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Publication numberUS20070116545 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 11/554,505
Publication dateMay 24, 2007
Filing dateOct 30, 2006
Priority dateNov 21, 2005
Also published asCN1975985A, WO2007061604A2, WO2007061604A3
Publication number11554505, 554505, US 2007/0116545 A1, US 2007/116545 A1, US 20070116545 A1, US 20070116545A1, US 2007116545 A1, US 2007116545A1, US-A1-20070116545, US-A1-2007116545, US2007/0116545A1, US2007/116545A1, US20070116545 A1, US20070116545A1, US2007116545 A1, US2007116545A1
InventorsMichael Rice, Martin Elliott
Original AssigneeApplied Materials, Inc.
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Apparatus and methods for a substrate carrier having an inflatable seal
US 20070116545 A1
Abstract
The present invention provides systems, methods, and apparatus for use with a substrate carrier. The invention provides a door opener adapted to employ a vacuum source to collapse an inflatable seal of a door of the substrate carrier. By collapsing the inflatable seal, the door is released from the body of the substrate carrier so that substrates may be removed and/or inserted into the carrier. A second vacuum source may be applied to the door to hold it securely to the door opener. Numerous other aspects of the invention are disclosed.
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Claims(24)
1. An apparatus for use with a substrate carrier, comprising:
a door opener adapted to employ a first vacuum source to collapse an inflatable seal of a door of a substrate carrier in order to release the door from a body of the substrate carrier.
2. The apparatus of claim 1 wherein the door opener is further adapted to employ a second vacuum source to hold the door of the substrate carrier against the door opener.
3. The apparatus of claim 1 wherein the door opener includes a port adapted to apply vacuum pressure from the first vacuum source to the inflatable seal of the door of the substrate carrier.
4. The apparatus of claim 2 wherein the door opener includes a port adapted to apply vacuum pressure from the second vacuum source to the door of the substrate carrier.
5. The apparatus of claim 2 wherein the first vacuum source and the second vacuum source are generated by a single vacuum source.
6. The apparatus of claim 1 wherein the door opener further includes a registration feature adapted to mate with a corresponding registration feature on the door of the substrate carrier.
7. The apparatus of claim 1 wherein the door opener further includes one or more channels adapted to direct vacuum pressure from the first vacuum source to the inflatable seal of the door of the substrate carrier.
8. The apparatus of claim 2 wherein the door opener further includes one or more channels adapted to direct vacuum pressure from the second vacuum source to the door of the substrate carrier.
9. A system for sealing substrate carriers comprising:
a substrate carrier adapted to hold one or more substrates; and
a loadport for receiving a substrate carrier from a substrate carrier transport system, wherein the loadport includes a door opener adapted to employ a first vacuum source to collapse an inflatable seal of a door of a substrate carrier in order to release the door from a body of the substrate carrier.
10. The system of claim 9 wherein the door opener is further adapted to employ a second vacuum source to hold the door of the substrate carrier against the door opener.
11. The system of claim 9 wherein the door opener includes a port adapted to apply vacuum pressure from the first vacuum source to the inflatable seal of the door of the substrate carrier.
12. The system of claim 10 wherein the door opener includes a port adapted to apply vacuum pressure from the second vacuum source to the door of the substrate carrier.
13. The system of claim 10 wherein the first vacuum source and the second vacuum source are generated by a single vacuum source.
14. The system of claim 9 wherein the door opener further includes a registration feature adapted to mate with a corresponding registration feature on the door of the substrate carrier.
15. The system of claim 9 wherein the door opener further includes one or more channels adapted to direct vacuum pressure from the first vacuum source to the inflatable seal of the door of the substrate carrier.
16. The system of claim 10 wherein the door opener further includes one or more channels adapted to direct vacuum pressure from the second vacuum source to the door of the substrate carrier.
17. A method comprising:
receiving a substrate carrier at a loadport;
mating a door opener of the loadport to a door of the substrate carrier;
applying a first vacuum pressure to the door via the door opener to hold the door; and
applying a second vacuum pressure to an inflatable seal of the door to collapse the inflatable seal and release the door of the substrate carrier from the substrate carrier.
18. The method of claim 17 further comprising removing the door from the substrate carrier.
19. The method of claim 17 further comprising removing a substrate from the substrate carrier.
20. The method of claim 17 further comprising inserting a substrate into the substrate carrier.
21. The method of claim 18 further comprising inserting the door into a door frame of the substrate carrier, wherein the inflatable seal, still under the second vacuum pressure, is collapsed.
22. The method of claim 21 further comprising removing the second vacuum pressure from the inflatable seal to cause the inflatable seal to inflate and seal the door in the door frame of the substrate carrier.
23. The method of claim 22 further comprising removing the first vacuum pressure from the door thereby releasing the door from the door opener.
24. The method of claim 23 further comprising decoupling the door opener from the door of the substrate carrier.
Description
    RELATED APPLICATIONS
  • [0001]
    The present application claims priority to U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 60/738,542, filed on Nov. 21, 2005 and entitled “APPARATUS AND METHODS FOR A SUBSTRATE CARRIER HAVING AN INFLATABLE SEAL,” which is hereby incorporated by reference herein for all purposes.
  • FIELD OF THE INVENTION
  • [0002]
    The present invention relates to electronic device manufacturing and, more particularly, to apparatus and methods related to sealing substrate carrier doors.
  • BACKGROUND
  • [0003]
    It is generally preferable to protect substrates (e.g., patterned or unpatterned semiconductor wafers, glass panels, polymer substrates, reticules, masks, glass plates or the like) from exposure to any potential contaminating particles. Thus, such substrates may be stored in air tight containers. However, the substrates must typically be transported to different process tools within an electronic device manufacturing facility. Thus, what is needed are methods and apparatus for transporting substrates in sealed containers as well as systems and methods for accessing the substrates without exposing the substrates to potential contaminating particles.
  • SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
  • [0004]
    In a some aspects, the present invention provides an apparatus for use with a substrate carrier that includes a door opener adapted to employ a first vacuum source to collapse an inflatable seal of a door of a substrate carrier in order to release the door from a body of the substrate carrier.
  • [0005]
    In other aspects of the present invention, a system for sealing substrate carriers is provided that includes a substrate carrier adapted to hold one or more substrates, and a loadport for receiving a substrate carrier from a substrate carrier transport system. The loadport includes a door opener adapted to employ a first vacuum source to collapse an inflatable seal of a door of a substrate carrier in order to release the door from a body of the substrate carrier.
  • [0006]
    In yet other aspects of the present invention, a method is provided including receiving a substrate carrier at a loadport; mating a door opener to a door of the substrate carrier; applying a first vacuum pressure to the door via the door opener to hold the door; and applying a second vacuum pressure to an inflatable seal to collapse the inflatable seal and release the door of the substrate from the substrate carrier.
  • [0007]
    Other features and aspects of the present invention will become more fully apparent from the following detailed description, the appended claims and the accompanying drawings.
  • BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
  • [0008]
    FIG. 1 illustrates a perspective view of an exemplary embodiment of the apparatus of the present invention.
  • [0009]
    FIG. 2 illustrates the apparatus of FIG. 1 with the seal plate of the door opener body removed.
  • [0010]
    FIG. 3 illustrates the apparatus of FIG. 1 in a reverse perspective view showing the reverse sides of the substrate carrier door and the door opener body.
  • [0011]
    FIG. 4 illustrates a side view of the components of the apparatus of FIG. 3, taken along line 4-4 in FIG. 3.
  • [0012]
    FIG. 5 illustrates the side view of the apparatus of FIG. 4 showing the door opener body attached to, or mated with, the substrate carrier door.
  • [0013]
    FIG. 6 illustrates a cross sectional side view of the components of the apparatus of FIG. 3 taken along line 6-6 in FIG. 3.
  • [0014]
    FIG. 7 illustrates the side view of the apparatus of FIG. 6 showing the door opener body attached to, or mated with, the FOUP door.
  • [0015]
    FIG. 8 illustrates a system that employs the inventive FOUP door and door opener body of FIGS. 1 to 7.
  • [0016]
    FIG. 9 illustrates a flowchart that depicts an example process according to an embodiment of the present invention.
  • DETAILED DESCRIPTION
  • [0017]
    The present invention relates to a substrate carrier door having an inflatable seal. For convenience, the invention is described in connection with a front opening unified pod (FOUP) door. However, it will be understood that the invention may be employed with any substrate carrier adapted to house and transport substrates such as semiconductor wafers, glass substrates, polymer substrates, masks, reticules and/or the like.
  • [0018]
    FIG. 1 illustrates a perspective view of an exemplary embodiment of the apparatus of the present invention which is designated generally by the reference numeral 100. With reference to FIG. 1, the apparatus 100 includes a FOUP door 200. The FOUP door 200, in an exemplary embodiment, may be used with, or in connection with, any suitable front opening unified pod (FOUP) (an example of which is depicted in FIG. 8). The FOUP door 200 is adapted to seat into a door frame (not pictured) of a FOUP to create a sealed closure. The apparatus 100 also includes a door opener body 300 which is utilized with, or in connection with, a FOUP door opener (FIG. 8) and/or loadport (FIG. 8).
  • [0019]
    With reference to FIG. 1, the FOUP door 200 includes an outer plate 210, and an inner structure 220, attached to the outer plate 210. The outer plate 210 and the inner structure 220 may be attached to each other in any suitable manner such as via screws, bolts, etc., or may be integrally formed and/or of unitary construction.
  • [0020]
    The FOUP door 200 also includes an inflatable door seal 230 which extends along and about the periphery of the outer plate 210/inner structure 220 combination, as shown. In an exemplary embodiment, the inflatable door seal 230 can be made from rubber or a similar material (e.g., an elastic, flexible, and/or conforming material). When the FOUP door 200 is seated into the door frame of a FOUP, the inflatable door seal 230 may be inflated to press against the door frame and seal the FOUP closed.
  • [0021]
    The FOUP door 200 may also include sockets 240 in the outer plate 210, as shown, which may receive pins or other features of the door opener body 300 as will be described herein. In an exemplary embodiment, the sockets 240 may be registration pin sockets or similar kinematic features. Any number of sockets 240 can be utilized depending upon the design of the door opener body 300 and/or the FOUP door 200. The FOUP door 200 also includes a door seal vacuum fitting 250 located in the outer plate 210, as shown. Other fitting locations may be used.
  • [0022]
    The outer plate 210 and inner structure 220 are adapted so that the outer plate 210 inner structure 220 combination allows air or any other gas to pass out of the inflatable door seal 230 via the door seal vacuum fitting 250 and allows air or any other gas to pass from the door seal vacuum fitting 250 into the inflatable door seal 230. In this manner, an application of a vacuum to the door seal vacuum fitting 250 can deflate or collapse the door seal 230. The removal of the vacuum from the door seal vacuum fitting 250 (and/or application of pressurized air gas) may allow air or any other gas (which in some embodiments may be applied to the door seal vacuum fitting 250) to enter through the door seal vacuum fitting 250 in order to re-inflate or expand the door seal 230.
  • [0023]
    With reference once again to FIG. 1, the door opener body 300 includes an outer wall 310 and an inner wall 320. The inner wall 320 is adapted to face the outer plate 210 of the FOUP door 200. The door opener body 300 also includes a seal plate 330 which is removeably attached to the outer wall 310 of the door opener body and which serves as a cover for an interior region of the door opener body 300.
  • [0024]
    The door opener body 300 further includes a door retention port 340 which can be connected to a vacuum source (not shown) for allowing vacuum retention of the FOUP door 200 via the door opener body 300 as will be described in more detail herein. The door opener body 300 also includes a door seal activation port 350 which can be connected to a vacuum source (not shown) for vacuum activation (deflation) of the door seal 230 of the FOUP door 200 (as will be described below).
  • [0025]
    In an exemplary embodiment, the apparatus and methods of the present invention may utilize two vacuum sources, any number of vacuum sources, or a single vacuum source adapted to provide the functionality of the vacuum sources described herein. Alternatively or additionally, the present invention may use one or more air or gas sources to inflate the door seal 230 of the FOUP door 200.
  • [0026]
    FIG. 2 illustrates the apparatus 100 of FIG. 1 with the seal plate 330 of the door opener body 300 removed. With the seal plate 330 removed, the inner region 360 of the door opener body 300 is exposed. Within the inner region 360, the door opener body 300 may include a door retention vacuum channel 370. The door retention vacuum channel 370 is connected to the door retention port 340 via a channel 341 so as to provide a vacuum, when vacuum pressure is applied from a respective vacuum source, for holding the FOUP door 200 in place against the door opener body 300 as will be described in more detail herein.
  • [0027]
    Within the inner region 360, the door opener body 300 may include a door seal activation vacuum channel 380. The door seal activation vacuum channel 380 is connected to the door seal activation port 350 via a channel 351 so as to allow a vacuum to be applied from a respective vacuum source to collapse the door seal 230 as will be described in more detail herein.
  • [0028]
    FIG. 3 illustrates the apparatus 100 of FIG. 1 in a reverse perspective view showing the reverse sides of the FOUP door 200 and the door opener body 300. With reference to FIG. 3, the door opener body 300 includes, on its inner wall 320, a door seal vacuum fitting 355 which, in an exemplary embodiment, is adapted to extend into the door seal vacuum fitting 250 of the FOUP door 200. The door seal vacuum fitting 355 is connected to the door seal activation vacuum channel 380 (FIG. 2). The door opener body 300 may also include, on the inner wall 320, pins 345 or other registration/kinematic features which, in an exemplary embodiment, are adapted to kinematically mate with the sockets 240 (FIG. 2) of the FOUP door 200. Any number and practicable shape of pins 345 may be used depending upon the design of the door opener body 300 and/or the FOUP door 200.
  • [0029]
    With reference once again to FIG. 3, the door opener body 300 may also include, on the inner wall 320, door retention vacuum cups or elements 375. In the embodiment shown, two door retention vacuum cups 375, are utilized in order to hold the FOUP door 200 against the door opener body 300. In general, any number of door retention vacuum cups 375 may be used (e.g., 1, 2, 3, 4, etc.).
  • [0030]
    The door retention vacuum cups 375 may be made of any suitable material capable of forming a seal against the FOUP door 200, such as polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) or the like. In one embodiment, each door retention vacuum cup 375 may be formed by machining a channel (not shown) in the inner wall 320 of the door opener body 300 and by placing an O-ring 377 or similar sealing element within the channel. The door retention vacuum cups 375 are connected with the door retention vacuum channel 370 (FIG. 2) and can hold the FOUP door 200 against the door opener body 300 when a vacuum is applied from a respective vacuum source and provided to the door retention vacuum cups 375 via the door retention port 340 (FIG. 2) and the door retention vacuum channel 370 (FIG. 2).
  • [0031]
    FIG. 4 illustrates a side view of the components of the apparatus 100 of FIG. 3, taken along line 4-4 in FIG. 3. In FIG. 4, the FOUP door 200 and the door opener body 300 are shown spaced apart from one another. FIG. 4 illustrates the outer plate 210, the inner structure 220, and the inflatable seal 230 of the FOUP door 200. FIG. 4 also illustrates the outer wall 310, the inner wall 320, the pins 345 and the door retention vacuum cups 375 of the door opener body 300.
  • [0032]
    FIG. 5 illustrates a side view of the apparatus 100 of FIG. 4 now showing the door opener body 300 attached to, and/or mated with, the FOUP door 200. In other words, inner wall 320 of the door opener body 300 is in contact with the outer plate 210 of the FOUP door 200 and the pins 345 (FIG. 3) of the door opener body 300 are mated into the sockets 240 (FIG. 2) in the outer plate 210. In the depicted configuration, if vacuum pressure is applied to the door retention vacuum cups 375 via the door retention vacuum channel 370 (FIG. 2) via the door retention port 340 (FIG. 2), the FOUP door 200 may be held against the door opener body 300.
  • [0033]
    FIG. 6 illustrates a cross sectional side view of the components of the apparatus 100 of FIG. 3 taken along line 6-6 in FIG. 3. In FIG. 6, the FOUP door 200 and the door opener body 300 are shown spaced apart from one another.
  • [0034]
    FIG. 6 illustrates the door opener body 300 and the outer wall 310, the inner wall 320, the seal plate 330, the door retention vacuum channel 370, the door seal activation vacuum channel 380, the connecting channel 351, the door seal vacuum fitting 355, the pin 345, and the door retention vacuum cup 375. FIG. 6 also illustrates the FOUP door 200 and the outer plate 210, the inner structure 220, the inflatable seal 230 and the door seal vacuum fitting 250. The door seal vacuum fitting 250 may include a sealing element 610 (e.g., an O-ring) for forming a seal between the door seal vacuum fitting 250 and the door seal vacuum fitting 355 (as shown in FIG. 7).
  • [0035]
    Turning now to FIG. 7, a cross sectional side view of the apparatus 100 of FIG. 6 is illustrated that depicts the door opener body 300 attached to, or mated with, the FOUP door 200. In other words, inner wall 320 of the door opener body 300 is in contact with the outer plate 210 of the FOUP door 200 and the pins 345 (FIG. 3) of the door opener body 300 are mated into the sockets 240 (FIG. 2) in the outer plate 210. In the depicted configuration, if vacuum pressure is applied to the door retention vacuum cups 375 via the door retention vacuum channel 370 (FIG. 2) via the door retention port 340 (FIG. 2), the FOUP door 200 may be held against the door opener body 300.
  • [0036]
    FIG. 8 illustrates a system 800 that employs the inventive FOUP door 200 and door opener body 300 of FIGS. 1-7. With reference to FIG. 8, the system 800 includes a substrate carrier 810 (e.g., a FOUP) having the FOUP door 200 coupled thereto. That is, the door 200 is positioned within an opening 815 of the substrate carrier 810 and the inflatable seal 230 (not shown in FIG. 8) is inflated to hold the door 200 therein.
  • [0037]
    The system 800 also includes a loadport 820 having a door opener 825 coupled thereto. The door opener 825 includes the door opener body 300 (not shown in FIG. 8). A first vacuum source 830 may be coupled to the door opener body 300 via a first vacuum line 832 for applying a first vacuum to door retention vacuum cups 375 of the door opener body 300. Likewise, a second vacuum source 835 may be coupled to the door opener body 300 via a second vacuum line 834 for applying a second vacuum to the door seal 230 of the door 200. The first and second vacuum sources 830, 835 may be supplied from a single vacuum source or multiple vacuum sources (e.g., one or more vacuum pumps).
  • [0038]
    The system 800 may also include a controller 840 that is adapted to control the system 800. The controller 840 may be connected to the loadport 820 via a signal cable and may direct the operation of the robot and door opener 825. The controller 840 may also be directly coupled to the vacuum sources 830, 835 and be further adapted to directly control the vacuum sources 830, 835 to execute the methods of the present invention, for example, as described below with respect to FIG. 9.
  • [0039]
    Turning now to FIG. 9, an exemplary method 900 of the present invention is described with respect to the system depicted in FIG. 8. In Step 902, when an opening operation is to be performed on the FOUP door 200, the FOUP 810 may be positioned at the loadport 820 by a robot (not shown). In Step 904, the FOUP may thereafter be moved toward the door opener 825 of the loadport 820 so that the FOUP door 200 contacts the door opener body 300 (as shown, for example, in FIGS. 5 and 7).
  • [0040]
    When the FOUP door 200 is moved into contact with, and/or against, the door opener body 300, the pins 345 of the door opener body 300 engage and/or mate with the sockets 240 on the outer plate 210 of the FOUP door 200 (see FIGS. 4-5). The FOUP door 200 continues to be moved toward the door opener body 300 until the outer plate 210 is moved into contact with the door retention vacuum cups 375 (FIG. 5), and the door seal vacuum fitting 355 is also moved into the door seal vacuum fitting 250 (FIGS. 6-7).
  • [0041]
    In Step 906, a first vacuum may be applied from the first vacuum source 830 to the door retention port 340 and to the door retention vacuum cups 375 via the door retention vacuum channel 370. Upon the application of the first vacuum, the outer plate 210 of the FOUP door 200 is pulled tightly against the door opener body 300.
  • [0042]
    The first vacuum may then be verified so as to ensure that the FOUP door 200 is held against the door opener body 300. In this manner, the first vacuum may be used to allow the door opener body 300 to grab onto or attach itself to the FOUP door 200 and, thereafter, to hold and/or secure the FOUP door 200 in place during a subsequent door opening and/or closing operation (described below) or to otherwise manipulate the FOUP door 200.
  • [0043]
    Once the FOUP door 200 is attached to and held by the door opener body 300, in Step 908, a second vacuum is applied from the second vacuum source 835 to the door seal activation port 350 and to the door seal vacuum fitting 355 via door seal activation vacuum channel 380. The second vacuum is applied to the door seal 230 via the door seal vacuum fitting 250. The application of the second vacuum to the door seal vacuum fitting 250 causes the door seal 230 to become deflated and/or collapsed. Thereafter, in Step 910, the FOUP door 200 may be removed from the opening 815 of the FOUP 810, thereby opening the FOUP 810. Once open, in Steps 912 and 914, substrates may be added and/or removed from the FOUP 810.
  • [0044]
    To close the FOUP door 200, the above process may be performed in reverse. For example, in an exemplary embodiment, the FOUP door 200 may be moved to the closed position so as to close the front opening 815 of the FOUP 810 in Step 916. In Step 918, the second vacuum source 835 may be disconnected in order to allow the door seal 230 to re-inflate or expand, thereby sealing the FOUP door 200 closed. (If desired, a source of air, nitrogen or another gas, not separately shown, may be employed to inflate the door seal 230.) Thereafter, in Step 920, the first vacuum source 830 may be disconnected so as to release the door retention vacuum cups 375 from the outer plate 210 of the FOUP door 200. The FOUP 810 may then be moved or transported away from the door opener body 300 and away from the door opener 825 in Step 922.
  • [0045]
    In the exemplary embodiment described above, the apparatus 100 is described as utilizing two vacuum sources. The first vacuum source 830 may serve to allow the door opener body 300 to grab onto or attach itself to the FOUP door 200. The second vacuum source 835 may cause the door seal 230 to deflate or collapse to allow opening of the FOUP door 200 after control of the FOUP door 200 has been established by the first vacuum source 835. In another exemplary embodiment, any number of vacuum sources may be used. In still another exemplary embodiment, a single vacuum source, adapted to perform both of the above operations, may be utilized.
  • [0046]
    While the present invention has been described and illustrated in various exemplary embodiments, such descriptions are merely illustrative of the present invention and are not to be construed to be limitations thereof. In this regard, the present invention encompasses any and all modifications, variations and/or alternate embodiments with the scope of the present invention being limited only by the claims which follow.
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Classifications
U.S. Classification414/411
International ClassificationB65B69/00
Cooperative ClassificationH01L21/67376, H01L21/67126, H01L21/67772
European ClassificationH01L21/673K8, H01L21/67S2M, H01L21/677D6
Legal Events
DateCodeEventDescription
Feb 5, 2007ASAssignment
Owner name: APPLIED MATERIALS, INC., CALIFORNIA
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNORS:RICE, MICHAEL R.;ELLIOTT, MARTIN R.;REEL/FRAME:018852/0657;SIGNING DATES FROM 20061117 TO 20070118