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How Linear Slides will Revolutionize Semiconductor Manufacturing

How Linear Slides will Revolutionize Semiconductor Manufacturing

Semiconductor Manufacturers Stand to See Incredible Benefits from New Way’s Linear Slide Technology

New Way Air Bearings® has a long history of deep integration within the precision manufacturing community. We want to highlight how our Porous Media™ linear slides are bringing the future of nanometer computing to the consumer. Our linear slides offer enormous benefits to semiconductor manufacturing. From their role as an integral component in positioning wafers during the etching process to moving completed components, linear slides offer cleanroom compatibility, precision motion and retrofit compatibility to any semiconductor manufacturer.

The Semiconductor Manufacturing Process

Close-up of linear motion system placing semiconductor chips on a silicon wafer The process of producing today’s semiconductor chips, whose architecture can now be counted on the order of single nanometers, is a complex one. It is a six step process, involving a multitude of complex and delicate processes.

Production begins with the deposition of materials onto the silicon wafer. Next is the lithography process. Here, a light-sensitive material called a photoresist is used to shrink and focus the chip’s pattern onto the wafer in a process. After lithography comes etching, where the photoresist is developed to reveal the pattern.

This process is highly complex, as chips can be not simply one layer, but dozens or hundreds of computing layers. The photolithography stepper machine is among the most complex systems built on this planet. The current state of the art EUV lithography system from ASML (the world leader and sole manufacturer) costs upwards of 300 million dollars, and only 140 have been produced in the last decade. Within this delicate system is where the linear slide makes its mark.

What is a Linear Air Bearing?

New Way’s Linear Slide is a compact solution to replace contact-based motion slides with a non-contact alternative. Across the 4 varieties of linear slides, vacuum replication is used to securely position the stage against its guide rail, removing vibration and harmonic noise. This provides high stability, as well as the ability for rapid motion without hysteresis positioning errors. The highly stiff, well damped fluid medium produced by the air bearing’s surface results in a 10 fold decrease in straightness error, with similar results found for resonant peaks across the frequency domain of the system.

How Do Linear Motion Systems Help Manufacture Chips?

During the lithography and etching machines, the prepared wafers are moved into position within the system. Because the system operates in a fully cleanroom environment (for which air bearings are naturally ISO compliant) ASML uses precision air bearings to position the wafer for lithography etching.

Only air bearings are up to this task, since “we are talking about nanometer scale features with exceptionally small tolerances”, says Fred Huizinga, group leader for mechanical analysis at ASML. The higher stiffness, thermal isolation and lack of particulate ejection of air bearings into the environment are all cited as properties critical to the success of EUV chip manufacturing. Air bearings are so critical to the success of cutting edge semiconductor manufacturing, New Way Air Bearings founder Drew Devitt himself holds a patent on the integration of air bearings into vacuum chambers.

A Retrofit Ready Linear Air Slide

As we can see, the usage of air bearings and air slides within semiconductor manufacturing is far from theoretical. It is already commonplace and in fact essential to the success of the current generation of sub 10nm chips being produced on ASML systems. For any potential system integrators, it is important to stress that systems need not be built around a potential air bearing or linear slide solution.

New Way has a long history of producing custom retrofit products, and for stereolithography machines specifically, we already work with authorized rebuilders to retrofit Canon FPA I4, IW or I5 models from 1995 through 1999 with the latest in Porous Media air bearing technology. This offers not only an 80% cost savings over a direct purchase from canon, but ensures your system can perform to expectations far into the future.

Contact Us

If you want to learn more about the application of Porous Media linear slides to the semiconductor manufacturing process or you already have an application in mind, please reach out to us, and our dedicated engineering team will get back to you!

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