Newport Corp. (Irvine, CA) has been issued a U.S. patent (No. 6,256,555) for a 300-mm edge-grip robotic end effector apparatus. As its name implies, the device allows semiconductor manufacturers to reliably handle 300-mm wafers by only their edges during fabrication and testing. This new tool ensures a simpler, more reliable, and faster manufacturing process with a significantly reduced possibility of wafer or cassette contamination. Newport's leadership position in supplying automation technology to semiconductor equipment manufacturers is also supported by several other patents that are pending for related technology, including a patent involving a self-teaching robot to ensure accurate alignment during wafer handling.
“These innovations are designed to improve yields and lower our customers' total cost of ownership, and are examples of the advanced technology we have added to our portfolio through our recent merger with Kensington Laboratories,” reports Robert Deuster, chairman and chief executive officer. “The inventions help semiconductor equipment manufacturers minimize wafer mishandling, especially as they move to larger 300mm wafer sizes, and to increase the speed and throughput of their systems. With this new technology, Newport takes another step forward in supporting our customers' efforts to improve cycle times and reduce costs. ”
Paul Bacchi, co-inventor and general manager of Newport-Kensington, noted that work on the edge-grip patent began in 1997 at Kensington Laboratories, and resulted in several patent applications. Since then, more than 1000 wafer handling robots with edge-grip technology have been shipped. According to Bacchi, the technology supports safe and quick operational performance, lowers initial manufacturing costs, increases uptime with fewer repairs and lower maintenance, and promotes wafer safety, even in total power failure during the manufacturing process.
“The end effector works by lifting and pulling the wafer back slightly before gripping, ensuring no contact between the wafer and the cassette,” adds Bacchi. “This is a significant benefit and a unique process compared with other 300-m wafer handling methods because the others have to push the wafer first, and risk hitting the cassette.”