Asyst/Xerox Develop SMIF for FPDs
By Susan English
Fremont, CA–Asyst Technologies, Inc. has formed a partnership with Xerox Corp.`s Palo Alto Research Center (PARC)–a leading U.S. manufacturer of flat panel displays (FPDs)–to develop a SMIF material handling system for advanced FPD manufacturing that would enable loading and unloading of FPD substrates within the minienvironment directly into process tools without exposure to ambient conditions.
The alliance aims to bring to the FPD industry the same benefits of cost-containment and ultraclean conditions already indigenous to the semiconductor industry. The initial $1.2 million contract charters Asyst, a supplier of SMIF technology, with developing the new system, which will utilize a “bottom-opening” pod solution to better accommodate FPDs` larger substrate sizes, expected to reach 300 mm over the next two or three years. Under the terms of agreement, Asyst will develop a system of integrated indexers, sealed substrate carriers and cassettes suitable for handling FPDs. The material handling system will be based on Asyst`s Auto-Kinematic system.
In terms of the disastrous effects of defects on profitability, the stakes are high for FPD manufacturers, who work with displays that are typically hundreds of times larger than semiconductor dies, offering little leeway for contamination or handling-associated defects. Therefore, the FPD industry is constantly implementing improved manufacturing methods to reduce costs and better handle the large, heavy substrates.
Manufacturers who produce from 10,000 to 150,000 panels per month could lose $800 per damaged display, according to Stanford Resources, the leading market research firm specializing in the global electronic display industry. For Xerox-PARC, the risks are greater because its displays have resolution seven times finer than those found in an ordinary PC screen, which makes the displays more costly to produce. This scenario was a major incentive for both companies to merge their technologies. Asyst`s vice president of marketing Denver Lough noted that the FPD SMIF system will benefit the semiconductor industry because of timing. “A large-scale, large substrate minienvironment FPD factory will be in production at last two to three years prior to the first 300 mm facilities, allowing us to deliver a production-proven, 300 mm solution to IC makers,” he says.
Asyst says it expects to “work vigorously” to help establish FPD manufacturing standards, as it has in the semiconductor industry, the motivation being to ease the transition between product generations as well as to define standards required by automation systems. Standards experts seem to applaud the company`s entry into the FPD industry. The San Jose-based United States Display Consortium (USDC) said it is delighted at Asyst`s entry into the FPD industry. USDC`s Chief executive officer Michael Ciesinski said, “As one of the world`s leading suppliers of SMIF-minienvironments, Asyst is well-positioned to help accomplish the USDC`s objective of building a strong U.S. supplier infrastructure.” n