High school student built chip fab in his garage


Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2017/12/26/high-school-student-built-chip.html


His work is incredibly cool and a bit nuts (many universities have small fabs to play with). I did not spot a total in his blog of how much he spent but it must be substantial, even with repaired scrap equipment. He must have run an entire new main circuit box on his home to handle the amount of power some of that equipment draws.

As a warning to others who might be inspired, he is also handling hazardous chemicals (e.g. “piranha” bath for wafer clean and HF acid for wet etch) and other industrial hazards to be aware of – high voltage, high vacuum, high temperatures, and possible cryogenic materials (I did not spot liquid nitrogen ‘traps’ or cryopumps mentioned but it would be common).

I am a little surprised he did not go toward safer purely “dry” etch techniques, like non-reactive ion beam milling. But the etch endpoint is more difficult to determine and maintain than with wet etch.


Amazing. It reminds me of that kid that made a nuclear reactor in his shed. Some people are so innovative.


Highly suspicious. They haven’t outlawed this yet?


Hmmm I wonder if he can build an 8086 on that


Kid’s legit… he’s got a McMaster-Carr catalog! Those are made of unobtanium, at least for most of us home-hobbyist types.


Not in so many words; but I would be a trifle surprised if the storage, handling, and disposal of fab-related hazmat is of the sort allowed in residential areas. Not the sort of thing that anyone necessarily have the resources to follow up on, of course.

There’s a reason why Silicon Valley has the highest density of Superfund sites, and it’s not because that stuff is good for you.


Awwww…man…:frowning: I’ve got a MsECE, and then some and all I’ve ever managed in my garage is a few Arduino and RasPi toy projects. My 3D-printer has been in use twice… Glad to see youth not totally Youtubed. I’m very much impressed, thank you!


Making circuits is cool. But old fab plants are also used for MEMS, where there is a lot of cool stuff you can do without going below a micron resolution. In the meantime, colour me insanely impressed and envious.


But it might pay for itself in the end, with the free-ride scholarship that it is likely to net him…


cool, he is also a HAM:


I know a guy who now has two SEMs. Evidently you can find older units fairly cheap, but they usually require some work with the electronics. One was from the Army, which was supposed to be “destroyed” for parts, but wast mostly cosmetic damage when he got to it.


One wonders if that was just a case of “why try harder?” or someone acutely aware of the tragedy of deliberately destroying functional, or mostly functional, gear.

There are solid organizational reasons to insist on it(definitely no risk of things going badly if the same people responsible for declaring hardware to be surplus/obsolete are the ones who are allowed to kindly adopt it…); but it’s still pretty tragic what just ends up in the shredder because the paperwork is neater if disposed assets are made to be of zero value, by force if necessary.


Looks like he’s aiming for an Intel 4004 clone, ~2000 transistors. Impressive. A high School Kid duplicating state-of-the-art from 40 years ago in his garage.

Now if he could figure out a way to make MOS 6581 “SID” chips, he could probably make a small fortune.


I only kind of agree. Recycling for parts is a good thing if the original is no longer useful to the organization that owned it, and a SEM is a pretty niche item for a big bureaucracy to try to auction off. At the same time, I don’t want to see a functional SEM get ruined when it can be useful to hobbyists and frankly the US military produces mind-boggling amounts of surplus and rarely actually reuses spare parts because then they couldn’t spend half the federal budget on new toys.


Well done buddy! I love when I hear such stories of success when it comes to youngsters.
For example, lately in my college, which is AAB College a student did something no one had ever done.


I hope he gets his rig fully running. He will quickly get bored with 4004’s and 8086’s… And then he can start making Asics. This is where things will get really interesting for him.


I can’t remember the reason, but some law some where doesn’t let some surplus or obsolete items sold “as is”. It has to be sold for parts in non-working order. I am asking my friend if he remembers why, but I am sure there is some long, convoluted law somewhere detailing this.

I guess it would make sense for somethings like old computers and copiers, so you can’t glean old information off the drives.


Asked my friend, he thinks a corruption issue. So people can’t order and junk stuff for their friend to buy at pennies on the dollar at an auction and then resell and split profits.

Whether that is the reason, he confirmed that the auction he went to, everything had to be “disabled” before being sold.


Makes sense. It sounds like a tragedy of the commons of sorts, but it makes sense.