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2.2. WHERE MEMORY COMES FROM
MAKING THE CHIPAmazing but true: memory starts out as common beach sand. Sand contains silicon, which is the primary component in the manufacture of semiconductors, or "chips." Silicon is extracted from sand, melted, pulled, cut, ground, and polished into silicon wafers. During the chip-making process, intricate circuit patterns are imprinted on the chips through a variety of techniques. Once this is complete, the chips are tested and die-cut. The good chips are separated out and proceed through a stage called "bonding": this process establishes connections between the chip and the gold or tin leads, or pins. Once the chips are bonded, they're packaged in hermetically sealed plastic or ceramic casings. After inspection, they're ready for sale.
MAKING THE MEMORY MODULEThis is where memory module manufacturers enter the picture. There are three major components that make up a memory module: the memory chips, PCB, and other "on-board" elements such as resistors and capacitors. Design engineers use CAD (computer aided design) programs to design the PCB. Building a high-quality board requires careful consideration of the placement and the trace length of every signal line. The basic process of PCB manufacture is very similar to that of the memory chips. Masking, layering, and etching techniques create copper traces on the surface of the board. After the PCB is produced, the module is ready for assembly. Automated systems perform surface-mount and through-hole assembly of the components onto the PCB. The attachment is made with solder paste, which is then heated and cooled to form a permanent bond. Modules that pass inspection are packaged and shipped for installation into a computer.