Case Study: Automated Handling of Ultra Thin Wafers

  • April 25, 2016
  • Cubatic Technology
  • Case Study


Located in the San Francisco Bay Area, Cubatic Technology is an innovator in system automation and engineering design. Specializing in customizable solutions for pilot-line and NPI, we work closely with our clients to integrate application-specific designs. In a recent project, our client required automated handling of wafer arrays. The large-sized array required the utmost care to avoid any damage to each individual wafer. Our automated solution had to be integrated with a laser process, and the entire system needed to be scalable for mass production.


Handling the array of fragile wafers posed the greatest challenge. Any lack of care in the automated handling could result in unrecoverable damage. In addition, due to the extreme thinness, array and wafer bowing was the norm, not the exception. Consequently, all handling had to account for this extra constraint. To compound the challenge, the solution had to be capable of high-throughput. Last but not least, our system had to include an inspection system to verify that the laser processing step had indeed met required depth and width specifications.


Our engineering team first ensured we gained a thorough understanding of the project. In a collaborative manner, we worked diligently with our client starting with conceptual designs, ultimately ending with a detailed design. During this whole effort, we emphasized designing for manufacturability of the entire automation equipment. We had to make sure that the material for the conveyors was compatible with the wafer arrays as they were transferred into and out of laser process equipment. Due to tight tolerances, our solution incorporated an IR sensor system to ensure accurate alignment as the wafer arrays were moved into and out of the process tool. To verify the result of the laser processing tool, we also designed and built an automated inspection tool featuring the proper and most optimized camera system with adequate field of view. With thousands of features, each with just a few micrometers in size, the inspection tool required optimum resolution in combination with fast data collection to meet the demand for high throughput. Since standard wafer handling methods were not compatible with the fragile wafer array, a customized gantry end-effector suction cup solution was implemented. Again, a key choice of components had to be made to ensure compatibility with the wafers. This solution also minimized the contact area for lifting the wafer array and thereby eliminating any unwanted effects of the environment in which the whole process line operated. This resulted in overall yield and uniformity improvements. Upon completion of the project, our solution exceeded our committed cycle time and increased efficiency from the customer’s existing loading and unloading process by 60%. 


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