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JST Manufacturing’s spray chamber uses an automated chemical spray process on a single wafer A

s research has become more complex, sophisticated

cleanrooms have become a virtual necessity for a wide range of cutting-edge physical science, material science and biomedical disciplines. Due to the financial

investment required for such facilities, both university and private R&D laboratories are designed and built to accommodate the needs of a wide range of researchers. Tis presents a challenge: few administrators have the experience to select and set

up lab equipment with the versatility required to serve such a diverse group of users over decades of continually changing research. Now a growing number of laboratory administrators are optimising their microfabrication equipment, both for current and future needs, by involving their vendors early in the process. Tis enables expert planning as well as the selection of standard equipment options that can improve safety, usability and efficiency while cutting cost. “Often university lab administrators have never built their own cleanroom before, so they hire an architectural firm to do the design, but are still a little lost on how to lay out the equipment for all the different potential uses,” says Louise Bertagnolli, president of JST Manufacturing. “Because universities are always pushing the boundaries of research, the equipment has to be very flexible so it can be used in ways not even conceived of yet.” Whether for compound semiconductor, nanotechnology, micro-electro-mechanical systems (MEMS), biophotonics, biomedical electronics, or

creating solar power alternatives to traditional silicon wafer construction, much of the advanced research done in labs today requires microfabrication operations. Tis typically includes wet processing equipment for metal lift-off, stripping, etching, plating/ coating, cleaning and de- bonding. Dennis M. Schweiger, senior

director of Infrastructure at the University of Michigan’s Lurie Nanofabrication Facility (LNF), feels that the right combination of user requirements and assistance from the equipment fabricator can make a considerable difference in the design, layout and operation of a wet processing station. Te LNF is a world- class facility in all areas of semiconductor device and circuit fabrication, integrated microsystems and MEMS technologies, nanotechnology, nanoelectronics, nanophotonics and nanobiotechnology. Te LNF is an open-use facility with hundreds of users from various UM departments, as well as many other universities and businesses. Schweiger states, “Since we essentially rent lab space and

equipment to our diverse users, it is important that we provide them with benches that suit their purposes well, from those who are processing wafers to those who may be doing very advanced research or testing on non-wafer components.”

Remember the end user According to Bertagnolli, who has guided numerous R&D lab administrators through the equipment design and selection process, the main concern is about setting up the cleanroom and procedures to serve the needs of users, but the process is not always well defined and there are many unknowns. “When designing and laying

out cleanroom equipment, it is important to talk with a vendor or consultant with the experience to help you achieve your evolving research goals,” says Bertagnolli. “It is also essential that they help ensure it is correctly set up, that the proper safety, operation, and maintenance procedures are in place, and that lab managers are properly trained to carry these out.” Bertagnolli says that

maintaining safety and flexible function for wet processing

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