Flat Panel Display Update
Vice President and General Manager
Tool Automation Systems Division
PRI Automation (Billerica, MA)
To the Editor:
I felt the need to write you regarding the September 1996 Special Report entitled: “Emerging U.S. Flat Panel Display Industry Embraces Automation.” (See September 1996, p. 14). While the article was extremely well written and helped explain the increasing adoption of automation by Flat Panel Display (FPD) manufacturers, there are several key benchmarks that the article did not include.
The United States Display Consortium, chartered by the U.S. government to enhance the competitiveness of U.S. FPD manufacturers, has made considerable headway toward setting standards for FPD automation systems. As John Davidson, systems marketing manager for PRI Automation, discussed with CleanRooms` Western Regional Editor Sheila Galatowitsch, the USDC has chosen PRI to develop industry-wide standards for two important FPD manufacturing functions:
1. In July 1995, PRI Automation was selected to develop a standardized material handling and laser marking system for flat panel displays. The system will eliminate manual tracking of substrates, both on the current generation of substrates, and the next generation of 600𨝘-mm glass substrates, which will increase the efficiency of FPD manufacturing. PRI was also chosen to develop standard end-effectors and handlers for transferring substrates between cassettes and tools, thus ensuring that all process tools for FPD manufacturing can be compatible with automation. PRI partnered with Progressive Systems Technologies (PST), which designed standard substrate cassettes under USDC contract.
2. In July 1996, the USDC announced that it had chosen PRI to develop a standard Automated Storage/Retrieval System (“stocker”) for FPD manufacturers. Stockers, which store work-in-process cassettes or pods vertically in units up to 12 feet high, utilize costly cleanroom space more efficiently than the manual, waist-high carts currently used. They also keep substrates clean and are compatible with WIP transport systems such as Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs), conveyor transport systems, and Manual Guided Vehicles (MGVs).
PRI Automation, which develops, markets and implements full-factory automation systems for semiconductor manufacturers, believes that the knowledge gained in providing automation to the semiconductor industry can be transferred and adapted to the flat panel display industry.
In July of this year, PRI formed a division dedicated to semiconductor and FPD tool automation systems, demonstrating our commitment to this industry. By working with the USDC to develop standards for the FPD marketplace, we believe we can hasten the adoption of automation and contribute to lower manufacturing costs, higher yields and higher throughput–all of which will help the United States be more competitive in this fast-growing market.