The Basics of Integrated Circuitry

What do microchips or chips in general all have? They feature an integrated circuit, which is essentially a semiconductor wafer on which millions of very tiny capacitors, transistors and resistors are fabricated.  According to phototooling toolbox specialists, an integrated circuit can function as a microprocessor,  RAM or random access memory, amplifier, counter, timer and as an oscillator. Integrated circuits are dubbed either as digital or analog depending on its inherent application.

Major Benefits Offered

Small Size & Weight – They are several thousand times smaller than discrete circuits, which mean that fabrication of many circuit elements in a single semiconductor material is possible.  In line with their tiny size is the small weight they possess owing to their miniature nature.

Low Cost – Due to the creation of hundreds of similar circuits on a tiny semiconductor wafer, low cost to produce is achieved. Mass production of integrated circuits made it as cheap as an individual transistor.

Reliability – According to precision photolithography experts, integrated circuits are much more reliable and require fewer need for interconnections because it negated the need to have soldered joints.

Low Power – Due to their diminutive size they require less power to operate which in turn creates more energy reserves in the device.

Easily Replaceable – Due to their low cost in production it is more convenient to replace rather than repair integrated circuits.

High Operating Speed- is achieved due to the disappearance of any parasitic capacitance effect.

Better Functional Performance – current technology allows for the creation of more sophisticated integrated circuitry to achieve better performance and speed. They also work quite well at extreme temperature conditions.

Limitations

In an integrated circuit the different components that form part of the small semiconductor chip as well as the individual components cannot simply be replaced or removed for whatever reason. If any part of the integrated circuit fails for some reason, the entire integrated circuit must be replaced.  Its diminutiveness also limits its power rating because it is not physically possible to create high power circuits that are more than 10 watts.

Regardless of its limitations one can see here that integrated circuits are an essential part of any electronic device and its evolution through the years is shown by the size, computing power and battery efficiency of our modern electronic devices.

Get the Full Image with Master Photomasks

Master photomasks feature the complete image or in technical terms the array of the final wafer, which is exposed in a single exposure.  According to calibration masks experts, the resolution is somewhat limited to about 1um-2 um but a lot of emerging technologies this is more than enough as throughput is already achieved.

The Process

Probably the most important step in the photolithography process is called mask alignment. For those not in the know, a photomask is a square glass plate that contains a patterned film on one section or side. This is then aligned with a wafer for the purpose of transferring the pattern onto the wafer surface. It is important that each photomask achieve alignment with the pattern.

Methods

Alignment

Once the mask has successfully been aligned with the pattern on the surface of the wafer, the photoresist is then exposed via the pattern present using high intensity ultraviolet light.  There are three primary exposure techniques for the process and these are: contact, proximity and lastly projection.

Contact Printing

In this phase of the process, the resist-coated silicon wafer is then brought into physical contact with that of the glass photomask. It is held on a vacuum chuck and the complete assembly goes up until contact of the mask with the wafer is achieved.  The issue with contact printing is that debris could get trapped in between the resist and the mask resulting mask damage that results in faults in the pattern created.

Proximity Printing

This process is quite similar to the contact printing approach with one exception: tiny gap measuring between ten to twenty five microns is maintained between the wafer and the mask during exposure. The purpose of the gap is to lessen mask damage. About 2 to 4 micron resolution are achievable with this type of printing method.

Projection Printing

In this process, mask damage is completely avoided. As described above, the image of the patterns on the mask is projected onto the resist-coated wafer. To get the high resolution needed, only a small section of the mask is imaged which is then scanned or stepped over the surface of the wafer.  Projection masks make use of pellicles and once the mask is certified free of faults or defects, the pellicle provides an additional layer of protection to make it free from any additional defects for the entire lifespan of the mask unless for some reason it acquires some damage.

A Primer on Reticles and Reduction Reticles

Reticles are basically a specific kind of photomask that features one or many images that will make up the final device. Usually the original design is scaled by a factor of 1x, 2x, 2.5x, 4x, 5x and 10x.  Reticles on the other hand are used in wafer lithography on step and repeat systems where the picture on the reticle is minimized through the system’s lens optics and then exposed onto the wafer substrate a lot of times in order to build up the complete array of devices that is covered on the wafer.

Reduction

According to photolithography specialists the process of reduction allows for smaller features to e integrated on the wafer as opposed to the original reticle. The problem with this however is that any mask error factors such as defects in linewidth and position are also reduced by the same magnification process.  Legacy reticles were created for exposure using G-line (436nm) and I-Line (365 nm) on step and repeat systems.

The increasing demand for tinier feature sizes also increased which also resulted in the need for shorter wavelength sources.  Reticle enhancement methods like the OPC or optical proximity correction approach and the Phase Shift Masks or PSM method assist to print smaller features than the wavelength of light, which in effect extends Moore’s Law into the sub-wavelength lithography.

Optical Proximity Correction

According to precision photolithography experts, is a method that is utilized in order to compensate for distortions that happen during sub-wavelength lithography or the printing of structures that are tinier than the wavelength of light used.

Phase Shift Masks

These are utilized to extend the resolution ability as well as the image contrast of the stepper or scanner. There are a number of different types of phase shift masks used by one method stood out to adhere to specifications required.  EaPSM or embedded attenuated PSM is used for the contact and via layers which consist of the devise pattern being imaged on a semi-transparent layer that features a chrome coating at the edge so as to support mask alignment and provide protection to the peripheral sections from damage.

Photomasks – Critical in Microlithography

When it comes to the microlithography process, photomasks play an integral role in the manufacture of micro-electro-mechanical systems or MEMS, integrated circuits or ICs and phototonic devices.  According toproximity photomasks experts, a typical photomask consists of a fused silica or glass substrate that is then coated with an opaque film where an accurate replication of the device designer’s design is then etched.

Quality

Aside from an excellent degree of pattern fidelity, photomasks need to adhere to a number of factors like linewidth control or critical dimension, pattern placement, defectivity and lastly customer expectations.

Masters Sub Masters and Copy Masks

When we talk about “masters, “sub-masters” and “copy mask” we usually refer to the 1x photomask. Reticles on the other hand refer to 2.5x, 4x and 5x stepper or scanner photomasks. A typical functioning device may need between five to forty distinct photomasks wherein one mask is used for each step in the process of fabrication. 

How are they Made?

According to PARCAM software specialists, a typical photomask is created by the exposure of the designer’s pattern onto ta resist coated chrome mask blank. The latent image in the resist is then developed in order to create the needed pattern.  The resist image then behaves like a mask during the process of etching. The pattern is then transferred into the chrome film when the resist layer is then removed.  The pattern undergoes an inspection process to check for any fault that could have an impact on its precision and functionality and if so warranted is then repaired as needed.  Finally, a protective pellicle is connected in order to complete the overall process.

Photomasks were first used in the creation of integrated circuits in the 60s and 70s. In those days no one had an inkling that forty plus years later it would still be routinely used in optical lithography for the purpose of printing structures that are smaller than the wavelength of light.

The True Value of Microlens Arrays

The True Value of Microlens Arrays

When we talk about Microlens arrays we are referring to microlenticular arrays or even lenslet arrays. These are used to increase the optical fill factor in CCDs like interline-transfer devices that are limited by reduced aperture because of metal shielding. According to IGI plotter experts, these tiny lens aim to focus and concentrate light onto a photodiode surface as opposed to letting it dissipate on non-photosensitive sections of a device where it becomes lost from the information that is collected by the CCD.

How does it Work

A very small optical lens is placed in a strategic position over a dye layer and metal shield of a photodiode. The Microlens array are either placed in parallel arrays during the CCD fabrication or simply made from quartz material that is then placed on the array surface during packaging.  According to view phototooling specialists specialists, each lenslet features a high quality optical surface that contains refractive elements that range in size from several hundred to about 10 microns. The quality of these lenses is very exceptional that they are of equal value to single-element lens.

Significance

The addition of microlens array to the CCD photodiodes increases the optical fill factor by about three times its value. Moreover, increasing the fill factor also gives a corresponding increase in the sensitivity of the photosite. We can then appreciate a better performance of the interline-transfer CCD imaging arrays that feature lateral overflow drains and a good amount of shielded pixel space.  Normally, these devices are burdened by reduced optical fill factors due to the reduced active pixel area when compared to the sum of the total pixel size.

Limitations

Limitations are outweighed by the resulting increased sensitivity of the devices having these optical components present. A limitation that can be expected occurs when light rays from outer portions of the pixel concentrate onto a nearby lens, which result to a mis-registration.  To correct the problem, better quality lenses are required to create images on these arrays.

Useful Lead Generation Techniques for the Home Remodeler

Lead generation is by far one of the most important activities that any home remodeler needs to do each month. Without new leads to pursue, there will be no new customers.  Whether it be new homebuilder leads or remodeling leads the golden rule to remember is that not all is ready to purchase or inquire about your services when they land on your site.  However, that does not mean they will never be. The trick is to ensure they remember how they found your site when they are ready to contact you.  Here is how to develop leads and turn them into paying customers.

Write Valuable Content

One useful method to get your renovation marketing in motion is to create content that is appealing and offer tons of value to your customers. You can write an eBook or whitepaper article that is practical and easy to implement. This should be focused on how to purchase or invest in properties and more importantly how to save lots of money in the process or how to make some in the industry.

Some useful topics to get you on the right track would be:

  • 5 Ways to bring down the cost of your Mortgage
  • 10 Ways to get affordable financing for your new home
  • 3 Secret strategies wealthy investors use to get profit from custom homes

Get their Emails

Once you have your new content ready, the next step would be to create a sign-up section on your blog sidebar which requests visitors email address and nothing else. Studies show that the less personal information you try to farm from customer the higher the chance they would provide it willingly. Each time you write a new blog piece email your prospects about it and then get some feedback. This will help your content marketing and will put you into a more stable position as an expert.

Ramp Up Engagement

Once you have their email address, ramp up engagement with your customers by creating not just one email post but also an email series offering more value that is above and beyond the whitepaper or eBook.  The first few emails should lead them to look forward to the next ones and the last few will begin prompting them to take action while the last one would be the sales letter.

Social Media Marketing for Home Remodelers

If done right, social media is one very effective means of sparking conversations about your products and services.  All the large companies use it but should you jump on the same bandwagon if you own just a  small business?  If you do not have a budget to get paid ads.  Create videos and memes you need to use social media differently.  Here is how to do it.

For Homebuilders

According to contactor sales experts, the first step is to establish a Google+ business account, Twitter profile and Facebook fan page. Wait… did not just say that we are not going to do that?  Do not get nervous as it will not cost you an arm and a leg to get these running as the maintenance of these sites will not take more than 5 minutes of your time each day. The only part where you need to pay a bit is the design of the social media profile in order to make it look as professional as possible. An amateur looking site will turn off a lot of potential customers so be warned.

Add Content

Social media will be useless without regular content so make sure you have a steady stream to post on your sites. Each time you add a new blog post to your main site, make sure you link these to your social media site. You can automate this using software available online so you do not have to manually perform the task.  Aside from the blog posts you need to keep your sites active with at least a couple of updates each day. You can post funny pictures, quotes, links to other relevant articles and so on. Do this regularly even if you do not yet have a lot of fans because Google checks your business’ overall social presence and considers it when ranking.

Getting Followers

Here is the tricky part as you will have to spend some in order to get some. The most efficient way to get followers immediately according to contractor sales training experts is via PPC or Pay Per Click  This is a good way of reaching your target audience.  Spend your money on search rather than simply putting everything on one big social media platter.

Social media marketing takes time and effort but the ROI is good especially if done right. Spend your money where it can do the most for your business and simply do the rest yourself.

How to do Effective Real-Time Marketing for Your New Home Business

Real-time marketing is the art of being relevant and timing is everything in order to implement a successful real-time marketing campaign. A perfect example is when the power went out during the Super Bowl, marketers for Oreo cookies quickly came out with a tweet showing a darkened cookie, saying “Power out? No problem. You can still dunk in the dark. “

Plan Ahead

The key according to remodeler sales conversion experts is to plan in advance.  The most common ones are major holidays, change in the seasons, good or bad weather etc.,  or if you own a business that deals locally then prepare for upcoming local events like town festivals or ball games.

For example:

Old Method: Have us remodel your bathroom and get what you’ve always wanted.

New Way: Get your remodeled bathroom done by Valentine’s Day and have a romantic home spa day date.

While it is true that you will never be able to plan for all things ahead. If you are thinking in the concept of real-time marketing, you can capitalize on things that happen regularly and put your own spin on it to make it more relevant for your business and the customer.

NewsJacking

This is a term that injects your brand into the news of the day, a creative twist that grabs the attention of readers.  It is important to be sensitive however because the last thing you need is negative publicity.  For example, The Red Cross newsjacked Hurricane Sandy by creating an app that was useful to get information about the storm or for informing others the were safe.  A bad way to do it is to put out an ad about fixing your home after a hurricane when you know that the event claimed lives.

Relevant

According to renovation marketing experts, relevance is everything  when it comes to real-time marketing and without it the whole point of the campaign would be moot and academic. The main focus of the exercise is to associate your brand with something that is relevant in the moment. Utilize news on real estate in order to encourage people to check out your remodeling products and services as opposed to selling homes outright. Take environmental issues to promote replacing a wooden deck with a stone patio or climate change news to promote green energy for existing homes.

The Importance of Good Referrals for your Remodeling Business

In any business, referrals are very important in order to get more leads and eventually more customers. Businesses that rely on “trust” like the home renovation/remodeling business need referrals like you need air as when it comes to something as important as building or maintaining  a home you want someone you can rely on.

Good Referrals Do not Just Appear Out of Thin Air

As a homebuilder or remodeler you have had clients in the past that have been absolutely thrilled about the work you have done and maybe they have told some of their friends and family about it but that can only take you so far.  You want to know how experienced homebuilders get numerous referrals all the time? They ask for it.  Even if your clients are happy with the remodel you’ve done for their home they won’t post it. If someone is happy with your remodeling job by all means ask him or her for a referral.

Great is better than Good Referrals

Why be stuck with good referrals when you can make great ones too? According to renovation sales experts, customers are not always eloquent to provide really good referrals. Sure the feedback is positive but it lacks something.  It is alright to edit comments as long as the meaning of the words do not change. There are times when you need to shorten the comment in order to make it clear. It is always a good idea to run the edited version by your customers and explain to them the need to emphasize o something and to make sure that the re-wording still reflects their thoughts.

Go Beyond

No one expects to read a bad referral about a business as this spells doom.  However, it is not enough to hear, “We love the new kitchen remodel you did for us.”  This does not tell a whole lot.  Remodeler sales training experts recommend that you request clients to describe the process or to select specific challenges that you as their remodeler was able to overcome for them. This will highlight your best work and net you more trust and a higher level of confidence with new and old customers alike.

Vital Remodeler Marketing Methods You Can Use with Past Customers

As a remodeler you are always probably on the lookout for new customers . Have you considered getting new business that came from a source that already knows you or has confidence in you? According to homebuilder sales experts, your past customers are a great source of new business as long as you stay in touch with them and let them be aware of what else you can do for them.  Here are some vital marketing strategies you can use with past clients.

Educate

In the home remodeler business there are always new trends and improvements that can help customers get what they want for their home. Email past clients and get permission if it is alright for you to show them the projects you are working on currently. Make sure to remind them how it was such a joy working with them and inquire if they would be curious in getting an occasional update from you that focuses on your most successful projects. It is important to tell them that it is ok to opt out anytime if they do not want to get information any longer.  It is an amazing way of showing them what you do as well as give them new ideas of projects they might be interested in undertaking with you.

Update

Inform past clients about new developments that you have seen as well as any new materials that might be good for their home. Remind them of your expertise in this field just do not forget that you are only informing and not selling anything. The message according to remodeler sales conversion experts should be is you are sharing information because you think it might be helpful, nothing more.

Provide Motivation

If you are headed towards the lean months of your remodeling business, you could consider offering past clients a limited time only promo like a discount. Inform them that there are some openings in your schedule and you prefer to be busy. If you are aware of some environmental rebates that will expire soon, do inform them about it and let the rebate money be the incentive for them. Offer a gift card for any referral  so that they feel that they are getting something in return for their efforts.