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The influence of grinding geometry and damage depth on the fracture strength of 100 mm diameter (1 1 1) p-type silicon wafers has been studied. The fracture strengths were measured in a biaxial flexure test after the wafers were ground to 0.36 mm from 0.53 mm thick, in a grinding apparatus that produces a swath of swirls on the silicon wafer surfaces. Analysis of orientations of the swirl geometries and fracture probability was used to deduce the fracture strength relative to the crystallographic orientation of the wafers. Optical and scanning electron microscopy of bevelled, and cleaved and etched samples was used to measure the damage depths from selected locations on the wafers. The depth of damage and fracture strengths were correlated to the geometry of the backgrind swirl pattern and the relative position of the orientation flat. The damage depth was smaller when the swirl path was parallel or at 45° to the orientation flat as compared to the swirl paths at 90° and 135° orientations. As a result, the wafers ground in the former orientations had a higher fracture strength than those of the latter orientations (136 and 124 MPa versus 100 and 103 MPa, for the four orientations, respectively).