Vacuum automation firm nabs funding from Intel, VCs

July 10, 2006 – BlueShift Technologies Inc., a manufacturer of a wafer-processing platform with what it calls “linkable linear geometry,” has secured a Series B round of financing totaling $12 million, including participation from Intel Capital, North Bridge Venture Partners, and Atlas Venture. The funds will be used to accelerate product launch activities, and fuel expansion into international markets.

“This substantial funding by major investors reinforces our contention that BlueShift’s wafer handling system represents the future of semiconductor vacuum processing, providing significant advantages over current fab systems,” said BlueShift president and CEO Peter van der Meulen.

The company’s QuickLink platform targets vacuum automation for both 300mm and future 450mm wafer processing. The system incorporates proprietary vacuum robotic hardware and software modules, designed for 20 million MCBF and featuring auto-align, auto-teach, auto-correct and hard interlocks to slot valves. With no motor windings, bearings or encoders in vacuum, vacuum surface area is minimized, resulting in very low out-gassing and reduced molecular organic contamination, the company claims. The system reportedly offers better vacuum and process isolation, higher throughput (benchmarked at 190 wafers/hr), and supports “adaptable” vacuum processing to mix multiple processes on a single platform, e.g., CVD, PVD, etch, and ashing. Options include integrated metrology, process chamber facilities, and the ability to remove wafers from the rear (enabling processing linearity, and better throughput). Cost/performance benefits include up to 30% reduction in vacuum handling costs and smaller equipment footprint, resulting in 40%-50% better space utilization, the company claims.

Most of BlueShift’s executive management hails from automation and vacuum systems supplier Brooks Automation. CEO Peter Van der Meulen formerly served as GM of Brooks’ equipment frontend business, and ran the company’s vacuum systems business for seven years. He also previously worked for Varian Ion Implant Systems where he designed the E500 implanter. Patrick Pannese, CTO, and VP of software, founded Cauldronsoft, source of BlueShift’s software architecture, and previously was director of next generation controls and architecture for Brooks Automation. VP of engineering Christopher Kiley worked as director of robotics technology at Brooks, and before that led development of Class 1 cleanroom robots at ADE and BTTU International. Ray Ritter, VP of sales and marketing, was director of business development at Brooks. Hiroshi Omori, VP and GM, was a founder of Brooks Automation Japan KK. Bob Whitney, VP of operations, was executive director of global operations at MKS Instruments.


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