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Communicate benefits delivered

Click here for explanation of Vacu-Tran Robot IconsGraphical Icons were conceived in the visual language of the customer; in the vernacular of the semiconductor fab.

Here, I will describe the complete family of Icons used for one product, Brooks' Vacu-Tran Robot, that communicate benefits delivered by that product to the customer.

A cluster tool is a grouping of semiconductor vacuum process chambers; in a cluster around a central wafer handling robot in its own vacuum chamber.  This is more than an arrangement to share one robot for efficiency.  Rather, the clustering enables a new category of semiconductor processes that can only be performed as a concatenated series of operations on one wafer without breaking vacuum.  Brooks' central robot sequences wafers into one process chamber after another, without ever exposing the wafer to atmosphere.

The icons are grouped into a cluster, just like the customer tools would be grouped into a cluster.


Vacu-Tran Robot The product, Brooks' Vacu-Tran Robot

First, the Icon identifying the product, Brooks' Vacu-Tran Robot.

This Icon represents the Brooks robot that transfers semiconductor wafers in a vacuum. 


Typical hexagonal cluster tool chamber configurationThe hexagon in all of the Icons represents the characteristic shape of a cluster tool chamber.

For example, the picture on the right is a Brooks Marathon 600 cluster tool, with a Brooks central handling robot in the middle.  The hexagonal configuration is typical; six sides allowing for up to four process modules, with two faces (input and output) for vacuum load-lock of cassettes of wafers.

A vacuum valve on each face of the chamber provides inter-process isolation (preventing cross-contamination), and ultimately withstands atmospheric pressure during process chamber maintenance.  Since each Brooks product is either a valved cluster chamber or is used in one, the industry-standard vacuum valve symbol, a rectangle around an "X," is incorporated into each icon identifying the product itself.

Most Icons include a representation of the customers' product, a semiconductor wafer; round except for an orienting flat. 

The robot arm is a simple paddle for backside contact, because the front side or edges of the semiconductor wafer cannot be touched.  For example, the wooden paddle used in a pizza parlor to position a pizza into its process chamber (oven) is also a backside contact.

Both the Icons and the text were aligned with the customer needs, strictly in the ranked order of customer requirements.  Thus the graphics and words match each other, and relate to the customer.  Here, side-by-side, are the Icons in ranked customer need, the text from Brooks' literature, and a layman's explanation of the customer benefit.

Icon Text Benefit
Clean Brooks' pioneering Vacu Tran™ Robot provides ultra clean, ... Cleanliness is the #1 ranked customer need.

Semiconductor devices are being made with ever smaller geometry.  Smaller particles now cause defects.  Fortuitously, the laws of Physics cause particles to fall (to the bottom of the chamber) in a vacuum, keeping the wafer clean.

Additionally, the robot itself must be clean, operating without shedding particulates.

Reliability, Availability reliable ... Reliability is the #2 ranked customer need.

Production demands tool reliability.  The machine must be available for production, not torn apart for maintenance.

More importantly, every one of the processing chambers is down if the central wafer-handling robot is down.  Therefore, the robot must be the highest reliability component in the cluster tool.

Wafer Transfer In Vacuum Isolation wafer transfer entirely within a vacuum envelope. Vacuum isolation is the #3 ranked customer need.

Transferring wafers in air, between process steps, grows an oxide layer precluding certain new processes.  Customers need a robot (you cannot use your hand in a vacuum) to transfer wafers without breaking vacuum.

Modularity, Flexibility The robot is a primary component in Brooks wafer-handling systems. Many customers are OEMs, who need the modularity and flexibility to be able to incorporate Brooks products into their particular, unique product.
Accurate Placement It features accurate placement, ... Consistent, accurate placement helps deliver consistent wafer processing and process uniformity.
High Throughput high throughput, ... Production demands high throughput, a high number of semiconductor wafers per hour.
Capacity high capacity, and no edge contact. Semiconductor wafers are surprisingly heavy, especially 300 mm wafers (nearly one foot in diameter).  Furthermore, some customers use these robots to process flat panel displays (FPDs), ceramics, or other parts that are even heavier than semiconductor wafers.
Ease Of Maintenance The drive mechanism is external to the vacuum envelope ... A semiconductor process tool is not producing product during the time that it is being maintained.  Ease-of-maintenance translates into getting the tool quickly back to producing wafers.

Having the drive mechanism external to the vacuum envelope means that it can be accessed without breaking vacuum (time-consuming) and without contaminating the vacuum chamber.


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