A chip carrier houses the elements of an integrated circuit or a transistor. It is also commonly known as a chip package or chip container. This packaging enables the chips to be plugged into or soldered onto a circuit board without damage to their delicate elements. The process of installing chip carriers has become increasingly intricate as they have decreased in size to accommodate new forms of technology.
Depending on the design of a chip carrier, it is typically attached to a circuit board by being plugged in, held in with springs, or soldered. Carriers with plugs, also known as socket mounts, have pins, or leads, which can be pushed directly into the board. When a carrier is soldered directly onto the board, it is called a surface mount. The spring mounting method is used when the force of soldering or pins will damage fragile components. A spring mechanism is installed in the area where the component is to be installed; then the springs are carefully pushed aside so that the piece can be locked into place.
There are dozens of different types of chip carriers, made with a wide array of materials. They can be composed of a mix of elements including ceramics, silicone, metal, and plastic. The chips inside also come in several different sizes and thicknesses, though they all tend to have a square or rectangular shape. Chip carriers come in an array sizes that is standardized by the electronics industry. They are classified based on the number of terminals in the carrier.
New, smaller designs of technology such as cell phones and computers have made it necessary to manufacture the typical chip carrier in increasingly tinier sizes. Some have become so miniscule that they can no long be installed by human hands. Instead, it is now an intricate, mechanically-performed process. A chip carrier with plugs tend to be larger and more suited to human handling, while surface mount carriers are often installed via machine.
The installation of chip carriers onto a circuit board is part of a larger assembly process known as integrated-circuit packaging. It is also known by various other terms in the electronics industry, including packaging, assembly, and semiconductor device assembly. Other tasks during this process include die attaching, integrated circuit bonding and integrated circuit encapsulation. These processes work to attach, and then provide protection for, all of the elements on the circuit board.