Telecom industry demands more chip production

Emcore tacks on additional 2,000 square feet of cleanroom space

by Mark A DeSorbo

These days, it is impossible for anyone in the human race to not come into even remote contact with at least some kind of wireless- or fiber-optically geared device.

The telecommunications industry relies heavily on these types of components for everything from cellular telephones to complete backbones for telecommunications networks.

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Emcore Corp. (Somerset, NJ), like many semiconductor manufacturers, is feeling the strain of demand from heavy hitters like General Electric Co. and Motorola, and the response to it usually means a facility expansion in order to beef up production. The chipmaker recently completed a two-phase, 7,000-square-foot expansion, 2,000 square feet of which was designated cleanroom space.

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Reuben Richards, president and chief executive of Emcore, says the growth sparked more orders for the company's pseudomorphic high electron mobility transistors (pHEMTs) and heterojunction bipolar transistors (HBTs). The expansion also will enable the company to increase production of its photonics, radio frequency materials and metallo organic chemical vapor deposition (MOCVD) tool product lines.

“This new capacity, which increases our production capabilities by 400 percent, will enable Emcore to expand capacity for current customers as well as address new customers and markets with new products,” Richards adds.

At the time of this report, the finishing touches were still being made on the cleanrooms. Andrew Powers, Emcore's director of facilities and safety, says an in-house staff and Henderson Corp., a contractor in nearby Somerville, NJ, were handling the project.

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“The timing of the project wasn't what we would have liked, but it was well coordinated to minimize the impact on production,” says Powers, who also serves on the town of Somerset's Business and Advisory Board. “The design process started in May, and we started construction in August.”

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When it's all said and done, Powers says the project will have yielded an additional 500-square-foot ISO Class 7 (Class 10,000) cleanroom as well as separate 750-square-foot additions to two existing cleanrooms, a 500-square-foot ISO Class 5 (Class 100) and another ISO Class 7. The Class 5 environment is used for testing, while one of the ISO Class 7 facilities is used for device manufacturing.

The other ISO Class 7 cleanroom, which Powers says is more of a hallway, is used to grow epitaxial materials and as an area to load and unload wafers into cassettes.

“That cleanroom is unique because within that space we have what we call a localized [ISO Class 6 (Class 1000)] space, where we load and unload wafers into the cassettes,” Powers says.

Along with HEPA filters, Emcore's cleanrooms breathe through air handlers, from Webco Corp. (Philadelphia). Burnham boilers provide heat and humidification. Emcore also uses reverse osmosis and deionized water systems from Hydro Services Inc. (Somerset) and chillers from E-Pak Technology Inc. (Hatboro, PA).

“We are building in redundancies, too. We have two chillers, two air-handlers, two boilers, so that if one fails, we have back up,” Powers says.

Positive airflow within the cleanrooms, he says, is re-circulated and maintained at a temperature of 68 degrees Fahrenheit with an RH of 48 ±2. Within the ISO Class 7 cleanrooms, personnel wear bunny suits, head covers and gloves. In the Class 5 facility, face shields are required.

“When gas and chemicals are being handled, personnel must also wear self-contained breathing apparatuses,” Powers adds.

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The first phase of the expansion enabled Emcore to double production capacity of its RF materials division to meet market demand for products used in fiber-optic and wireless communications devices. That expansion will add 10 new MOCVD production tools, engineered and manufactured by Emcore, for the high-volume production of pHEMTs and HBTs. This will bring 18 production tools into operation, allowing Emcore to produce 360,000 six-inch wafers annually.

The second-phase expansion also increases the manufacturing capacity of Emcore's electronic device division and MOCVD tool division. The electronic device division has been expanded to augment Emcore's capability to produce photodetectors for high-speed array transceivers. With the additional space, Emcore's capital equipment division, which manufactures MOCVD tools, has the ability to manufacture 225 MOCVD tools per year.

Emcore Corp. (Somerset, NJ) added an ISO Class 7 (Class 10,000) cleanroom and expanded two existing cleanrooms. At the far left is an Emcore MOCVD tool. Second from left is the ISO Class 5 (Class 100) cleanroom and the photos on the right are the ISO Class 7 spaces.


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