Custom Wafer Control Solution

Challenge

A leading supplier of wafer fabrication and services to the global semiconductor industry utilizes chemical vapor deposition (CVD), physical vapor deposition (PVD), electrochemical deposition (ECD), ultraviolet thermal processing (UVTP), and surface preparation equipment used in the manufacturing of semiconductors.

The goal was to develop a new tool, for plasma-enhanced chemical vapor deposition (PECVD). The tool was required for fabrications with extremely high throughput requirements, and needed to produce up to 250 wafers per hour. The system contained a central process chamber with a dual wafer-handling robot. Like all systems intended for fabrication, size was of the utmost importance.

Trust Automation was contacted to design a control solution for the wafer-handling robot because there were no available off-the-shelf systems that would fit in the space required. Since the system would have to occupy a minimal footprint, the challenge was extreme.

Solution

At Trust Automation, we are highly familiar with the requirements of the semiconductor industry, and always work diligently to understand the specific needs of a customer, especially in the early system design stages.

We worked hand in hand with the customer’s system engineers to produce a unique robot controller exactly to specification. The system consisted of a control and drive coupled with significant firmware. In this case, linear power for motor control was not required, so we designed a pulse-width-modulation (PWM) drive. To accommodate the small footprint, we designed several custom sub-systems that would use the space efficiently.

Once we completed the system, we:

  • Froze the design baseline and began production in a “copy exact” mode.
  • Initiated a tightly controlled release process for both hardware and firmware.
  • Set up a method whereby the firmware configuration could be easily identified by looking at the system as well as matching it to shipment and service records.
  • Established standard service and refurbishment programs to help reduce costs and ease maintenance logistics.

Results

Because we designed a unique, high-quality, easily serviced, and well-supported system, the robotic wafer-handling portion of the customer’s machine is now in routine production.

We have continued to work with this customer over the years to enhance the system by introducing new releases and enhancements.

Trust Automation provides some of its greatest value in this arena. Since we work on so many systems with these types of design constraints, we have a considerable “tool chest” of available ideas, parts, and methods to apply to many types of custom systems.

With our help our customer has been able to deliver industry-leading productivity through its own small product footprint and increased process performance. We’re proud to have done our part to custom-design a product that enabled our customer to meet its goals in an increasingly demanding industry.