When it comes to semiconductor fabrication processes, reducing the cost of ownership is a multi-faceted goal approached from a variety of angles. Tool engineers and equipment technicians take pride in their ability to identify factors that limit tool uptime. One constant headache they face is the mechanical failure of seals in dynamic environments. This can lead to premature downtime or reduced preventative maintenance (PM) intervals, both of which lead to a higher cost of ownership. Fortunately, tool owners have begun to implement seal designs better suited for these dynamic environments: Parker EZ-Lok is a proven solution.
One of the more extreme forms of mechanical failure to be prevented is twisting and spiraling of an O-ring during operation. This occurs with O-rings in dovetail glands where one of the sealing surfaces is a door that opens and closes against the seal. The combination of stiction to the door and stretch in the gland causes the O-ring to roll and twist repeatedly with each cycle, resulting in permanent cyclic deformation. This means that a seal profile with a flat contact surface is vital for this type of dynamic function.
The basic D-profile is the fundamental simple shape that serves as the basis of the EZ-Lok solution. The flat portion of the “D” holds the seal in place and prevents rolling, while the opposite, round contact surface focuses the sealing force and helps keep volume requirements at a minimum. These geometric features make for sound sealing function while preventing the drastic spiral damage seen so often in the industry.
A standard D-ring is still more limited by volume requirements than traditional seals like O-rings. In addition, a D-ring’s sharp corners can become difficult to install past the top groove radii if the seal is made much wider than the groove opening. On the other hand, a seal made any narrower would be easily removed without intention, such as that induced by stiction to the door. These reasons are why the basic D-profile alone is not the answer to these failure modes.
The solution to these dilemmas is a unique D-shaped profile with a geometry that lends itself to the spacial constrictions of dovetail glands, prevents rolling, and locks into place: the Parker EZ-Lok seal. These seals are designed with special retention ribs placed with precise frequency around the seal circumference that allows for smooth installation and keeps the seal retained in the gland. This design also removes any tendency to stretch the seal during installation, which is often seen with more conventional seals.
The combination of retention ribs with a fundamental D-ring profile makes EZ-Lok the ideal geometry for effective use of the high-performance compounds typically required for aggressive semiconductor chemistries. EZ-Lok seals allow for lower cost of ownership through PM-minimization and reduced seal overhead costs, made possible by effective mechanical design. This is an example of how Parker’s effective design engineering can reduce the cost of ownership and bring premier solutions to the table.