ASME-Landmark:ABACUS II Integrated-Circuit Wire Bonder


Ten years after the invention of the transistor, another generation of electronics emerged with the demonstration of the first working integrated circuit by Jack St. Clair Kilby of Texas Instruments (TI) on September 12, 1958. The integrated circuit solved the problem of interconnecting discrete electrical components to form a single complex circuit, but manufacturing difficulties kept the price high ($500 for the TI Type 502 "Micro-electric Binary Flip-Flop in 1960) and the quantities modest in the early years of production.

TI's early ABACUS ("Alloy, Bond, Assembly Concept, Universal System") models remained too costly to build and lacked reliability. The ABACUS II project was begun in late 1971. This all-new automatic wire bonder was to be controlled by the recently announced TI960A computer, a powerful and inexpensive "bit-pusher" process-control computer. By 1972, ABACUS II was on the market as the first practical automated production machine for the assembly of integrated circuits. Using heat and pressure, it bonded fine gold wire to microscopic contacts on the silicon chip and pin connections on the package. The ABACUS II could maintain a positioning accuracy of ± 0.00025 inch while bonding up to 375 devices an hour.

Following the success of this prototype, almost 1,000 ABACUS II wire bonders were built, making the economical mass production of integrated circuits a reality. ABACUS II remained in production until 1982; in 1983, it was replaced by ABACUS III. See ASME website for more information