New company spin off yields cleanrooms

MEMS maker builds 40,000-square-foot facility, 8,000 of which is classified clean space

by Mark A. DeSorbo

When it comes to the slumping semiconductor industry, MEMS the word. And where there are MEMS, short for micro electro-mechanical systems, there are cleanrooms.

A dime dwarfs packaged inertial sensors.
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The tiny micro-machined device is in big demand and changing the face of several industries from telecommunications to data storage to biotechnology. Firms specializing in this technology are becoming targets for mergers and acquisitions by companies that also have the ultra-clean environs needed to produce these diverse instruments.

Take Ithaca, NY-based Kionix Inc., for example. Originally founded in 1993 with technology developed at Cornell University, Kionix was acquired in late 2000 by Calient Networks (San Jose). The photonic switching systems and software developer continues to build upon Kionix's optical MEMS platform.

“Cleanroom B,” an ISO Class 6 (Class 1000) environment, houses Si etching equipment. A and B combined make up 2,640 square feet.
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But just prior to that acquisition, however, a separate company spun off and was renamed Kionix Inc. to continue manufacturing non-optical MEMS devices for biotechnology, data storage, automotive and consumer industries, says Hans Fuller, director of market development for Kionix.

“It was about that time we began building a new facility right across the parking lot,” Fuller adds.

The 40,0000-square-foot facility was completed in November and houses more than 8,000 square feet of ISO classified clean space, says Karl Williams, facilities manager.

Kionix broke ground on the project in November 2000, finishing on time and within the undisclosed budget.

Two of the controlled environments, known as Cleanroom A and Cleanroom B, make up a 2,640-square-foot etching area and are classified as an ISO Class 6 (Class 1,000) clean space. An ISO Class 5 (Class 100) cleanroom for lithography measures 620 square feet, while a 216-square-foot togging area is rated at Class 6 and an 815-square-foot frit application and saw room is designated at ISO Class 7 (Class 10,000). The largest cleanroom is the test and assembly area at 3,750 square feet and is also Class 7.

Kionix, Williams explains, manufactures MEMS devices in silicon, using semiconductor-processing techniques, to make accelerometers and angular rate gyros for motion sensors. Devices are also used to make microfluidic systems for biotech applications as well as numerous other mechanisms that are under development.

“These structures have features as small as 1 micron, necessitating cleanroom environments,” he adds. “The cleanrooms and the equipment in them were chosen for high-volume, high-yield MEMS manufacturing. The facility will allow Kionix to further refine our processing methods, improving performance and marketability of our sensor products for the automotive, consumer electronics, biotech [industries] and accelerate product development efforts.”

The cleanrooms were designed jointly with George Breuhaus Architectural (Ithaca, NY) and Stellmack Air Conditioning and Refrigeration (Endicott, NY).

Cleanrooms are monitored by a control system from American Auto-Matrix (Pittsburgh, PA) and have been outfitted with a 90-ton, dual screw-type water chiller from Carrier Corp. (Syracuse, NY), which supplies process chilled water and office air conditioning.

Cleanrooms A&B, as well as the lithography environment, are conditioned by two McQuay International (Staunton, VA) RDS-800C roof-packs coupled to two, 50-ton capacity H2CA600A46 air-cooled condensing units from York International (York, PA).

Air for Cleanrooms A & B and the lithography room is brought in by six McQuay CAH040 cab fans that feed through a total of 248 FT500-4 energy-saver filters from HEPA Corp. (Anaheim, CA). Humidification is supplied by five self-contained units from Nortec Industries Inc. (Ogdensburg, NY), while reheating is supplied by PFG-8 boilers from Weil McLain Co. (Michigan City, IN).

Test and assembly and frit and saw areas are supported by one McQuay RDS-800C roof pack that is coupled to a York H2CA600A46 condensing unit. Two McQuay CAH025 cab fans supply air distribution that flow through a total of 255 FT500-4 filters.

Cleanrooms are maintained with re-circulated, positively pressurized air at a temperature of 69 degrees, plus or minus one degree. While some acids and bases are used in cleanrooms, personnel wear herringbone Dacron coveralls with hoods and boots.

According to Kionix, Applied Materials Inc. (San Jose, CA) supplied most of the silicon processing equipment installed in the facility's cleanrooms.

“We are very pleased that Kionix has selected us as a primary supplier of equipment and services for manufacturing their advanced MEMS devices,” says Kam Law, general manager of the Micro-Structure Device division of Applied Materials. “This impressive new fab is one of the largest and most sophisticated in the world.”


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