Microelectronics Technicians Career
Microelectronics technicians work in research laboratories assisting the engineering staff to develop and construct prototype and custom-designed microchips. Microchips, often called simply chips, are tiny but extremely complex electronic devices that control the operations of many kinds of communications equipment, consumer products, industrial controls, aerospace guidance systems, and medical electronics. The process of manufacturing chips is often called fabrication. About 182,000 people work as electrical and electronics engineering technicians.
Microelectronics Technicians Job Description
Microelectronics technicians typically assist in the development of prototypes, or new kinds, of electronic components and products. They work closely with electronics engineers, who design the components, build and test them, and prepare the component or product for large-scale manufacture. Such components usually require the integrated operation of several or many different types of chips.
Microelectronics technicians generally work from a schematic received from the design engineer. The schematic contains a list of the parts that will be needed to construct the component and the layout that the technician will follow. The technician gathers the parts and prepares the materials to be used. Following the schematic, the technician constructs the component and then uses a variety of sophisticated, highly sensitive equipment to test the component’s performance. One such test measures the component’s burn-in time. During this test the component is kept in continuous operation for a long period of time, and the component and its various features are subjected to a variety of tests to be certain the component will stand up to extended use.
If the component fails to function according to its required specifications, the microelectronics technician must be able to troubleshoot the design, locating where the component has failed, and replace one part for a new or different part. Test results are reported to the engineering staff, and the technician may be required to help in evaluating the results and preparing reports based on these evaluations. In many situations, the microelectronics technician will work closely with the engineer to solve any problems arising in the component’s operation and design.
After the testing period, the microelectronics technician is often responsible for assisting in the technical writing of the component’s specifications. These specifications are used for integrating the component into new or redesigned products or for developing the process for the component’s large-scale manufacture. The microelectronics technician helps to develop the production system for the component and will also write reports on the component’s functions, uses, and performance.
“You really need to have good communication skills,” says Kyle Turner, a microelectronics technician at White Oak Semi-Conductor in Virginia. “Not only do you have to let others know what you mean and explain yourself, you often have to train new employees in the specifics of our product.”
Microelectronics technicians perform many of the same functions of electronics technicians, but generally work only in the development laboratory. More experienced technicians may assume greater responsibilities. They work closely with the engineering staff to develop layout and assembly procedures and to use their own knowledge of microelectronics to suggest changes in circuitry or installation. Often they are depended upon to simplify the assembly or maintenance requirements. After making any changes, they test the performance of the component, analyze the results, and suggest and perform further modifications to the component’s design. Technicians may fabricate new parts using various machine tools, supervise the installation of the new component, or become involved in training and supervising other technical personnel.
Some microelectronics technicians specialize in the fabrication and testing of semiconductors and integrated circuits. These technicians are usually called semiconductor development technicians. They are involved in the development of prototype chips, following the direction of engineering staff, and perform the various steps required for making and testing new integrated circuits.