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How Can You Improve Factory Throughput in Thin Film Deposition?

Close up image of a silicon wafer

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Factory throughput in thin film deposition is one of the most critical factors affecting overall production performance. Whether you are manufacturing for high or low volume applications, you need to be able to meet production needs in the most cost-effective way possible, and scale into higher production when needed. Finding ways to raise your factory output, or net yielded throughput, for your thin film deposition system can help you lower your cost of ownership and increase ROI.

Throughput requirements across different applications

Some applications require an enormous manufacturing throughput, which can be explained as the per hour output of the equipment. We typically see this in very standardized industries such as the semiconductor and consumer electronics markets. However, even products that are not being mass produced still need to be able to match customer demand and desired time to market. Cooled IR detectors, for example, are an emerging commercial application, and diode laser demand is soaring as telecom amplifiers for 5G, facial recognition, and LIDAR applications emerge and grow.

As these applications develop, manufacturers will need to keep up in the most cost-efficient way. However, output per hour is not the only important factor. Net yielded throughput, or the total number of good parts produced per day or per month, is just as important to meeting demand for production.

Factors to consider to improve net yielded throughput

To raise your factory output or net yielded throughput, you should account for the following factors:

  • Yield: By improving your manufacturing yield, you will produce more usable products that meet the desired performance specs, enabling you to reach a higher net yielded throughput.
  • Repeatability and Precision: These are both closely related to yield, because they are two of the most important factors in determining the performance of a thin film. If your thin film deposition system can precisely hit on the specs needed consistently across every single run, your yield will go up and so will your factory output.
  • Uptime: System uptime is absolutely critical to meeting production requirements. You may not be in a 24/7 manufacturing facility, but your equipment still needs to be running efficiently (and when you need it!) in order to meet your net yielded throughput threshold.

Equipment and tools for improving throughput

Reliable equipment is the first step to meeting production requirements and scaling up for higher throughput requirements. If your system is constantly breaking down or needs a lot of maintenance, you will lose valuable time and, most likely, you will miss your targets for net yielded throughput. The very first step to ensuring your production process can deliver the factory output for thin film deposition needed is to invest in a proven system from a reliable service partner who will support their equipment.

Adding a front-end option is an excellent way to increase your throughput per hour, and if you are using a compatible deposition module, it will be easy to scale your entire system up or down depending on production requirements. A single chamber, single wafer load lock is a simple front-end option that automatically adds one wafer at a time into your system. A cassette load lock is an option for automatically loading up to 25 wafers into the module. Both options add efficiency to your process while providing longer uptime.

You can also consider adding a plasma emission monitor (PEM), optical monitoring system (OMS) or other in-situ control. These enable better process control and make real-time adjustments to reach desired specs, and indirectly improve repeatability and precision to help with total factory output as well. For higher throughput needs, you can also consider adding a cluster tool, a sophisticated front-end option with dual cassette load locks and multiple chambers for maximum efficiency. To learn more about enabling high-volume manufacturing, watch this video on Denton Vacuum’s Versa cluster tool.