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Publication numberUS20010043858 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 09/312,583
Publication dateNov 22, 2001
Filing dateMay 14, 1999
Priority dateMay 14, 1999
Also published asUS6357996
Publication number09312583, 312583, US 2001/0043858 A1, US 2001/043858 A1, US 20010043858 A1, US 20010043858A1, US 2001043858 A1, US 2001043858A1, US-A1-20010043858, US-A1-2001043858, US2001/0043858A1, US2001/043858A1, US20010043858 A1, US20010043858A1, US2001043858 A1, US2001043858A1
InventorsPaul Bacchi, Paul S. Filipski
Original AssigneeKensington Laboratories, Inc.
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Edge gripping specimen prealigner
US 20010043858 A1
Abstract
Specimen edge-gripping prealigners (8, 80) grasp a wafer (10) by at least three edge-gripping capstans (12) that are equally spaced around a periphery (13) of the wafer. Each edge-gripping capstan is coupled by a continuous synchronous belt (14) to a drive hub (15, 84) that is rotated by a drive motor (18, 88). The belts are tensioned by idler pulleys (22, 92) that are rotated by a motive force (25, 96, 102). The edge-gripping capstans and the drive drums are mounted to hinged bearing housings (28, 112) that are spring biased to urge the capstans away from the drive hub. Deactivating the motive force rotates the idler plates into a belt tensioning position that draws the capstans inward to grip the periphery of the wafer. Once gripped, rotation of the drive hub is coupled through the tensioned belts to the capstans. Driving all the capstans provides positive grasping and rotation of the wafer without surface contact with the wafer and thereby reduces wafer damage and particle contamination.
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Claims(20)
We claim:
1. An apparatus for prealigning a substantially planar circular specimen having an exclusion zone extending inwardly from a periphery of the specimen, comprising:
a frame;
at least three capstans movably mounted to the frame and positioned around the periphery of the specimen so as to contact only the exclusion zone of the specimen;
a drive hub rotatable by a motor;
a continuous belt associated with each of the capstans, each belt coupling an associated capstan to the drive hub; and
an idler pulley associated with each of the belts, each idler pulley movable to place an associated belt in alternate tensioned and untensioned states, the tensioned state drawing the capstans inwardly toward the specimen to grip the specimen and the untensioned state releasing the capstans outwardly to release the specimen.
2. The apparatus of
claim 1
in which the specimen is a semiconductor wafer.
3. The apparatus of
claim 2
in which the semiconductor wafer has a diameter ranging from about 200 millimeters to about 300 millimeters.
4. The apparatus of
claim 1
in which the continuous belts are in the tensioned state and in which a rotation of the drive hub couples through the continuous belts to impart a rotation to the capstans and, thereby, to the specimen.
5. The apparatus of
claim 1
in which each capstan is coupled to an associated drive drum that is movably mounted to the frame by a housing.
6. The apparatus of
claim 5
in which the drive drum is journaled for rotation on bearings that are mounted to the housing.
7. The apparatus of
claim 5
in which the housing is pivotably mounted to the frame and the housing is urged away from the specimen by a spring.
8. The apparatus of
claim 1
in which each idler pulley is mounted to an idler plate that moves each idler pulley to place the associated belt in the alternate tensioned and untensioned states.
9. The apparatus of
claim 8
further including a motive force that moves the idler plate in a rotary manner.
10. The apparatus of
claim 1
in which the exclusion zone is an annular band extending inwardly a distance ranging from about 2 millimeters to about 5 millimeters from the periphery of the specimen.
11. The apparatus of
claim 1
in which each capstan rotates about a capstan axis and further includes a load/unload ramp portion that extends radially away from the capstan axis and downward relative to a plane of the specimen and a backstop portion that extends radially away from the capstan axis and upward relative to the plane of the specimen, the load/unload ramp portion and the backstop portion together forming an intersecting pair of truncated right conical sections having an included angle for gripping the exclusion zone of the specimen.
12. The apparatus of
claim 11
in which the rest pad ramp portion extends downward by an angle ranging from about 0-degrees to about 5-degrees relative to the plane of the specimen.
13. The apparatus of
claim 11
in which the backstop portion extends upward by an angle of about 87-degrees relative to the plane of the specimen.
14. A method for rotating a substantially planar circular specimen having an exclusion zone extending inwardly from a periphery of the specimen, comprising:
providing a frame;
movably mounting at least three capstans to the frame;
positioning the capstans around the periphery of the specimen so as to contact only the exclusion zone of the specimen;
mounting a rotatable drive hub to the frame;
coupling the capstans to the rotatable drive hub by continuous belts;
placing a movable idler pulley in contact with each of the belts; and
moving the idler pulleys to place the belts in alternate tensioned and untensioned states, the tensioned state drawing the capstans inwardly toward the specimen to grip the specimen and the untensioned state releasing the capstans outwardly to release the specimen.
15. The method of
claim 14
in which the specimen is a semiconductor wafer.
16. The method of
claim 15
in which the semiconductor wafer has a diameter ranging from about 200 millimeters to about 300 millimeters.
17. The method of
claim 14
further including rotating the specimen by placing the continuous belts in the tensioned state and rotating the drive hub to couple the rotation through the continuous belts to the capstans and, thereby, to the specimen.
18. A method for prealigning a substantially planar circular specimen having a periphery, comprising:
providing a specimen prealigner having at least three movable capstans distributed around a circle sized to surround the specimen;
coupling with continuous belts the capstans to a rotatable drive hub;
providing a robot arm for placing the specimen in a position substantially parallel to a plane passing through the capstans;
tensioning the belts to draw the movable capstans inwardly toward the specimen to grip the specimen by the periphery;
releasing the robot arm from the specimen;
rotating the drive hub;
coupling the drive hub rotation through the continuous belts to the capstans and, thereby, to the specimen;
prealigning the specimen;
untensioning the belts to release the movable capstans outwardly away from the specimen;
grasping the specimen with the robot arm; and
moving the specimen with the robot arm to another position.
19. The method of
claim 18
in which the tensioning and untensioning includes providing multiple movable idler pulleys, pressing the idler pulleys against the belts for tensioning the belts, and withdrawing the idler pulleys from the belts for untensioning the belts.
20. The method of
claim 18
in which the specimen is a semiconductor wafer having a diameter less than about 300 millimeters.
Description
    FIELD OF THE INVENTION
  • [0001]
    This invention is directed to a specimen prealigning apparatus and method and, more particularly, to an edge gripping semiconductor wafer prealigner that substantially reduces wafer backside damage and particulate contamination.
  • BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
  • [0002]
    Integrated circuits are produced from wafers of semiconductor material. The wafers are typically housed in a cassette having a plurality of closely spaced slots, each of which can contain a wafer. The cassette is typically moved to a processing station where the wafers are removed from the cassette, placed in a predetermined orientation (prealigned), and returned to another location for further wafer processing.
  • [0003]
    Various types of wafer handling devices are known for transporting the wafers to and from the cassette and among processing stations. Many employ a robotic arm having a spatula-shaped end that is inserted into the cassette to remove or insert a wafer. The end of the robotic arm typically employs vacuum pressure to releasably hold the wafer to the end of the arm. The robotic arm enters the cassette through the narrow gap between an adjacent pair of wafer slots and engages the backside of a wafer to retrieve it from the cassette. After the wafer has been processed, the robotic arm inserts the wafer back into the cassette.
  • [0004]
    U.S. Pat. No. 5,513,948 for UNIVERSAL SPECIMEN PREALIGNER, which is assigned to the assignee of this application, and U.S. Pat. No. 5,238,354 for SEMICONDUCTOR OBJECT PRE-ALIGNING APPARATUS describe prior semiconductor wafer prealigners that include a rotating vacuum chuck on which the wafer is placed by a robot arm for prealigning.
  • [0005]
    Unfortunately, transferring the wafer among the cassette, robot arm, and prealigner may cause backside damage thereto and contamination of the other wafers housed in the cassette because engagement with the wafer may dislodge particles that can fall and settle onto the other wafers. Robotic arms and prealigners that employ a vacuum pressure to grip the wafer can be designed to minimize particle creation. Even the few particles created with vacuum pressure gripping or any other non-edge gripping method are sufficient to contaminate adjacent wafers housed in the cassette. Reducing such contamination is particularly important to maintaining wafer processing yields. Moreover, the wafer being transferred may be scratched or abraded on its backside, resulting in wafer processing damage.
  • [0006]
    What is needed, therefore, is a wafer gripping technique that can securely, quickly, and accurately prealign wafers while minimizing particle contamination and wafer scratching.
  • SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
  • [0007]
    An object of this invention is, therefore, to provide an apparatus and a method for prealigning semiconductor wafers.
  • [0008]
    Another object of this invention is to provide an apparatus and a method for quickly and accurately prealigning specimens.
  • [0009]
    A further object of this invention is to provide an apparatus and a method for prealigning wafers while minimizing particle contamination and wafer scratching.
  • [0010]
    Specimen edge-gripping prealigners of this invention grasp a wafer by at least three edge-gripping capstans that are preferably equally spaced around the periphery of the wafer. Each of the edge-gripping capstans is coupled by a continuous synchronous belt to an axially centered, grooved drive hub that is rotated by a drive motor. Each of the capstans is also coaxially connected to a grooved drive drum that is coupled to the drive hub by one of the continuous synchronous belts, and each belt is routed in a unique location in a set of grooves in the drive drums and the drive hub. The continuous synchronous belts are tensioned by idler pulleys that are mounted to axially rotatable idler plates that are coupled together for common rotation by a belt tensioning motor or some other form of rotary biasing force, such as a spring, solenoid, or vacuum pressure actuated piston.
  • [0011]
    The edge-gripping capstans and the grooved drive drums are mounted to hinged bearing housings that are pivotally spring biased to preload the grooved drive drums radially away from the axially centered drive hub. The edge-gripping capstans can be driven radially inward to grip the wafer by rotating the belt tensioning motor to apply sufficient tension to overcome the spring preload force on the idler plates. Once gripped, the wafer can be rotated by energizing the drive motor to rotate the drive hub, which rotation is coupled through the tensioned belts and drive drums to the capstans.
  • [0012]
    The edge-gripping specimen prealigner of this invention is suitable for prealigning semiconductor wafers. Simultaneously rotating all the edge-gripping capstans provides positive rotation of the wafer without wafer surface contact, which eliminates wafer backside damage. Synchronously driving of all the capstans prevents slippage between each capstan and the wafer and thereby results in minimized edge contamination.
  • [0013]
    Additional objects and advantages of this invention will be apparent from the following detailed description of preferred embodiments thereof that proceed with reference to the accompanying drawings.
  • BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
  • [0014]
    [0014]FIG. 1 is a sectional elevation view of a first embodiment of an edge-gripping specimen prealigner of this invention showing internal details of motors, belt drives, capstans, and a specimen peripheral edge scanner.
  • [0015]
    [0015]FIG. 2 is a sectional top view taken along lines 2-2 of FIG. 1 showing belt driving and tensioning mechanisms coupling a drive motor to three specimen edge gripping capstans.
  • [0016]
    [0016]FIG. 3 is a sectional elevation view taken along lines 3-3 of FIG. 2 showing internal details of a representative drive drum and specimen edge gripping capstan of this invention.
  • [0017]
    [0017]FIG. 4 is an enlarged sectional view of an edge-gripping capstan gripping a wafer periphery in a manner according to this invention.
  • [0018]
    [0018]FIG. 5 is a sectional elevation view of a second embodiment of an edge-gripping specimen prealigner of this invention showing internal details of motors, belt drives, and capstans.
  • [0019]
    [0019]FIG. 6 is a bottom view of FIG. 5 showing belt driving and tensioning mechanisms coupling a drive motor to six specimen edge gripping capstans that are in a specimen edge-gripping position.
  • [0020]
    [0020]FIG. 7 is a bottom view of FIG. 5 showing belt driving and tensioning mechanisms coupling a drive motor to six specimen edge gripping capstans that are in a specimen releasing position.
  • [0021]
    [0021]FIG. 8 is an enlarged sectional elevation view showing internal details of a representative drive drum, specimen edge gripping capstan, and specimen peripheral edge scanner of this invention.
  • DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS
  • [0022]
    [0022]FIGS. 1 and 2 show sectional side and bottom views of a first preferred embodiment of a specimen edge-gripping prealigner 8 (hereafter “prealigner 8”.) Prealigner 8 is composed of a frame 9 to which three edge-gripping capstans 12 are movably mounted and positioned to grasp a generally circular specimen, such as a wafer 10 (shown in phantom in FIG. 2). The capstans 12 are preferably spaced equally apart and located along a circle generally defined by a periphery 13 (shown in dashed lines in FIG. 2) of wafer 10. Periphery 13 may include “flat” and “notch” features, which are used for orientating wafer 10. Prealigner 8 may be adapted for use with any generally circular specimens.
  • [0023]
    Edge-gripping capstans 12 are coupled by continuous synchronous belts 14 to a grooved drive hub 15 that is journaled in bearings 16 for rotation about a rotational axis 17 by a motor 18, all of which are supported by frame 9. Edge-gripping capstans 12 are directly coupled to grooved drive drums 20. Each drive drum 20 is coupled to drive hub 15 by a different one of the three continuous synchronous belts 14. Each of belts 14 is routed at a different elevation around the same set of associated grooves in its corresponding drive drum 20 and drive hub 15. The resulting rotation of edge-gripping capstans 12 takes place about capstan axes 21, which extend parallel to rotational axis 17.
  • [0024]
    Continuous synchronous belts 14 are tensioned by idler pulleys 22 that are mounted to radially extending arms of an axially rotatable idler plate 24, which is shown in FIG. 2 rotated to a belt tensioning position 24A (solid lines) and an alternate belt untensioned position 24B (phantom lines). Idler plate 24 is rotated through a predetermined angular range about rotational axis 17 by a motor 25 or some other rotary biasing force, such as a spring and a solenoid. Motor 25 and idler plate 24 are journaled for rotation about bearings 26, all of which are supported by frame 9.
  • [0025]
    Referring to FIG. 3, each of grooved drive drums 20 is journaled for rotation about bearings 27 that are mounted in associated ones of hinged bearing housings 28. Bearing housing 28 are journaled for pivotal movement about bearings 29, which are supported by frame 9. The pivoting of hinged bearing housings 28 allows radial displacement of capstan axis 21 relative to rotational axis 17. The pivoting of hinged bearing housings 112 allows radial displacement of capstan axis 21 relative to rotational axis 17. Each of hinged bearing housings 28 includes a coil spring 30 that preloads drive drum 20 away from rotational axis 17. To ensure proper movement of edge-gripping capstans 12, each of hinged bearing housings 28 further includes a vane 120 1 that protrudes from the end of hinged bearing housing 28 opposite pivot axis 116 1. Depending on the rotational state of hinged bearing housing 112, vane 120 1 is positioned to alternately interrupt (see FIG. 6 showing this position for an alternative embodiment) or not interrupt (see FIG. 7 showing this position for an alternative embodiment) a light beam within an optical sensor 122 1. All three of optical sensors 122 1 acting together provide a positive electrical indication of whether prealigner 8 is in a wafer gripping state or a wafer releasing state.
  • [0026]
    [0026]FIG. 4 shows an enlarged view of a representative one of edge-gripping capstans 12, which includes a wafer-contacting pulley 31 that may be formed from various materials, and preferably polyetheretherketone “peek”), a semi-crystalline high temperature thermoplastic manufactured by Victrex in the United Kingdom. The material forming wafer-contacting pulley 31 may be changed to suit the working environment, such as in high temperature applications. Peek material provides a contamination resistant low scratching wafer contacting surface.
  • [0027]
    Wafer-contacting pulley 31 includes a load/unload portion 32 ramped at a shallow angle for supporting wafer 10 when capstan 12 is in its specimen gripping and nongripping positions. Pulley 31 also includes an inwardly inclined ramp-backstop portion 34 that is pressed against the periphery 13 of wafer 10 when capstan 12 is in its specimen gripping position.
  • [0028]
    Load/unload ramp portion 32 has a radial width 36 that allows adequate range for the wafer positioning variation of the mechanism which loads the wafer onto the prealigner. Load/unload ramp portion 32 is angled downwardly from the plane of wafer 10 by an angle greater than 0 degrees, and preferably 1 to 5 degrees.
  • [0029]
    Inwardly inclined backstop portion 34 has a height 38 large enough to capture wafer 10, preferably between about 1 mm and 2 mm and is angled upwardly from the plane of wafer 10 to secure it by about 3 degrees.
  • [0030]
    Load/unload ramp portion 32 and backstop portion 34 together form an intersecting pair of truncated right conical sections having an included angle for gripping periphery 13 of wafer 10.
  • [0031]
    When edge-gripping capstans 12 are actuated to press against periphery 13 of wafer 10, the intersecting inclined conical surfaces formed by load/unload ramp portion 32 and inwardly inclined backstop portion 34 positively grip and maintain wafer 10 in a preferable horizontal attitude, although other attitudes are possible. When edge-gripping capstans 12 are released from gripping wafer 10, load/unload ramp portion 32 supports the periphery 13 of wafer 10.
  • [0032]
    A typical operational sequence for prealigner 8 is described below with reference to FIGS. 1 and 2.
  • [0033]
    Prealigner 8 is in an initial state in which no wafer 10 is present and idler plate 24 is in belt untensioning position 24B.
  • [0034]
    A robot arm 50 (fragmentary view shown in FIG. 1) grips wafer 10 by periphery 13 and positions wafer 10 at a wafer position 10A that is separated apart from but substantially parallel to a plane passing through load/unload ramp portions 32 of edge-gripping capstans 12. Robot arm 50 performs wafer 10 positioning movements in one of the approximately 120-degree clearance spaces between edge-gripping capstans 12. A specimen edge-gripping robot arm suitable for use with this invention is described in copending U.S. patent application Ser. No. 09/204,747, filed Dec. 2, 1998, for ROBOT ARM WITH SPECIMEN EDGE GRIPPING END EFFECTOR, which is assigned to the assignee of this application.
  • [0035]
    Robot arm 50 lowers wafer 10 to a wafer position 10B such that wafer 10 is supported by the load/unload ramp portions 32 of edge-gripping capstans 12.
  • [0036]
    Robot arm 50 disengages from wafer 10 and moves to a wafer disengaged position (shown in dashed lines). Robot arm 50 may stay at the wafer disengaged position during subsequent wafer prealigning operations or it may be withdrawn from prealigner 8.
  • [0037]
    Motor 25 is actuated to rotate idler plate 24 from untensioned position 24B to tensioned position 24A to provide sufficient tension in belts 14 to overcome the preload force applied to grooved drive drums 20 and to draw edge-gripping capstans 12 radially inward to grip periphery 13 of wafer 10.
  • [0038]
    Once gripped, wafer 10 is rotated by energizing motor 18 to rotate drive hub 15, which rotation is coupled through tensioned belts 14 and drive drums 20 and, therefore, to edge-gripping capstans 12. Preferably all of edge-gripping capstans 12 are driven to prevent rotational slippage, even though wafer 10 is gripped with minimal force.
  • [0039]
    During rotation of wafer 10, a linear charge-coupled device (“CCD”) array 52 receives an image of a slice of periphery 13 of wafer 10. Periphery 13 is illuminated through a collimating lens 53 by a light source 54 that casts a shadow of the periphery 13 on CCD array 52. The “terminator” position of the shadow on individual sensors in the CCD array 52 provides a signal from CCD array 52 that accurately represents a radial distance between rotational axis 17 and periphery 13 for each of a set of rotational angles of wafer 10. CCD array 52 may also sense when wafer 10 is gripped by detecting a lateral movement of periphery 13.
  • [0040]
    An optical rotary encoder 56 provides feedback to control the rotation of motor 25. A notch (not shown) in periphery 13 serves as an angular index mark for determining in cooperation with optical rotary encoder 56 the actual rotational angles of wafer 10 since there is uncertainty of the actual effective radii of the wafer 10 and the edge-gripping capstans 12.
  • [0041]
    Prealigning of wafer 10 may be carried out in the manner described in the above-referenced U.S. Pat. No. 5,513,948 for UNIVERSAL SPECIMEN PREALIGNER.
  • [0042]
    After wafer 10 is prealigned, motor 18 is deactivated, motor 25 rotates idler plate 24 to belt untensioning position 24B, and robot arm 50 retrieves wafer 10 from prealigner 8.
  • [0043]
    [0043]FIGS. 5, 6, and 7 show respectively a sectional side view and two bottom views of a second preferred embodiment of a specimen edge-gripping prealigner 80 (hereafter “prealigner 80”). Prealigner 80 is composed of a frame 82 to which six edge-gripping capstans 12 are movably mounted and positioned to grasp a generally circular specimen, such as wafer 10 (shown in phantom in FIGS. 6 and 7). The capstans are spaced apart and located along a circular plane generally defined by a periphery 13 (shown in dashed lines in FIGS. 6 and 7) of wafer 10. Periphery 13 typically includes a “notch” feature for identifying a rotational index orientation for wafer 10. FIGS. 6 and 7 show periphery 13 of wafer 10 respectively gripped and released by edge-gripping capstans 12.
  • [0044]
    Prealigner 80 may be adapted for use with generally circular specimens, such as wafer 10 having a nominal diameter ranging from about 200 mm to 300 mm, although other diameters would also be applicable.
  • [0045]
    Edge-gripping capstans 12 are coupled by continuous synchronous belts 14 to a drive hub 84 that is journaled in bearings 86 for rotation about rotational axis 17 by a motor 88, all of which are supported by frame 82. Edge-gripping capstans 12 are directly coupled to drive drums 90. Each drive drum 90 is coupled to drive hub 84 by a different one of the six continuous synchronous belts 14. Each of belts 14 is routed at different elevations around the same set of associated grooves in its corresponding drive drum 90 and drive hub 84. The resulting rotation of edge-gripping capstans 12 takes place about capstan axes 21, which extend parallel to rotational axis 17.
  • [0046]
    Continuous synchronous belts 14 are tensioned by idler pulleys 92 that are mounted at the ends of arms that extend radially from an axially rotatable idler plate 94, which is shown in FIG. 6 rotated to a belt tensioning position and in FIG. 7 rotated to a belt untensioned position. Idler plate 94 is rotated through an angular range about rotational axis 17 by a vacuum pressure actuated piston 96 acting through a coupling link 98 that is attached to the end of one of the arms of idler plate 94. Idler plate 94 is journaled in bearings 100 for rotation about rotational axis 17.
  • [0047]
    When vacuum pressure actuated piston 96 receives no vacuum pressure and/or prealigner 80 is deenergized, a set of springs 102 extending between a rotationally adjustable hub 104 and the arms of idler plate 94 provide a biasing force that rotates idler plate 94 to the belt tensioning position shown in FIG. 6. This is advantageous because prealigner 80 will remain in a wafer gripping state in the event of a power or vacuum pressure failure. The amount of biasing force is adjustable by rotating adjustable hub 104. While a single spring 102 could provide the biasing force, multiple springs are preferred because they provide a more uniform and linear biasing force to idler plate 94. Of course, when moving idler plate 94 to the belt relaxing position shown in FIG. 7, vacuum pressure actuated piston 96 must provide sufficient force to overcome the biasing force of springs 102.
  • [0048]
    Drive hub 84 and drive drums 90 have unequal diameters that provide about a 3.6:1 drive ratio from drive hub 84 to drive drums 90 in a preferred embodiment. The rotational position of drive hub 84 is sensed by a conventional glass scale rotary encoder 106 and an associated optical sensor 108.
  • [0049]
    Referring also to FIG. 8, each drive drum 90 is journaled on bearings 110 that are mounted in associated ones of hinged bearing housings 112. The hinged bearing housings 122 are journaled on bearings 114 for pivoting about a pivot axis 116. The pivoting of hinged bearing housings 112 allows radial displacement of capstan axis 21 relative to rotational axis 17. Each of hinged bearing housings 112 further includes a coil spring 118 that preloads drive drum 90 radially away from rotational axis 17.
  • [0050]
    The preloading force provided by springs 118 is sufficient to move edge-gripping capstans 12 radially away from rotational axis 17 when belts 14 are in the untensioned state, but the preloading force is insufficient when belts 14 are in the tensioned state. Accordingly, edge-gripping capstans 12 alternate between wafer gripping and wafer releasing positions in response to actuation of vacuum pressure actuated piston 96. To ensure proper movement of edge-gripping capstans 12, each of hinged bearing housings 112 further includes a vane 120 that protrudes from the end of hinged bearing housing 112 opposite pivot axis 116. Depending on the rotational state of hinged bearing housing 112, vane 120 is positioned to alternately interrupt (FIG. 6) or not interrupt (FIG. 7) a light beam within an optical sensor 122. All six of optical sensors 122 acting together provide a positive electrical indication of whether prealigner 80 is in a wafer gripping state or a wafer releasing state.
  • [0051]
    A typical operational sequence for prealigner 80 is described below with reference to FIGS. 5, 6, 7, and 8.
  • [0052]
    Prealigner 80 is in an initial state in which no wafer 10 is present and idler plate 94 is in the belt untensioning position shown in FIG. 7.
  • [0053]
    A robot arm (not shown) grips wafer 10 by periphery 13 and positions wafer 10 similar to the manner described-above for prealigner 8.
  • [0054]
    The robot arm lowers wafer 10 such that wafer 10 rests on load/unload ramp portions 32 of edge-gripping capstans 12.
  • [0055]
    The robot arm disengages from wafer 10 and moves to a wafer disengaged position. The robot arm may stay at the wafer disengaged position during subsequent wafer prealigning operations or it may be withdrawn from prealigner 80.
  • [0056]
    Vacuum pressure actuated piston 96 is deactuated to rotate idler plate 94 from the belt untensioned position shown in FIG. 7 to the belt tensioned position shown in FIG. 6, thereby drawing edge-gripping capstans 12 radially inward to grip periphery 13 of wafer 10.
  • [0057]
    Once gripped, wafer 10 is rotated by energizing motor 88 to rotate drive hub 84, which rotation is coupled through tensioned belts 14 and drive drum 90 and, therefore, to edge-gripping capstans 12. Preferably all of edge-gripping capstans 12 are driven to prevent rotational slippage, even though wafer 10 is gripped with minimal force.
  • [0058]
    During rotation of wafer 10, a linear charge-coupled device (“CCD”) array 124 receives an image of a slice of periphery 13 of wafer 10. Periphery 13 is illuminated through a collimating lens 126 by a light source 128 that casts a shadow of the periphery 13 on CCD array 124. The “terminator” position of the shadow on individual sensors in the CCD array 124 provides a signal from CCD array 124 that accurately represents a radial distance between rotational axis 17 and periphery 13 for each of a set of rotational angles of wafer 10. CCD array 124 may also sense when wafer 10 is gripped by detecting a lateral movement of periphery 13.
  • [0059]
    Rotational axis 17 is substantially coaxial with the effective center of wafer 10 because of the angular spacing of edge-gripping capstans 12 around periphery 13. Edge-gripping capstans 12 are arranged in two groups of three, with the groups on opposite sides of a first imaginary line 130 extending through rotational axis 17 and CCD array 124. Adjacent capstans 12 in each group are angularly spaced apart from each other, with the center capstan in each group having its capstan axis 21 lying in a second imaginary line 132 that extends perpendicular to the first imaginary line 130 and through rotational axis 17.
  • [0060]
    The amount of angular rotation imparted by edge-gripping capstans 12 to wafer 10 is sensed by rotary encoder 106 and optical sensor 108 that is coupled to drive hub 84. A notch (not shown) in periphery 13 serves as an angular index mark for determining in cooperation with rotary encoder 106 and optical sensor 108 the actual rotational angles of wafer 10. Because the diameter of wafer 10 is a variable and wafer periphery 13 may be square, chamfered, or rounded, an angular encoding calibration is carried out as follows. Wafer 10 is rotated until CCD array 124 senses the notch. Wafer 10 is rotated one complete revolution until CCD array 124 again senses the notch. During one complete notch-to-notch revolution of wafer 10, the distance travelled is measured by the optical sensor 108. The total distance measured is divided by one revolution in the appropriate unit system to derive the appropriate relationship between the distance units of optical sensor 108 and wafer rotational units. During a subsequent notch-to-notch rotation of wafer 10, a set of radius measurements made at predetermined angular intervals by CCD array 124 sensing periphery 13 of wafer 10 as described above.
  • [0061]
    Thereafter, rotational prealigning of wafer 10 may be carried out in the manner described in the above-referenced U.S. Pat. No. 5,513,948.
  • [0062]
    After wafer 10 is prealigned, vacuum pressure actuated piston 96 is activated to rotate idler plate 94 to belt untensioned position shown in FIG. 7, and the robot arm retrieves wafer 10 from prealigner 80.
  • [0063]
    Skilled workers will recognize that portions of this invention may be implemented differently from the implementations described above for preferred embodiments. For example, different drive hub to capstan ratios may be employed. Three and six capstan embodiments are shown, but many embodiments with more than three capstans are envisioned can be implemented. Also, the capstans necessarily require neither equal angular spacing around the specimen nor the spacings shown and described in the above-described embodiments.
  • [0064]
    It will be obvious to those having skill in the art that many changes may be made to the details of the above-described embodiments of this invention without departing from the underlying principles thereof. Accordingly, it will be appreciated that this invention is also applicable to specimen handling applications other than those found in semiconductor wafer processing. The scope of the present invention should, therefore, be determined only by the following claims.
Referenced by
Citing PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
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US20060222477 *Jul 11, 2005Oct 5, 2006Moura Jairo THigh speed substrate aligner apparatus
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US20100013169 *Jul 17, 2008Jan 21, 2010Bjorn MonteenThin wafer chuck
EP1866958A2 *Mar 29, 2006Dec 19, 2007Brooks Automation, Inc.High speed substrate aligner apparatus
EP1866958A4 *Mar 29, 2006Apr 21, 2010Brooks Automation IncHigh speed substrate aligner apparatus
Classifications
U.S. Classification414/757, 414/816
International ClassificationH01L21/687
Cooperative ClassificationH01L21/68707
European ClassificationH01L21/687G
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DateCodeEventDescription
Aug 16, 1999ASAssignment
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