Getting to the nuts and bolts of adapter plates

By Debra Vogler, Senior Technical Editor

The ISMI Symposium on Manufacturing Effectiveness (Oct. 9-11, Austin, TX) is all about getting down to the nuts and bolts of IC manufacturing — and sometimes they do, literally. One of those nitty-gritty details of IC manufacturing at which the industry is taking a closer look is the use of adapter plates. At last week’s ISMI event, members of a task force working on a SEMI guideline for adapter plates made some compelling arguments for expanding their usage and standardization for 300mm Prime and 450mm manufacturing equipment. (The task force as a whole has ~25 representatives from IC manufacturers, equipment suppliers, as well as the fab construction industry.)

Adapter plates contain all tool points of connection for a semiconductor tool. When shipped to the fab, along with all support equipment, the plates allow pre-facility work to be done prior to docking of the main tool. The concept appears to be simple — first, the adapter plate is installed in the fab floor; then facilities are connected through the sub-fab floor; and finally, the tool itself is rolled in and mated to the adapter plate. In addition to reducing tool installation time by enabling process line qualification completion prior to docking of the tool itself, adapter plates also help IC manufacturers minimize downtime when converting to new technologies.

According to the team’s presenters — Kandi Collier of Intel, Nick de Vries of Applied Materials, Don Yeaman of M+W Zander, Arnold Canales of Kinetics, and Allan Chasey of Arizona State U. — the idea of using adapter plates is gaining traction. Several equipment suppliers already provide some kind of adapter plate that have resulted in duration reductions >58%. A SEMATECH survey of six member companies indicated that adapter plates were viewed as a positive step in reducing tool install times and costs, and adapter plates have been identified by the ITRS‘ Factory Integration (FI) group as a key focus area for 2006. Additionally, a program is underway to align the industry through a SEMI Standards task force.

As far as equipment suppliers’ implementation efforts are concerned, the devil will be in the details. To achieve the expected benefits, equipment suppliers will have to install and qualify support equipment such as pumps, abatement units, and chillers along with the adapter plate. Additionally, life safety systems and valve manifold boxes would need to be installed prior to tool docking.

Suppliers also will have to take into account a number of design considerations: maintaining a constant utility naming convention from tool set to tool set, using common connector types and sizes, ensuring that the process tool footprint will not increase because of the use of adapter plates, and achieving and maintaining a proper alignment between the plates and the process tool. Complex cluster tools will probably need one adapter plate per chamber, plus one for the main body. Additionally, the task force is advising that additional adapter plates be made available to accommodate future tool moves.

According to the SEMI task force findings, adapter plates fit best in false floors, so the routing of under-floor base-build utilities (e.g., drains and datacom) need to anticipate adapter plate locations. It’s also been determined that fabs utilizing slab on grade flooring will not be able to accommodate adapter plates.

Going forward, the adapter plate task force will work with the ITRS FI and other industry forums to complete the guidelines document, and ensure that process equipment suppliers provide adapter plates for 300mm Prime and 450mm equipment. — D.V.


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