In our July Semiconductor entry, we noted that lowering the cost of ownership is a multi-faceted goal. We discussed how one of the areas for potential improvement is mechanical design and how the Parker EZ-Lok seal is a major solution to mechanical seal failure. In this entry, we’ll investigate a notably different type of cost-reduction opportunity – material selection – and see how Parker’s innovative HiFluor compounds can reduce seal costs to as little as half.
When it comes to the seal industry, the semiconductor market is well known as one where the most premium, chemical-resistant compounds are a necessity. Microelectronic manufacturing processes involve chemistries that push the limits of what elastomeric compounds can withstand in terms of both chemical aggressiveness and variety. The perfluorinated materials (FFKM) capable of withstanding these environments require intricate manufacturing processes regulated by closely-guarded trade secrets and the significant investment of resources.
These factors drive the price of FFKM compounds to the point of being as much as 50 times the cost of any other variety. Cutting just a slice out of this cost can result in significant savings – a chance to take out a quarter or even half the pie would be advantageous indeed. Fabricators should be continually on the lookout for more cost-effective compounds that show equal performance in their pertinent operations.
This is why Parker’s HiFluor compounds offer an opportunity for cost savings that shouldn’t go unnoticed.A unique hybrid of performance between FFKM and the simpler technology of fluorocarbon (FKM) elastomers, HiFluor offers the most superb chemical compatibility in the many semiconductor environments where the high temperature ratings of FFKM aren’t necessary – and at a fraction of the cost.
Not only can HiFluor be used where even FKM is lacking, but its performance in applications with aggressive plasma exposure is spectacular as well. This can be observed by its overall resistance to plasma-induced material degradation. However, Parker has also developed multiple formulations that display extremely low particle generation when most materials would be expected to suffer severe physical and chemical etch.
Solutions and Cost Savings
Need assistance deciphering exactly where this kind of cost-savings can be implemented? Parker O-Ring & Engineering Seals Division has all the resources needed to help their customers identify opportunities to utilize HiFluor seals.
For instance, one major semiconductor fab had several factors (other than their seals) dictating the frequency of their preventative maintenance (PM) intervals. The fab wanted to replace their seals at these intervals as a precautionary measure to limit the chance of them becoming another PM-increasing factor. However, this caused these premium FFKM seals to be a source of inflated cost. Parker engineers assisted with a process evaluation that resulted in over half the seals being replaced with cost-effective HiFluor O-rings, while the tool regions with more intense plasma exposure were reserved for the elite performance of Parker’s FF302.
Another major fab in the microelectronics industry switched from FKM to FFKM seals in their oxide etch process. The tool owner achieved the desired performance improvement, but soon began searching for less expensive options. Based on guidance from Parker engineers, he recognized the plasma resistance and low particulate generation of Parker’s HiFluor compound, HF355. After implementing this change, he retained the performance improvement, but at a fraction of the cost.
Semiconductor tool owners understand that their aggressive processes require the most robust, expensive FFKM seal materials. The price tag on these seals is greater than those from any other compound family. Fortunately, HiFluor is a proven sealing solution that can bridge the gap and provide the same kind of high performance at a much lower cost. To find out if HiFluor is right for your application, visit us at Parker.com/oes and chat with and engineer.
This article was contributed by Nathaniel Reis, applications engineer, Parker O-Ring & Engineered Seals Division.