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The Fluid Systems Engineering and Management Blog

by Swagelok Northern California

Customer Success Story: Swagelok ALD Valves Mean Less Downtime

by Jeff Hopkins, on 7/20/16 8:00 AM

“With Swagelok’s ALD valves, we are getting millions of cycles without any problems. In fact, we have yet to break one,” notes Becker. “The lifetimes of these valves are phenomenal. We also appreciate the fact that you can heat them. It’s the perfect ALD valve.”

Swagelok provided versatility and reliability for Cambridge NanoTech's systems

 

Get all the details on this customer success story and download the ALD valve catalog and technical bulletinsWhen you tap into Swagelok's expertise, you get a local connection to global resources. Take the story of Cambridge NanoTech Inc. in Massachusetts. It started manufacturing atomic layer deposition systems in 2003. And early on, the company ran into a frustrating problem. The valves in the gas delivery assemblies would clog, and they were underperforming when exposed to heat. The valves needed to be replaced once a month.

"That meant operators had to cool the system down, go in there with wrenches, take everything apart, and replace the valves with ones that were sure to cause downtime again in the future," says Dr. Jill Becker, founder of Cambridge NanoTech. "When you think about manufacturing efficiency, you just can’t have this sort of maintenance headache."

Becker turned to Swagelok for help, through her local Swagelok Sales and Service center. By switching to Swagelok ALD valves, she got a highly improved cycle life and better temperature compatibility. These valves and other Swagelok components enabled Cambridge NanoTech and its customers to dramatically reduce the overall cost of ownership for ALD processing.

Conserving precursors

Cambridge NanoTech’s ALD systems are used in research and development and manufacturing operations around the world for semiconductor wafers, nanoelectronics, optics, and microelectromechanical systems, in addition to novelty applications such as coatings for drill bits, router bits, and even butterfly wings.

The company's systems are highly valued not only for their dependability but also for efficient use of expensive precursor gas.

The ALD process deposits thin films of precursor materials onto substrates one atomic layer at a time to impart such properties as conductivity, chemical resistance and strength. With help from Swagelok ALD valves, Cambridge NanoTech has designed gas delivery assemblies that achieve precise, controlled delivery of precursor gas. That reduces gas use, and thus lowers the cost of ownership for users in the semiconductor industry and other fields.

“Through precise delivery of precursor gas, nearly all of the gas is used in the deposition process,” Becker said. “The delivery is so precise that a system running at full capacity 24/7 may take three months or longer to use a 25-cc cylinder of precursor.”

Not one failure yet

When Cambridge NanoTech made the switch to Swagelok ALD valves, the company added significant life to its gas delivery assemblies. The valves are rated for more than 50 million cycles thanks to features such as:

  • High-purity grade PFA seats for a broad range of chemical compatibility and excellent resistance to swelling and contamination
  • A uniquely non-hemispherical shaped diaphragm made of Elgiloy superalloy material
  • Temperature tolerance to 200° C
  • Consistent flow rates from cycle to cycle and valve to valve.

“With Swagelok’s ALD valves, we are getting millions of cycles without any problems. In fact, we have yet to break one,” notes Becker. “The lifetimes of these valves are phenomenal. We also appreciate the fact that you can heat them. It’s the perfect ALD valve.”

Versatility

Cambridge NanoTech's ALD tools are versatile, expandable and tailored to the specific needs of the customer.

“It doesn’t matter if we offer 25 different configurations. There will be customers who want a different version,” Becker says.

For example, Cambridge NanoTech offers its customers the option to expand the number of heated precursor lines in an ALD system without increasing the unit’s footprint. The company can offer flexibility to its customers because Swagelok offers flexibility to Cambridge NanoTech.

"The fact that Swagelok will move a gland and reconfigure the valve is huge and allows for us as a vendor to offer these solutions to our end customers," Becker says.

This versatility is made possible through custom-engineered Swagelok components, such as valve manifolds. Swagelok has designed manifolds for Cambridge NanoTech and other customers that accommodate multiple process lines. Multiple manifolds may be connected to multiple precursors but may draw from a common purge line. Swagelok engineers also adjust port sizes to provide the most efficient delivery of chemistries. A small port may be appropriate for liquid precursors, while a larger port may be appropriate for a precursor with low vapor pressure.

As ALD technology has evolved, so have Swagelok’s designs. For example, increased use of liquid precursors prompted Swagelok to develop the liquid injection valve, which vaporizes liquid precursors inside the valve body.

Swagelok’s attentiveness to these market trends has contributed to the company’s long-standing relationship with Cambridge NanoTech.

“I think it’d be impossible, really, for us to be doing the work that we’re doing if we didn’t have the quality of parts that we have right now from Swagelok,” says Ganesh Sundaram, vice president of technology at Cambridge NanoTech. “The work of a research scientist is made much, much easier by the fact that there’s such a wide selection of products available, and that the people who support those products are knowledgeable and can really help.”

Get all the details on this customer success story and download the ALD valve catalog and technical bulletins at http://northerncal.swagelok.com/ald-valves-catalogs 


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Topics:Valves

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