Episode 17: Semiconductor - Charmed Life
Are we living a Semi-Charmed Life, or a Semiconductor-Charmed Life? Maybe we should wait until we get out of the current chip shortage to decide. Join hosts Carrie Lee and Kenny Heidel as they learn a...
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For the chips to function, the silicon must be highly pure, with only the allotted doping materials for the requisite semiconductive properties. People who work in semiconductor fabs wear all-in-one coveralls to avoid introducing any amount of contamination into the precious silicon wafers, which are cut into hundreds of tiny chips that go into the electronic devices we use daily.
In the semiconductor industry, extreme cleanliness is essential. If a single contaminating particle were to get into a wafer, the entire thing would need to be thrown out. Multiple wafer contaminations could cost the company tens or even thousands of dollars.
However, human workers aren’t the only potential source of contamination in a fab. As it turns out, automation equipment like robots can also introduce impurities into a wafer if they’re not designed for such requirements. Let’s take a look at why this is.
Robots need to move smoothly along multiple axes of motion. This is helped along by oils inside the joints of a robotic arm that provide lubrication. If the sealing in the joints isn’t sufficient for a cleanroom, these oils can leak out and contaminate the wafers.
Products within Omron’s robotics portfolio adhere to joint sealing requirements and other ISO-defined cleanroom class requirements (ISO 14644-1 and Fed 209E). These design elements, which include stainless steel hardware, applied vacuums in the robot interior, and the use of non-gassing lubricants, keep robots from introducing pollutants into the work environment.
Although the main concern in the semiconductor business is particles leaking out of a robotic arm’s joints, there are plenty of other industries in which the big issue is particles getting INTO the joints and damaging the robot’s inner workings. This is where IP ratings come in. These ratings refer to how well a device resists the ingress of certain liquids and particulates.
To understand why liquid and particulate ingress poses a problem, keep in mind that each joint in the robotic arm is an actuator (essentially a motor of sorts) with very small, highly synchronized parts. Contaminants like dust, liquids, and metal particles can cause accelerated wear on joint actuators or damage and short-circuit their internal electrical components.
Depending on the end user’s work environment, it’s important to discern whether a cleanroom-rated robot or a robot with a high IP rating is best suited for the application.
At Omron, we take the needs of every manufacturing- and infrastructure-related industry into account when designing our robots. In addition to making sure they’re cleanroom-rated and resistant to harsh environments, we also make it easy to install them, program them, and conduct simulations of your application.
Interested in working with an experienced automation partner for your next robotic application?