CollabraTech Solutions (CTS), a full-service capital equipment company, today at the Fab Owners Association’s (FOA) Collaborative Forum in Scottsdale, Arizona, introduced a direct replacement auto valve manifold box (VMB) controller designed to provide a cost-saving alternative to replacing the growing population of end-of-life, ultra-high-purity gas distribution systems in aging semiconductor fabs.
“Increased device demand from the automotive and commercial industries is requiring fabs to operate longer than originally planned. Remaining profitable under constant price pressures while process equipment ages is a real challenge for these fabs,” said Steve Lemons, president of CollabraTech.
“Relying on more than 35 years of experience in designing, developing and building new OEM equipment for the semiconductor industry, we are uniquely qualified to support the aging fab with a complete product life cycle solution,” he added. “Taking into account equipment efficiencies and maintenance costs, we develop innovative product extension strategies to extend the economic life of chip manufacturing lines.”
“The new direct replacement auto VMB controller we introduced today at the FOA meeting is an illustration of how our fab-audits quickly yield our customers significant cost savings,” said Tim Provencher, VP of engineering at CollabraTech.
VMBs reach end-of-life status because controllers for these systems have begun to be less reliable, causing unplanned downtime and incremental maintenance costs. Although the VMB and gas system hardware remain very reliable, the only solution to date has been to replace the entire VMB, as old controller parts are no longer available. CollabraTech’s next-generation AVMB4S and AVMB8S controllers were developed specifically to address this issue, extending the life of these legacy gas systems in the fab.
For the initial rollout, CollabraTech worked closely with a major semiconductor fab in the Pacific Northwest. Ed Coghlan, gas systems engineer, stated, "Though we couldn’t find controller replacement parts, we didn’t see any sense in decommissioning hardware that would be viable for several more decades. CollabraTech’s engineering team rose to the challenge with a ‘plug and play’ solution that successfully replaced the facility’s older auto VMB controllers in less than three hours from process shutdown to restart.”
In addition to the significant savings over the cost of a full system replacement and the associated downtime for installation and qualification, CollabraTech’s auto VMB controller also reduces the cost of labor, materials and environmental waste from decommissioned equipment.
CollabraTech’s growing family of auto VMB controllers are designed for safe, automatic delivery of gases to any process tool. Leveraging the latest technology to deliver ultra-pure process gases safely and cleanly, the AVMB4S and AVMB8S support four or eight gas lines (sticks), feature a programmable logic-based controller (PLC) with a large color touch screen and timed passcode entry to prevent unauthorized users from accessing the system.
The controller features life safety relay logic for true hardware interlocking and is backed up by the PLC to communicate to facility SCADA. The life safety alarms include CDA, source pressure, fire, toxic, exhaust and EMO alarms. Automatic vent and purge procedures remove hazardous gas from the panels before maintenance procedures, or at startup. Communication options include TCP/IP Ethernet, and Modbus RTU protocol.