case study: external interface module

fully-integrated, fully-qualified facility interface

If you have a great track record as a supplier, sooner or later a job will come along that challenges you to take things to the next level. Such as the plug & play delivery of a complex module that a leading semicon OEM used to assemble in-house from a large number of submodules produced by various suppliers. This requires full system integration and qualification.

The module in question is known as the External Interface Module. It is the facility interface, which connects the customer’s chip manufacturing machine to the end user’s fab facilities (e.g. gases, cooling water, exhaust, etc.) and takes care of the monitoring, conditioning and supply of all liquids and gases to meet the process requirements within the machine. This includes preventing contaminants that could disrupt the process from entering the machine; in this respect, the external interface module can be understood as a kind of ‘firewall’.

everything under one roof

The module in question comprises a large number of submodules. Previously, the customer used to assemble the complete system in-house, sourcing the submodules from various suppliers, amongst which was Aalberts advanced mechatronics. To reduce operational load, supply chain complexity and assembly lead time and to ensure a consistent quality, the customer decided to opt for a single sourcing partner for the complete module. This partner had to ensure that the modules were delivered fully tested and qualified, so that the customer could integrate the module into the system in a plug & play fashion. That set the bar high in terms of quality and reliability, as was illustrated by the customer’s requirement of a ‘dead on arrival’ rate below 1%. By virtue of its high-level qualified buy offer, Aalberts advanced mechatronics was selected as the assembly and qualification partner for the external interface module.

dedicated test tool

Meeting the delivery conditions required a dedicated qualification system. Aalberts advanced mechatronics developed an automated test tool, drawing upon its in-house expertise, including pressure and (helium) leak tests, particle measurement, total organic content (TOC) analysis and residual gas analysis (RGA). This tool simulates the customer’s machine to which the module has to be connected. Based on its deep understanding of gas, vacuum and liquid handeling, testing and control, Advanced mechatronics defined the specifications for this one-of-a-kind tool to provide a real-life test environment. When connected to a module, the test tool automatically performs – literally at the touch of a button, flawlessly and quickly – around 1,000 tests, for establishing full system qualification. After the first module delivered to the customer had undergone a successful site acceptance test (SAT), it was decided that a factory acceptance test (FAT) by Aalberts advanced mechatronics would suffice for subsequent modules, in this way further reducing the customer’s lead time.

“This is our next step towards becoming a leading system integrator company specializing in design & engineering, production, qualification and construction of liquid and gas supply systems, focusing on ultra high purity applications. For the external interface module, we have taken over supply chain management and test tool development. We added capabilities to our portfolio, to allow insourcing of specific submodules for quality assurance reasons. Delivering build-to-print+ services, we now have grown into a first-tier supplier to a large semicon OEM and we are aspiring to become a critical partner,”

continuous improvement

Aalberts advanced mechatronics has become a full-blown partner of large OEMs and can live up to this role based on its in-house expertise in areas such as continuous improvement, system design & engineering, new product industrialization, supply chain management and full lifecycle management. This will open the door for the next step: comprehensively challenging complex modules for their manufacturability. 

For now, Aalberts advanced mechatronics has proven that it can operate at the next level of full system integration and qualification. Working together with the customer, the company has managed to deliver a complete, fully operational, thoroughly tested, high-quality module. 

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