SOLUTION

Air Servo

Vacuum Air Servo Stage CA-230
Customer Case Study: Company X

  • High vacuum
  • Non magnetic
  • Non-heat-generating
  • Nano-level positioning
  • High-speed stability
  • High repeatability

Background and challenges

Meeting needs in high-end semiconductor manufacturing

Sometime around 2013, we received a request from a semiconductor manufacturer based outside of Japan to develop and deliver high-performance production equipment that would be a leading force in next-generation semiconductor manufacturing. The manufacturer sought high nano-level precision beyond the reach of conventional technology, thus requiring the development of completely new technology.

Decisive factors

An air servo stage ready for vacuum chambers

Positioning stages are essential components in high-precision semiconductor production equipment. Here, the manufacturer needed a fast, high-precision air servo stage offering nano-level positioning under vacuum conditions. Although other companies also supplied air servo stages, Sumitomo Heavy Industries (SHI) technology was unmatched in meeting the demands of operating under vacuum conditions while ensuring high precision.

Outcome

Industry leadership from a rapid launch with smooth operations

Precision approaching the required level was attained early on during preliminary investigations, and the whole development process leading up to launch took about 18 months. The product proved to be exactly what the client needed. Since then, other companies have inquired about this equipment, which has become a mainstay in high-end semiconductor production. Sales have surged over the past three years, and, in our view, the business holds great future potential.

Background, challenges, and decisive factors

Industry leadership from a rapid launch with smooth operations

Precision approaching the required level was attained early on during preliminary investigations, and the whole development process leading up to launch took about 18 months. The product proved to be exactly what the client needed. Since then, other companies have inquired about this equipment, which has become a mainstay in high-end semiconductor production. Sales have surged over the past three years, and, in our view, the business holds great future potential.

  • Fast, high-precision nano-level positioning
  • Compatibility with high-vacuum conditions and the ability to be used in vacuum chambers
  • Non-heat-generating; compatible with non-magnetic and non-contact operation

We had in the past become familiar with a SHI vacuum air servo stage in use at a research institute. This sparked our interest in the precision of the stage and an appreciation for SHI’s high technical expertise in control equipment. The equipment in vacuum chambers must not generate heat and requires nonmagnetic, non-contact operation to enable precise, nano-level stage movement. Even today, only SHI’s Air Servo Stage CA-230 can meet these difficult requirements. Pneumatic servo stages of other companies are out of the question, as they cannot be used under high vacuum.

Launch, operation, and customer support

Earning client trust through extensive control technology, agility, and productivity

Company X representative

In the field of semiconductors, it’s clearly important to respond rapidly to technological advances, but manufacturers must also be agile and possess adequate supply capacity. Equipment must offer the required precision and be highly reliable in operation in order to minimize downtime. In this respect, Vacuum Air Stage CA-230 offered high precision from the start of our investigations, and both product development and operations after delivery were smooth and successful.

  • Launched in 18 months, after achieving high initial precision and a solid understanding of specification requirements
  • Even our trial equipment was easily able to meet the client’s specifications
  • Rapid response by SHI engineers to all initial problems after deployment outside Japan

The first unit was delivered to a location outside of Japan. We were able to win the confidence of the end client thanks to our prompt response to any initial defects or issues at the start of operation, including visits by SHI experts. The non-contact, air bearing drive generates no particles or wear in use, which means less downtime for maintenance compared to conventional stages. This enhances productivity, which isdefinitely an advantage for our clients. More than five years have passed since we first supplied the equipment, and SHI has also responded to our further needs for the development of upgraded products.

Outcome and future prospects

Anticipating rapid business gains and further development

Company X representative

  • A competitive edge through unmatched technology

Without the Vacuum Air Servo Stage CA-230, we would have no other choice but to decline end-client’s inquiries. Furthermore, the business generated by this product would not exist today, as the technology behind it is absolutely unique. Our division had not contributed much to the company’s overall sales before production and sales of our equipment incorporating Vacuum Air Servo Stage CA-230 began;
however, since around 2006 when greater demand for high-end semiconductor applications (e.g., for smartphones) began to materialize, we have been able to offer our unique and unparalleled equipment to meet this demand; our division is now an important driver for the company’s sales as a whole.

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