Here at New Way Air Bearings ® we remain committed to supporting the cutting edge of precision manufacturing, and today we want to discuss how this starts at home. With the CHIPS and Science Act of 2022, the US government has unveiled a 50 billion dollar program to revitalize the production of semiconductor wafers and associated products within the United States. This process will entail both expanding additional domestic manufacturing capabilities and standing up entirely new facilities. For both of these avenues, new technologies are needed to futureproof the growing US semiconductor industry. With the incentives offered through the CHIPS Act, New Way is ready to retrofit and outfit the American semiconductor manufacturing base with reliable, precise and long lasting precision motion solutions.
What is the CHIPS Act?
The CHIPS Act, formally known as the CHIPS and Science Act of 2022, allocates 50 billion dollars to fund the reshoring of semiconductor manufacturing capabilities both for commercial applications, and to support vital national defense capabilities. Already we’ve seen a 40 billion dollar investment from Micron, and a 4.2 billion dollar investment from Qualcomm, with more soon to follow
How Does the CHIPS Act Work?
Interested applicants may apply to the CHIPS Program Office to receive funding for the construction, expansion or modernization of commercial facilities for semiconductor materials. This funding not only benefits the immediate manufacturers of semiconductors but the small businesses downstream, revitalizing the entire American supply chain thanks to its emphasis on community investments and buying American wherever possible. New Way Air Bearings ® is a proudly American business, starting from our humble roots in Delaware County Pennsylvania, where we still operate to this day.
How Do American Made Air Bearings Benefit Semiconductor Manufacturing?
Semiconductor manufacturing is far from a niche application for our products. In fact, ultra precision machining is among the oldest applications for porous media, and perhaps the one which helped solidify the legacy of porous media bearings. In the 1960’s, air bearing spindles were used by researchers at the Y-12 National Security Complex for machining laser spherical mirrors and aspheric parts, while IBM would commercialize air bearing spindles to produce the first hard discs in 1961.
Fast forward to today and air bearings are a necessary feature of the semiconductor manufacturing process. Air bearings offer their hysteresis free motion for use in wafer inspection, wafer repair, wafer probing, ion implantation, and direct integration within stereolithography systems.
ASML, the world leader and sole manufacturer of EUV lithography systems, utilizes air bearing based linear slides within their stepper machines. During the lithography and etching process, 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.
Retrofitting with Air Bearings
Any manufacturer, system integrator or downwind supplier wishing to incorporate air bearings into their CHIPS funded rebuild process is right to question the feasibility and interoperability of a new technology. Thankfully this is already a solved problem.
Aside from offering a full line of custom retrofit bearings to make sure we fit into whatever motion system your process currently utilizes, New Way already has decades of experience in retrofitting our bearings specifically for stereolithography systems. We offer a full lineup of products to retrofit Canon FPA I4, IW and I5 models from 1995 through 1999 to use the latest in Porous Media technology, a process which we routinely undertake in tandem with authorized system rebuilders. This changeover provides an 80% cost savings vs a direct purchase from Canon, and keeps systems running smoothly and largely maintenance free well into the future
If you want to learn more about using porous media air bearings for semiconductor manufacturing or you’re already deep into planning how best to utilize the CHIPS Act and want to get a quote, please reach out, and our dedicated engineering sales team will get back to you!