually a number of K6/2-266 CPUs, manufactured in copper were produced in 1999. Shortly thereafter AMD sought to secure an ISO certification for the Fab 30 facility before full production would commence. This would both secure their position as a high-quality facility which adheres to all the requirements of such a stringent certification as well as show their customers and competitors that they mean business. After validation of their facility and separate AMD-specific processes AMD’s Fab 30 was granted an ISO9002 certification before full production began in 1999 with their 1GHz Athlon CPU.

1. Introduction
2. CPU Manufacturing
3. Copper Process
4. Quality Control
5. SOI and Hammer
6. Conclusion

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