Plasma Etching: Process, Machines and Applications

The plasma etching process is used in various industries to make parts for products.

It is an effective way to cut, shape, and finish a wide variety of materials, including metal, glass, silicon wafers, plastic, and other surfaces that are difficult to machine.

Plasma etching machines can be divided into direct current (DC) or alternating current (AC).

This blog post will explore plasma etching together with the machines and specialists who perform the process.

What is plasma etching?

    Plasma etching uses plasma to remove material from a surface.

    The plasma is created by passing an electrical current through a gas, which causes the gas to break down into its component atoms and molecules.

    These atoms and molecules are then heated to very high temperatures, resulting in a hot, ionized gas called a plasma.

    The plasma etching process can be used to cut, shape, and finish a wide variety of materials.

    The most common applications are in the manufacture of semiconductor devices and microelectromechanical systems (MEMS).

    In semiconductor manufacturing, plasma etching is used to create the intricate patterns of lines and holes that form integrated circuits.

    Laser etching is often used in conjunction with plasma etching to produce high-resolution patterns.

    The term “plasma etching” may mean different things depending on the industry or the company using the process, but it most commonly refers to chemical milling (CMP), a semiconductor manufacturing process.

    plasma etching

    What machines are used for plasma treatment?

    Plasma treatment uses plasma’s reactive properties to alter a material’s surface using a process called chemical milling.

    It operates on the principle that a plasma generates free radicals that are chemically active and, therefore, able to alter the material’s surface chemically.

    Plasma treatment is performed using an etching machine capable of generating plasmas at various pressures.

    The most widely used pressure range for plasma processing is between 0.3 Torr and 10 Torr. The machines used for plasma treatment are called plasma etching machines.

    The plasma etching machines are direct current (DC) and alternating current (AC).

    Direct Current (DC) Etching Machine: A direct current etching machine uses a single DC power supply to create the plasma.

    This machine is simpler and less expensive than an AC etching machine, but it can only be used to etch electrically conductive materials.

    Alternating Current (AC) Etching Machine: An alternating current etching machine uses a power supply that produces a rotating magnetic field.

    This type of machine can be used to etch non-conductive materials and conductive materials.

    An AC etching machine can be more complicated and expensive than a DC machine, but it has other advantages to its widespread use.

    plasma etching process

    Who does plasma etching?

     

    There are two types of professionals who work on plasma etching.

    Plasma Etchers

    • Perform plasma etching by operating the plasma etching machine, creating a chemical reaction between material surface and gas to remove unwanted materials
    • Engineers make sure that the equipment is working properly
    • Maintain current knowledge of semiconductor manufacturing and new product development

     

    Materials Scientists

     

    • Work with the engineers to develop a plan for etching the material and understand how the plasma affects the surface of the material
    • Test different materials and gases to find the best combination for etching
    • Evaluate results of etching and suggest changes to improve the process.