Tokyo Electron has been granted a patent for a substrate transport system that can transport substrates in a vacuum atmosphere. The system includes a vacuum chamber, a transport arm, horizontal and vertical movement mechanisms, and duct arm mechanisms. The system also features a detection mechanism and a controller that can detect and correct positional deviations of the transport arm. GlobalData’s report on Tokyo Electron gives a 360-degree view of the company including its patenting strategy. Buy the report here.

According to GlobalData’s company profile on Tokyo Electron, 3D memory devices was a key innovation area identified from patents. Tokyo Electron's grant share as of September 2023 was 44%. Grant share is based on the ratio of number of grants to total number of patents.

Substrate transport system with adjustable duct arm mechanism

Source: United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Credit: Tokyo Electron Ltd

A recently granted patent (Publication Number: US11776831B2) describes a substrate transport system designed for use in a vacuum atmosphere. The system includes a vacuum chamber capable of being set to a vacuum atmosphere, a transport arm for holding and moving the substrate, and various mechanisms for horizontal and vertical movement of the transport arm.

The horizontal movement mechanism allows the transport arm to move horizontally within the vacuum chamber, while the vertical movement mechanism enables vertical movement. Both the horizontal and vertical duct arm mechanisms are extendable/contractible as the transport arm moves in their respective directions.

The system also includes a first detection mechanism within the vacuum chamber that detects the positional deviation of the transport arm in the horizontal direction caused by vertical movement. A controller is responsible for controlling the movement of the transport arm and is configured to detect the positional deviation at different height positions of the transport arm.

Based on the detected positional deviation and the difference in height positions, the controller calculates a correlation between the height position and the positional deviation. This correlation is then used to correct the position of the transport arm in the horizontal direction with respect to the height position, ensuring accurate substrate transport.

The patent also describes additional features of the substrate transport system. It mentions a second detection mechanism within the vacuum chamber that detects positional deviation in the vertical direction due to thermal expansion/contraction or changes in apparatus characteristics. The system can accommodate various components, such as electric cables, air supply/exhaust tubes, temperature control medium circulation tubes, thermocouples, and accelerometers, within the accommodation portion of the horizontal and vertical duct arm mechanisms.

The patent also includes a method for transporting a substrate in a vacuum atmosphere using the described transport arm. The method involves detecting positional deviation in the horizontal direction at different height positions, calculating a correlation between height position and positional deviation, and correcting the position of the transport arm in the horizontal direction based on the calculated correlation. The method specifically mentions that the positional deviation detection is performed while the substrate is held by the transport arm and does not require replacing the substrate during the process.

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GlobalData, the leading provider of industry intelligence, provided the underlying data, research, and analysis used to produce this article.

GlobalData Patent Analytics tracks bibliographic data, legal events data, point in time patent ownerships, and backward and forward citations from global patenting offices. Textual analysis and official patent classifications are used to group patents into key thematic areas and link them to specific companies across the world’s largest industries.