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Selecting the Right Front-end Option

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If you’re looking to improve productivity in your sputtering process, there are several front-end options available to use. When paired with a compatible standard sputter chamber, these front-end options can be used to increase throughput and production efficiency while providing consistent, repeatable results.

Front-end Options

Single Chamber, Single Wafer Loadport: This type of front-end option offers improved throughput versus no front-end. It is an efficient and cost-effective option for low-volume manufacturing. The single wafer loadport has a mechanical limit of about three wafers per hour, or three times what you could expect without a front-end.

Single Chamber Cassette Loadport: A cassette loadport can help increase throughput if a higher volume of production is required. It is a fairly cost effective option, with higher productivity than the single wafer loadport. The cassette adds automation to the loading process, allowing for greater efficiency. It can complete up to 24 wafers per hour.

Cluster Tool: A cluster tool is a multi-chamber, dual loadport system with a vacuum transfer module that enables the highest throughput per sputter chamber. It contains a robotic arm to automatically load the different chambers. It provides greater throughput per square foot, and up to 2.5 times more throughput per chamber than the single chamber cassette loadport, coating up to 250 wafers per hour for a four-chamber system.

Reasons to Use a Cluster Tool

  1. Throughput: Because of the automation and efficiency provided by a cluster tool, its biggest benefit is in manufacturing volume. No other front-end option can provide a throughput that’s as high as a cluster tool, because of the multiple chambers and dual loadport. A cluster tool is the best option for high throughput applications, such as RF amplifiers, which are used in all wireless applications.
  2. No need to break vacuum: If you’re required to remain in vacuum between process steps, then a cluster tool is the ideal front-end option. For example, nickel oxidizes easily, so if you’re coating it with another material, it needs to be coated before it oxidizes. This second coating needs to happen before the nickel is exposed to air, so the vacuum can’t be broken. With a cluster tool, you can complete both coating processes without breaking vacuum.
  3. Multilayer processes: A cluster tool offers not only high throughput in production, but greater efficiency throughout the coating process. So, if you have a multilayer process and need to coat a substrate with hundreds of different layers, a cluster tool can do that very efficiently. With a cluster tool, you can also fill each chamber with a different material, allowing for multilayer coatings of more than one material at a time.

Using a Standard Sputter Module

No matter which front-end option is best for your thin film deposition needs, it’s critical that your standard sputter module is compatible with all of these options. This allows for consistent, repeatable process performance and an optimized configuration, regardless of your application’s throughput requirements. You can also add the in-situ controls you need, along with your ideal front-end option. It provides more flexibility for your process needs, and is easily upgradeable to a faster front end when your production volume increases, for optimum scalability.

In a recent webinar presentation, we discuss increasing throughput and improving process performance with a standard sputter module and front-end options in the compound semiconductor industry. You can view an on-demand version of the webinar, or download the slide deck.