What is semiconductor equipment

Important trends in precision manufacturing in 2021

IBS Precision Engineering has been offering high-precision solutions for high-tech production, for manufacturers of scientific instruments and for research institutes for over 25 years.

As part of the international precision engineering community, we supply first-class measuring machines and measuring systems for high-precision parts, processes or instruments. We also design and manufacture modules that are integrated into our customers' products, machines or instruments to ensure that they can achieve extreme geometric or kinematic accuracy.

We have the opportunity to work on some of the most challenging projects, from precision pick and place machines for CERN to optical measurements for next generation semiconductor manufacturing. We see exciting trends in precision requirements everywhere. Here we show just a few of these trends from the industries in which we operate.

Semiconductor equipment

When it comes to equipment for semiconductor production, such as lithography machines, the hunger for precision does not stop. The smaller the structures, the higher the demands on precision. When manufacturing integrated circuits, for example, the typical layer-to-layer accuracy (overlay) is currently 1.5 nanometers (about 1 / 50,000 the width of a hair). The mirrors integrated in the latest generation of lithography machines require a form accuracy that is even smaller by a factor of 100.

With the desired precision, the skill required to control potential malfunctions within the machine also increases. For example, unwanted temperature gradients or unintentional vibrations at extremely low levels can have a significant impact on performance and must be managed. The more complex each functional part of a machine becomes, the more difficult the measurement strategy required to achieve the goal becomes. This strategy must take into account each of the parts and their interrelationships.

Complex systems are described in models using the digital twin. Simulations are used to identify influences of thermal behavior, flow-induced behavior or dynamics. Kinematic and dynamic system modeling is applied to analyze and improve motion performance. With advanced machines, the models are transferred to real-time software embedded in the system

With so much at stake in semiconductor production, quality has to be embedded in the concept. Inspection tools are increasingly in demand to qualify the performance of the parts in every phase of production.

At IBS we now design down to the picometer. Manufacturing virtual machines has become the norm and large data strategies have become a standard requirement as machines get smarter.

Machine tools

Complex workpieces such as turbine blades, impellers and medical prostheses are usually manufactured on 5-axis machine tools. It is essential for machine tool builders and users to reduce geometry, surface or form errors to a minimum. Machine qualification prevents errors before they occur. Qualification tools have to be fast enough to integrate into the production plan and intelligent enough to measure the full dynamic behavior of the machine. The latest generation of measuring systems in this area can measure the full accuracy of a machine tool in less than a minute. These systems enable predictive maintenance to extend the operating time and service life of the machine.

Production processes must increasingly be certified for repeatability, quality and safety of production. The application of international standards (such as ISO 10791-6) enables machine builders, machine users and end customers to agree on common quality goals.

Industry 4.0 helps companies to improve their cost efficiency, become customer-oriented and increase their flexibility. Central data management and analysis, real-time performance data and improvements through software compensation are making this next revolution a reality.

Printing equipment

Printing has required precision for many decades as the human eye is very sensitive to accurately registering colors. Today, however, this has to be achieved over an area of ​​several meters. For this purpose, large cylindrical pressure equipment parts have to achieve an accuracy in the sub-micrometer range (<10-6 m), while in return the dimensions have increased to around 5 meters.

With advanced printing technologies, not only visual data is printed, but also devices such as electronics. This requires the control of the substrate during the printing process with an accuracy in the sub-micron range, regardless of whether the substrate is thin (glass) or flexible (plastic film). This precision can be achieved with technologies such as air bearings for the transport or stabilization of these substrates. Inline inspection interferometers can be used to check the accuracy.

With the transition from 2D to 3D printing, these accuracy requirements become spatial. Here, precise components of motion are key to achieving the required volumetric repeatability. The latest 3D printers (polymer printers) are able to print features in the sub-micron range. For production, this requires extremely precise X, Y and Z tables. Air bearings allow smooth movement at high speed, which is essential for both accuracy and productivity.

To accept the challenge

In the field of precision engineering, the challenges never stop. Fortunately, neither is the ingenuity of the engineers who are happy to face these challenges.


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