|Publication number||USRE40192 E1|
|Application number||US 09/619,391|
|Publication date||Apr 1, 2008|
|Filing date||Jul 19, 2000|
|Priority date||May 31, 1991|
|Also published as||USRE40191|
|Publication number||09619391, 619391, US RE40192 E1, US RE40192E1, US-E1-RE40192, USRE40192 E1, USRE40192E1|
|Original Assignee||Oc Oerlikon Balzers Ag|
|Export Citation||BiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan|
|Patent Citations (20), Classifications (6), Legal Events (2)|
|External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet|
This application is a continuation of application Ser. No. 08/962,776, filed Nov. 3, 1997, which is a continuation of Reissue application Ser. No. 08/530,778, filed Sep. 19, 1995 abandoned, which is a reissue of application Ser. No. 888,111, filed May 26, 1992 (patented Sep. 21, 1993 as U.S. Pat. No. 5,245,736 ).
1. Field of the Invention
The present invention relates to a vacuum process apparatus of the kind, including at least two stations for treating or handling the workpiece, and a transport device with conveyor means thereon, each for transporting at least one workpiece from station to station.
2. Description of the Prior Art
The German specification DE-A-24 54 544 and “Patent Abstracts of Japan”, Nov. 28, 1989, vol. 13, no. 532, JP-A2 1-218 627, disclose as an example such a vacuum process apparatus which includes at least two stations, each comprising an opening for an article, the openings each determining an opening area with surface normal An perpendicular to the opening area F such as illustrated in
In contrary to the design of the apparatus according to the JP-1-218627, the transport device of which comprising only one conveyor portion for an article and whereat the conveyor portion is rigidly fixed on a rotatable cylinder forming the transport device, the apparatus according to the German patent no. 24 54 544 comprises four conveyor portions for articles. These conveyor portions are additionally movable with respect to the transport device. By means of a driving plunger there is realized for each conveyor portion an individual drive for moving the said conveyor portion of the transport device relative to a respective station.
Thus, according to the apparatus of the German patent no. 24 54 544, the conveyor portion may be positioned at different positions with respect to a respective station, according to the specific requirements of a process performed at the station considered, up to providing for a sealing closure of the said opening by means of the conveyor portion.
Provision of the said driving plungers which are led through the wall of the vacuum recipient has different drawbacks:
a) For every driving plunger there must be provided a dynamic gliding vacuum seal which results in a considerable additional expenditure for the apparatus in view of vacuum technical requirements for such dynamic seals.
b) The said driving plungers are individually associated to respective stations. Thus, if an apparatus or vacuum plant shall be changed by changing the number of process stations mounted thereon and especially shall be changed by raising the number of such process stations provided, the complete apparatus with its vacuum recipient must be changed according to the changing number of vacuum tight mounted driving plungers.
It is a first object of the present invention to remedy these drawbacks and to provide a vacuum process apparatus which comprises a self-comprised transport device which may flexibly be used for a great number of different apparatus configurations with respect to the number of the process stations provided.
The design of vacuum process apparatuses according to the DE-A-24 54 544 which have established themselves on the market has the further drawback that the rotational axis around which the transport device is rotatable extends parallel to the normals of the opening areas. Thereby the openings of the stations are distributed equidistantly around the rotational axis i.e. the rotational axis of the transport device, so that, as an advantage, the openings of the stations can be served solely by a pivoting movement of the transport device around the rotational axis. Nevertheless, it is disadvantageous that when designing the vacuum process apparatus, there is a restriction in constructional freedom, in that the individual stations must be located with the said normals of their opening areas extending parallel to the rotational axis of the transport device. This necessitates that the stations must be arranged in one given orientation with respect to the transport device, possibly may be provided at both sides of the plane swept over by the transport device of said DE-A-24 54 544.
It is thus a further object of the present invention to remedy this drawback and to provide a vacuum process apparatus with a transport device-to station openings-relation which allow a significantly improved constructional freedom for such apparatus.
It is thus a first object of the present invention to provide a vacuum process apparatus of the kind mentioned above which comprises a transport device which may be used flexibly for different apparatus configurations as concerns number of treating or handling stations provided thereon.
It is a further object to provide a vacuum process apparatus which gives a high degree of constructional freedom with respect to the arrangement of the said stations as concerns their orientation in space and especially the spatial arrangement of their respective openings. Thereby it shall be made possible to vastly increase the compactness of such process apparatuses, thereby optimizing assembly, disassembly, operation cycle time etc.
A further object of the invention is to provide a vacuum process apparatus for processing at least one workpiece, comprising at least two stations for treating or handling said workpiece, and having each at least one opening for the workpiece; a transport device rotatable around an axis; a drive arrangement for rotating said transport device; at least two conveyor means arranged at said transport device for at least one workpiece each; driving means at said transport device respectively coupled to said conveyor means to individually move said conveyor means relative to said transport device towards and from said openings.
By providing such a vacuum process apparatus the disadvantages of the prior art apparatus as concerns lack of flexibility with respect to arranging more or less of the said stations at the apparatus are remedied and further the self-contained transport device with conveyor means and said driving means enables to drive said conveyor means without necessity of frictional seals at the process apparatus vacuum chamber wall, through which, according to prior art, such driving means did act on the conveyor means of the known transport device.
It is still an object of the present invention to provide said apparatus with openings defining an opening area each, the normals on said areas being warped with respect to said rotational axis.
It has been recognized basically that, when providing a transporting device which is rotatable around the said axis and wherearound the openings of the said stations are arranged so that the normals on the areas defined by the respective borders of said openings are warped with respect to the said rotational axis, a highest grade of constructional flexibility is gained in order to design apparatuses more compact and/or to produce smallest possible spaces to be evacuated and/or to minimize cycle time of processing due to minimizing the conveyant distance between respective openings of the stations.
It is yet a further object to provide the said apparatus wherein said conveyor means are movable at least one of parallel to said axis and of radially to said axis. Thereby, departing from the rotational axis of the transport device, by appropriate selection of the movability of the said conveyor means, parallel and/or radial with respect to said axis, it becomes possible to reach openings of the said stations arranged with respect to the rotational axis in a great variability of different positions.
A further object of the present invention is to provide said apparatus wherein said conveyor means, once positioned adjacent one of said openings by rotating said transport device, are movable towards and from said opening in a direction given by the normal on the opening area defined by the said opening. Thereby an even simplified apparatus is realized in that it becomes possible to convey a workpiece disposed on the conveyor means considered straight ahead towards or into or through the opening of a station considered.
Yet a further object is to provide the said apparatus wherein rotation of the transport device around the rotational axis defines a cone-shaped trajectory surface with a cone opening angle with respect to the said rotational axis smaller or equal than 90°.
Although the inventive transport device can, if necessary, sweep over selectably variable conical surfaces, in that the cone angle φ is drivingly changed, it has been recognized that a substantial simplification may be reached without any substantial loss with respect to flexibility by the facts that the transport device comprises a transport arm for each of the said conveyor means which arms projecting from the said rotational axis. If the transport device structure with the said transport arms sweeps a conical trajectory surface with an opening angle with respect to the rotational axis up to 90°, by controllably changing the extent of the said transport arms with the conveyor means, station openings may be served along the said conical trajectory surface and located on different great circles of the said cone surface. Thereby, the arms advantageously comprise the said driving means.
Furthermore, the normals on the opening areas of the station openings must not necessarily extend in the direction of the generatrix lines of the conical trajectory surface. These normals can rather extend in an arbitrary direction and in this case at least the conveyor means are accordingly pivoted to finally serve respective openings.
It is, nevertheless, a further object to provide said vacuum process chamber wherein the said normals of said areas point in direction of respective generatrix lines of the trajectory cone surface. This leads to a further simplification of the apparatus, in that linear movement of the said conveyor means in direction of said transport arms will suffice to respectively serve the station openings.
Even in this case it is still possible to stagger the openings of the stations along different great circles of the conical trajectory surface. This is nevertheless not always necessary and may lead to problems in that stations staggered on different great circles and with openings along the same generatrix and thus substantially aligned in generatrix direction may cover each other, making access to the said openings by said conveyor means more difficult.
It is, thus, a further object of the invention to provide a vacuum process apparatus in which the said openings of the stations are located substantially along one single great circle of the trajectory cone surface.
It is still a further object of the present invention to provide a vacuum process apparatus in which the stations communicate by the said openings with the inside of a chamber, said transport device residing within the said chamber. On one hand, by such a design the transport device is protected and further the danger of contamination of the atmosphere prevailing within the stations is decreased because, as mentioned, the openings of the stations communicate with the chamber.
Depending from the desired process or treatment performed within the respective stations, it is a further object to provide the vacuum process apparatus which comprises gas inlet means and pumping means, at least at one of the said stations and of the said chamber.
By providing such gas inlets and pumping means selectively at the said stations and/or the said chamber, one has the freedom to perform with the apparatus different vacuum processes which are allowed or are not allowed to influence each other by atmosphere communication.
It is yet a further object of the invention to provide an apparatus whereon at least one of said conveyor means is coupled to a seal member for sealingly closing the opening of at least one of the said stations. Thereby it becomes possible to sealingly close the respective station which is advantageous if in that station a vacuum process shall be performed which necessitates a clearly defined gaseous atmosphere. The seal member may be formed by a plate-like member of the conveyor means.
Further, the said plate or disk-like member may form one door of a charging or discharging load lock for a workpiece to be charged or discharged with respect to the said chamber or the said plate may be the workpiece support feeding the workpiece through the station opening of a sputtering station whereby the seal member sealing the sputtering station against the chamber wherein the transport device is disposed.
The invention will be better understood and objects other than those set forth above, will become apparent when consideration is given to the following detailed description thereof. Such description makes reference to the annexed drawings wherein:
Thus, the lock station 7 becomes sealed against the environment U.
The transport arm 5 carries at one end as conveyor portion a disk or plate 19 on which an article to be processed rests, in the illustrated example a CD or a magneto-optical storage disk 21, centered at the plate 19 by a central pin 17. As shown by broken lines the plate 19 at the supporting arm 5 can be moved back from its seat (illustrated) at the sealing frame 12 towards the rotation axis A and thus the lock may be opened at the side of the transport device. Because the transport device 3, 5, 19 of the apparatus illustrated in
If the apparatus is designed in such a manner that some or all station openings are sealingly closed by one of the arms 5 foreseen, this leads to the possibility of presetting the respective atmospheres in the respective individual stations independently from the atmosphere in the chamber K. In certain cases, however, it will be absolutely sufficient to foresee a common atmosphere for the stations and the chamber K for the transporting device, so that only the chamber must be conditioned or evacuated, such as for example illustrated in
A top view of the apparatus according to
In order to treat disk shaped articles such as CD's or magneto-optical disks having a central hole, such as the disk 21 illustrated in
The basic principle of the apparatus explained with reference to
In a further embodiment of the invention according to
By the inventive concept and a correspondingly designed vacuum process apparatus, it becomes possible to design extremely compact apparatuses having a plurality of individual process stations including load locks, whereby looking back to
While there are shown and described present preferred embodiments of the invention it is to be distinctly understood that the invention is not limited thereto, but may be otherwise variously embodied and practiced within the scope of the following claims.
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|U.S. Classification||29/33.00P, 29/559, 29/563, 269/21|
|International Classification||B25B11/00, B23B15/00|
|Dec 6, 2000||AS||Assignment|
Owner name: UNAXIS BALZERS AKTIENGESELLSCHAFT, LIECHTENSTEIN
Free format text: CHANGE OF NAME;ASSIGNOR:BALZERS AKTIENGESELLSCHAFT;REEL/FRAME:011356/0829
Effective date: 20000626
|Dec 13, 2007||AS||Assignment|
Owner name: OC OERLIKON BALZERS AG, LIECHTENSTEIN
Free format text: CHANGE OF NAME;ASSIGNOR:UNAXIS BALZERS AG;REEL/FRAME:020250/0794
Effective date: 20060607