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Rapid Prototyping of Ceramic Semiconductor Parts


By Del Williams

feedthrough insulators. Ceramic, which comes in many forms, including alumina/aluminum


oxide and zirconia/zirconium oxide, is often used when resistance to chemicals or corrosion is required and dimensional stability over a range of tempera- tures is needed. It is also a good insulator. The toughness of ceramic also con- tributes to part longevity. However, the fabrication of ceramic prototypes can have long lead times,

typically between 12 and 15 weeks. This kind of delay is a major challenge. As a result, a growing number of semiconductor manufacturers are partnering with domestic suppliers of ceramic parts that have rapid prototyping capabil- ities and can turn around product in as little as a few weeks. This allows manufacturers to accommodate multiple design iterations to

make improvements before committing to a final design, which helps to opti- mize the product, while minimizing the risk of costly design flaws.

Many Benefits of Ceramic Ceramic parts play a vital role in many aspects of semiconductor manu-

facturing, particularly in vacuum plasma chambers, used to clean, etch or ac- tivate a dielectric material surface, according to Walt Roloson, R&D engineer- ing manager at PVA TePla America. While PTFE-coated parts are used in plasma chambers, during the

process they can release fluorine, which is very difficult to remove from the chamber, even with an oxygen cleaning cycle. “You have to mechanically remove the surface layer, because it essential-

ly absorbs the fluorine,” he says. “A benefit of using ceramic is that it is basi- cally inert, and if plasma breaks down, the ceramic does not give off any chemicals, unlike the PTFE.” Roloson says that PVA TePla outsources many of its machinable ceram-

ic parts, and frequently requires prototyping. Due to its insulating properties, ceramic parts are used in the company’s vacuum chambers to ensure that no accidental connection is made between the positive and negative nodes of the system.


Our capabilities include designing and manufacturing a variety of selective nozzles, including custom sizes on request. Contact us today!


Did you know that Count On Tools is more than just a nozzle man- ufacturer? We also operate a state-of-the-art machine shop where all of our precision components are manufactured. Because extreme accuracy is mandatory, specialized precision equipment is necessary. COT operates with the most advanced hybrid machining centers offering multi-spindle/multi-axis CNC milling and turning capabilities. From prototype to long term supply, COT can handle your outsourced precision machined components.


2481 Hilton Drive, Suite 3, Gainesville, GA 30501 Tel: (770) 538-0411 •

Faster Development, Better Product “Engineers might make changes to their processes, such as an etch pat-

tern with a different configuration, so there might be a number of process ef- ficiency upgrades,” says Jeff Epstein, president of Ceramic Technologies Corp., a provider of advanced ceramic material solutions to a variety of indus- tries. “That is why it is important for prototypes to be delivered in a matter of weeks, rather than months.” The size of the ceramic manufacturer, it turns out, often plays a signifi-

cant role in the speed of responsiveness to prototype requests. Large ceramic manufacturers often fit the small prototype orders into leftover time slots. In contrast, a more nimble, domestic manufacturer like Ceramic Technologies has the ability to prioritize prototypes. Products the company offers include prototype vacuum chucks, wafer clamps, lift pins, insulation boards, and alu- mina end effectors. These products can be manufactured using isostatic pressing and sinter-

ing techniques to produce high-quality, fully dense parts, often in three to four weeks, without a tooling fee. Ceramic parts can also be machined out of plates, rods or tubes. Knowing which ceramic material to use and at what level of purity is a

critical consideration. “High-purity, 99.8 percent alumina is designed to with- stand the extreme plasma edge environment, including vapor phase etchants, high RF voltage, microwave plasma, and aggressive cleaning methods,” says Epstein. “It offers excellent heat, wear and plasma resistance, and low dust generation.” Also known as aluminum oxide, the material is far superior to metal,

which would corrode quickly in an acid environment where etching is in- volved. “Compared to other ceramics, alumina is the lowest cost with one of the highest hardness properties,” says Epstein. “Alumina is gas-tight with no open porosity. It is diamond ground to achieve polished surface finishes.” However, for strength and toughness to protect in a rough, external en-

vironment, Epstein recommends zirconia. “Zirconia is the toughest ceramic commercially available,” he says. “This high-strength material exhibits excel- lent wear and corrosion properties.” No matter which ceramic material is selected, it is vital that the suppli-

er can provide consulting and help when required. Ceramic Technologies has over three decades of field experience and provides ceramic design assistance

as needed. Contact: Ceramic Technologies Corp., 1015 Redcedar Lane, Houston, TX

77094 % 281-556-8495 E-mail: Web: r

n semiconductor fabrication, ceramic is a vital material used in many com- ponents and products, such as chucks and carriers, wafer polishing sub- strates, heaters, nozzles, plasma-resistant parts, and electrical

July, 2020

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