case study: ultra clean service lifting tool
huge challenges answered with an even better solution: the TMSU
The technological challenges with which the semiconductor customer confronted Aalberts Advanced Mechatronics were huge. On top of that, there was little time to solve them. But we managed to meet all the specifications within the set schedule. This was all thanks to Aalberts Advanced Mechatronics’s extensive experience in developing and building highly qualified, customer-specific lifting tools.
Such a tool was also needed here. This customer’s innovative chip production machine includes a vacuum chamber, a colossus several metres high, wide and long, sealed off with a lid that weighs tons and has to be lifted and put back on again with each servicing. An action that is more complex than it might appear at first glance.
A major complicating factor was that almost no dirt particles may be released during the lifting process, and certainly not from organic materials like grease. This is because when the vacuum chamber is in operation, a lithographic process takes place there that produces chips containing thousands of circuits, with dimensions in the nanometre range. Any contamination left behind after servicing, no matter how small, can disrupt this process.
At the same time, the lid needs to be lifted and put back on again quickly. After all, this production machine is worth tens of millions of euros. So every hour of downtime costs a lot of money. Therefore, an external lifting tool was not an option. The tool had to be integrated and needed to be very compact. In addition, the lifting work has to be carried out very safely: injuries and damage to materials must be prevented at all times.
Aalberts Advanced Mechatronics took up this challenge. We developed a design and tested its functioning in detail using computer simulations. After an extensive qualification by the customer, we built a prototype, which we subjected to very thorough physical testing.
Our tool, the Top Module Service Unit (TMSU), is designed in such a way that absolutely no organic particles are released during lifting. The applied bearings, drive belts and locks function well without oil. To prevent that the lid starts swinging at any time, it is transported over rails, first up and then sideways. And because the tool is very compact and can be installed inside the customer’s machine, the lid can be lifted and put back on again in a matter of minutes. The process is fully automated. It only takes the push of a button.
‘Cleanliness was the major challenge we had to face.’ Andreas Birkner, technical director – automation
Notwithstanding the tight schedule, we managed to deliver a mechatronic lifting tool that more than met all the customer’s specifications within the set deadline.
We are now producing the TMSU in volume and it operates in semiconductor fabrication plants all over the world. It works clean, safe and fast, and significantly reduces maintenance costs.
In addition, Aalberts Advanced Mechatronics offers full lifetime support. We produce a large number of TMSU parts ourselves, but of course we also purchase parts from our own reliable supply base. If a part eventually becomes obsolete, we will provide a replacement and ensure its qualification.
Aalberts Advanced Mechatronics acts now as the selected supplier for high end lifting devices for the most innovative chip production machine of this semiconductor customer. This highly innovative company looks constantly for improvements. The culture at Aalberts Advanced Mechatronics is also based on this principle. We are already developing solutions to the lifting challenges this customer will soon be offering us.