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The Cleanest Room of All!

Meeting Semiconductor Cleanliness Levels

To ensure that we can meet the requirements of the dynamic semiconductor industry, Materion Advanced Materials Group has upgraded its existing "white room" into connected areas that deliver an increasing level of cleanliness. Our clean room footprint now provides three adjacent ISO-rated rooms: ISO 7 (Class 10,000), ISO 6 (Class 1,000) and ISO 5 (Class 100). The highest level of cleanliness is the ISO 5, which is often used by some  semiconductor manufacturers.

Why Cleanliness is Critical

In order to be successful in a competitive marketplace, semiconductor companies require high-performance chips with essentially zero-defects.  Many of the manufacturing steps involve the use of physical vapor deposition processes (PVD).  These processes rely on a clean, contamination-free environment, utterly devoid of particulate matter and microorganisms shed by the body. Even at 10 microns, a  single particle can create a defect in the semiconductor device and result in bumps or pits that destroy adhesion and result in product failure.

Materion’s goal is to create sputtering targets that are as meticulously clean as the clean room environment in which the targets will be opened by our customers. The recent completion of the advanced ISO clean room at our facility in Brewster, New York, signals our ongoing commitment to upgrade our PVD products to meet the requirements of our semiconductor and PVD customers.

"We are confident that we can ship targets that are measured, inspected and packaged from a cleanroom with the same specifications as our customer," says Michael Pasquariello, Continuous Improvement Lead at Brewster. "Even though customers may always conduct additional cleaning of their own, we want to remove as many steps as possible from their processes and reduce the need for incremental cleaning."

Clean Room WorkerBeyond the Cleanroom

Upgrading the cleanroom is only the first step in meeting the needs of semiconductor customers.  Quality technicians must be appropriately trained and correctly attired for work in the cleanroom.  In addition, a monitoring system must be established to ensure compliance and consistent performance.
To get a sense of the dress requirements for a Class 100 cleanroom, consider the workday protocol for staff who work there. One needs to don additional protective Class 100-compliant garb instead of a typical company uniform. The uniform consists of shoe covers, gloves, hair bonnet, smock, zipped jumpsuit, full hood and eye protection.

Quality Controls

The health of the cleanroom also needs to be continually assessed. Using the principles of statistical process control, 19 sensors measure temperature, air pressure, humidity and particle count every five seconds. The system is based on the Japanese quality concept of Andon, wherein employees are alerted of specific quality or process anomalies via signal lights, enabling responsible operators to intercept any affected products.

We are seeing tighter cleanliness specifications for memory customers who source magnetic materials for electronic storage applications. As more data is stored on the same size chip, purer materials are needed for their next-generation product lines. To underscore the strategic importance of meeting the higher demands of semiconductor customers, Materion’s cleanroom now reports directly to the Quality department.  In addition to the new cleanroom, we have expanded implemention of ship-to-control processes.  This highlights that Materion will be working to consistently produce and ship materials at a statistically controlled level that is more stringent than simply shipping to product specification. 

 Summary

The best suppliers in the industry are those that understand their customers’ challenges. As semiconductor manufacturers demand cleaner products, Materion is responding to their evolving requirements. For more information on PVD products and our new cleanroom facilities, contact Dana Rzepa, Customer Support Specialist, Dana.Rzepa@Materion.com