News Column

"Apparatus, Method and Non-Transitory Storage Medium for Accommodating and Processing a Substrate" in Patent Application Approval Process

August 6, 2014



By a News Reporter-Staff News Editor at Electronics Newsweekly -- A patent application by the inventors MATSUMOTO, Akihiro (Koshi City, JP); MATSUSHITA, Michiaki (Koshi City, JP); SHINTO, Satoru (Koshi City, JP); KURATOMI, Kazunori (Koshi City, JP), filed on January 7, 2014, was made available online on July 24, 2014, according to news reporting originating from Washington, D.C., by VerticalNews correspondents.

This patent application is assigned to Tokyo Electron Limited.

The following quote was obtained by the news editors from the background information supplied by the inventors: "Generally, in a semiconductor manufacturing process, a circuit pattern is formed, for example, by applying photoresist onto a substrate such as a semiconductor wafer, exposing and developing the resist film according to a predetermined circuit pattern. In a photolithography process as the semiconductor manufacturing process, a processing system having an exposure apparatus connected to a coating and development processing apparatus is generally used.

"In the processing system, a substrate is taken out one by one from a cassette transferred by an overhead hoist transfer (OHT) cassette transfer mechanism, and is processed in a processing unit of a processing part, and then, the substrate after being processed is returned into the cassette. In such a case, a highly airtight cassette referred to as a FOUP (front opening universal pod) is used, a cassette main body is provided with an opening for charging and discharging a substrate, and the opening is provided with a lid that can be locked by a latch mechanism.

"In the processing system, the cassette transferred by the cassette transfer mechanism is mounted onto a cassette mounting table installed in the processing system, and the lid of the cassette is unlocked and opened by a lid attaching/detaching mechanism having a key installed in the processing system. In a state where the lid is opened, a substrate is taken out from the cassette with the lid opened by a substrate transfer mechanism disposed in the processing system and is transferred to the processing unit of the processing part, and processing steps such as photoresist coating and developing is performed in the processing unit. Thereafter, the processed substrate is returned to the cassette by the substrate transfer mechanism. Then, the lid is closed and locked by the lid attaching/detaching mechanism. The cassette with the lid closed is unloaded from the cassette mounting table by the cassette transfer mechanism and is transferred to a transfer path, a cassette receiving part or the like that is formed in an outer upper portion of the processing system.

"However, if the lid is insufficiently locked after the processed substrate is accommodated into the cassette, there is a risk that vibration or the like during the transfer of the cassette causes the lid to be opened, causing the substrate in the cassette to fall, or the lid to be partially opened, causing the substrate in the cassette to protrude to the outside."

In addition to the background information obtained for this patent application, VerticalNews journalists also obtained the inventors' summary information for this patent application: "Some embodiments of the present disclosure provide an apparatus, method and non-transitory storage medium for accommodating and processing a substrate, which includes a function of confirming that a lid is locked after a processed substrate is accommodated, and thereby capable of promoting the safety of transfer of the processed substrate.

"According to the embodiment of the present disclosure, provided is a substrate accommodating and processing apparatus, including a cassette mounting table configured to mount a cassette having an opening for charging and discharging a substrate therethrough and a lid attachable to and detachable from the opening, a processing part configured to process the substrate accommodated in the cassette of the cassette mounting table, a substrate transfer mechanism configured to transfer the substrate to the processing part and to return the substrate after being processed to the cassette of the cassette mounting table, a partition wall configured to divide the cassette mounting table and a displacement part of the substrate transfer mechanism from each other and to have an opening larger than the opening of the cassette, a cassette stage configured to be displaced on the cassette mounting table and to be movable forward and rearward to a docked position causing the mounted cassette to be in contact with the opening of the partition wall and an undocked position retracted from the docked position, a lid attaching/detaching mechanism configured to remove the lid from the opening of the cassette and engage the lid to the opening of the cassette via the opening of the partition wall, wherein the lid attaching/detaching mechanism is provided with a key configured to be engaged with a key hole installed in the lid, and configured to switch a latch between locking and unlocking positions, the latch being removed from or caught into the opening of the cassette, and a suction holding member configured to suction-hold and support the lid, a lid abnormality detecting sensor displaced at an edge of the opening of the partition wall to confirm an open/closed state of the lid, a lid attaching/detaching mechanism closing sensor and a lid attaching/detaching mechanism opening sensor respectively configured to detect a lid closing position in which the lid held and supported by the lid attaching/detaching mechanism is engaged and a lid opening position retracted from the lid closing position, a pressure sensor configured to detect a negative pressure allowing the suction holding member to suction-hold and support the lid; and a control part configured to receive detection signals of the lid abnormality detecting sensor, the lid attaching/detaching mechanism closing sensor, the lid attaching/detaching mechanism opening sensor and the pressure sensor and to control operation of moving the lid attaching/detaching mechanism to opening and closing positions, operation of locking and unlocking the key, and operation of moving the cassette mounted onto the cassette stage to the docked position and the undocked position, wherein based on a control signal of the control part, after the processed substrate is accommodated in the cassette and the lid is closed against the opening of the cassette, when the lid attaching/detaching mechanism with the lid not held and supported is retracted from the lid closing position to the lid opening position, the lid attaching/detaching mechanism opening sensor detects the lid opening position of the lid and the lid abnormality detecting sensor detects whether or not there is a lid abnormality to determine an abnormality of the lid closed state.

"According to the embodiment of the present disclosure, provided is a substrate accommodating and processing apparatus, including A substrate accommodating and processing apparatus, including a cassette mounting table configured to mount a cassette having an opening for charging and discharging a substrate therethrough and a lid attachable to and detachable from the opening, a processing part configured to process the substrate accommodated in the cassette of the cassette mounting table, a substrate transfer mechanism configured to transfer the substrate to the processing part and to return the substrate after being processed to the cassette of the cassette mounting table, a partition wall configured to divide the cassette mounting table and a displacement part of the substrate transfer mechanism from each other and to have an opening larger than the opening of the cassette, a cassette stage configured to be displaced on the cassette mounting table and to be movable forward and rearward to a docked position causing the mounted cassette to be in contact with the opening of the partition wall and an undocked position retracted from the docked position, a lid attaching/detaching mechanism configured to remove the lid from the opening of the cassette and engage the lid to the opening of the cassette via the opening of the partition wall, wherein the lid attaching/detaching mechanism is provided with a key configured to be engaged with a key hole installed in the lid, and configured to switch a latch between locking and unlocking positions, the latch being removed from or caught in the opening of the cassette, and a suction holding member configured to suction-hold and support the lid, a docked position detecting sensor configured to detect the docked position of the cassette mounted onto the cassette stage; and a control part configured to control operation of moving the lid attaching/detaching mechanism to opening and closing positions, operation of locking and unlocking the key, and operation of moving the cassette mounted onto the cassette stage to the docked position and the undocked position, wherein after the lid of the opening of the cassette having the processed substrate accommodated therein is closed in the docked position and the latch is switched to a locked position, the control part retracts the cassette mounted onto the cassette stage to the undocked position and then advances the cassette mounted onto the cassette stage to the docked position again, thereby confirming whether or not there is a signal of the docked position sensor.

"According to the embodiment of the present disclosure, provided is a method of accommodating and processing a substrate using an apparatus of accommodating and processing a substrate, the apparatus including a cassette mounting table configured to mount a cassette having an opening for charging and discharging a substrate therethrough and a lid attachable to and detachable from the opening, a processing part configured to process the substrate accommodated in the cassette of the cassette mounting table, a substrate transfer mechanism configured to transfer the substrate to the processing part and to return the substrate after being processed to the cassette of the cassette mounting table, a partition wall configured to divide the cassette mounting table and a displacement part of the substrate transfer mechanism from each other and to have an opening larger than the opening of the cassette, a cassette stage configured to be displaced on the cassette mounting table and to be movable forward and rearward to a docked position causing the mounted cassette to be in contact with the opening of the partition wall and an undocked position retracted from the docked position, a lid attaching/detaching mechanism configured to remove the lid from the opening of the cassette and engage the lid to the opening of the cassette via the opening of the partition wall, wherein the lid attaching/detaching mechanism is provided with a key configured to be engaged with a key hole installed in the lid, the key switching a latch between locking and unlocking positions, the latch being removable caught in the opening of the cassette, and a suction holding member configured to suction-hold and support the lid, a lid abnormality detecting sensor displaced at an edge of the opening of the partition wall to confirm an open/closed state of the lid, a lid attaching/detaching mechanism closing sensor and a lid attaching/detaching mechanism opening sensor respectively configured to detect a lid closing position in which the lid held and supported by the lid attaching/detaching mechanism is engaged and a lid opening position retracted from the lid closing position, a pressure sensor configured to detect a negative pressure allowing the suction holding member to suction-hold and support the lid, and a control part configured to receive detection signals from the lid abnormality detecting sensor, the lid attaching/detaching mechanism closing sensor, the lid attaching/detaching mechanism opening sensor and the pressure sensor and to control operation of moving the lid attaching/detaching mechanism to opening and closing positions, operation of locking and unlocking the key, and operation of moving the cassette mounted onto the cassette stage to the docked position and the undocked position, the method including closing the lid against the opening of the cassette after the processed substrate is accommodated in the cassette, retracting the lid attaching/detaching mechanism from the lid closing position to the lid opening position in a state where the lid is not held and supported, detecting the lid opening position of the lid attaching/detaching mechanism by the lid attaching/detaching mechanism opening sensor, determining an abnormality of a closing state of the lid by the lid abnormality detecting sensor, moving the lid attaching/detaching mechanism retracted from the lid closing position to the lid closing position again, and engaging the key hole of the lid and the key of the lid attaching/detaching mechanism with each other.

"According to the embodiment of the present disclosure, provided is a method of accommodating and processing a substrate using an apparatus of accommodating and processing a substrate, the apparatus including a cassette mounting table configured to mount a cassette having an opening for charging and discharging a substrate therethrough and a lid attachable to and detachable from the opening, a processing part configured to process the substrate accommodated in the cassette of the cassette mounting table, a substrate transfer mechanism configured to transfer the substrate to the processing part and to return the substrate after being processed to the cassette of the cassette mounting table, a partition wall configured to divide the cassette mounting table and a displacement part of the substrate transfer mechanism from each other and to have an opening larger than the opening of the cassette, a cassette stage configured to be displaced on the cassette mounting table and to be movable forward and rearward to a docked position causing the mounted cassette to be in contact with the opening of the partition wall and an undocked position retracted from the docked position, a docked position detecting sensor configured to detect the docked position of the cassette mounted onto the cassette stage, a lid attaching/detaching mechanism configured to remove the lid from the opening of the cassette and engage the lid to the opening of the cassette via the opening of the partition wall, wherein the lid attaching/detaching mechanism is provided with a key configured to be engaged with a key hole installed in the lid, the key switching a latch between locking and unlocking positions, the latch being removable caught in the opening of the cassette, and a suction holding member configured to suction-hold and support the lid, and a control part configured to control operation of moving the lid attaching/detaching mechanism to opening and closing positions, operation of locking and unlocking the key, and operation of moving the cassette mounted onto the cassette stage to the docked position and the undocked position, the method including engaging the key hole of the lid and the key of the lid attaching/detaching mechanism with each other in a state where the cassette is retracted to the undocked position and then moved to the docked position again after the processed substrate is accommodated in the cassette and the lid is closed against the opening of the cassette, based on a control signal from the control part, and confirming whether or not there is a signal from the docked position detecting sensor for detecting the docked position in the engaging the key hole of the lid and the key of the lid attaching/detaching mechanism with each other.

"According to the embodiment of the present disclosure, provided is a non-transitory computer-readable storage medium for accommodating and processing a substrate having a software stored therein for executing a control program and used in an apparatus of accommodating and processing a substrate, in which after a substrate taken out from a cassette having an opening for charging and discharging the substrate and a lid attachable to and detachable from the opening is processed in a processing part, the substrate after being processed is accommodated in the cassette, the lid is closed against the opening of the cassette, and the cassette is then transferred by a cassette transfer mechanism, wherein the control program has processes constructed to perform the above methods.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

"The accompanying drawings, which are incorporated in and constitute a part of the specification, illustrate embodiments of the present disclosure, and together with the general description given above and the detailed description of the embodiments given below, serve to explain the principles of the present disclosure.

"FIG. 1 is a schematic plan view showing an entire processing system having an exposure apparatus connected to a coating and development processing apparatus to which an apparatus of accommodating and processing a substrate according to the present disclosure is applied.

"FIG. 2 is a schematic perspective view of the processing system.

"FIG. 3 is a schematic longitudinal sectional view of the processing system.

"FIG. 4 is a schematic view showing a configuration of a portion of the apparatus of accommodating and processing a substrate according to the present disclosure.

"FIG. 5 is a sectional view showing a state where a lid of a cassette is open in the present disclosure.

"FIG. 6 is a sectional view showing a state where the lid is locked to the cassette in the present disclosure.

"FIG. 7 is a perspective view showing the cassette and the lid of the present disclosure.

"FIG. 8 is a schematic perspective view showing a lid attaching/detaching mechanism of the present disclosure.

"FIG. 9A is a flowchart showing a process from opening to closing the lid in a method of accommodating and processing a substrate of a first embodiment.

"FIG. 9B is a flowchart showing a process from locking the lid to displaying a lid abnormality and removing the cassette in the method of accommodating and processing a substrate of the first embodiment.

"FIG. 9C is a flowchart showing a process after the lid abnormality is confirmed in the method of accommodating and processing a substrate of the first embodiment.

"FIG. 10A is a sectional view showing a state before the lid is opened by the lid attaching/detaching mechanism in the method of accommodating and processing a substrate of the first embodiment, FIG. 10B is a sectional view showing a state where the lid is opened by the lid attaching/detaching mechanism, FIG. 10C is a sectional view showing a state where the lid is closed by the lid attaching/detaching mechanism, and FIG. 10D is a sectional view showing a state after the lid is closed.

"FIG. 11 is a schematic view showing a configuration of a portion of a second embodiment of the apparatus of accommodating and processing a substrate according to the present disclosure.

"FIG. 12A is a flowchart illustrating a process of confirming whether or not there is a lid abnormality in a method of accommodating and processing a substrate of the second embodiment.

"FIG. 12B is a flowchart showing a process until a lid abnormality is displayed and the cassette is removed in the method of accommodating and processing a substrate of the second embodiment.

"FIG. 12C is a flowchart showing a process after the lid abnormality is confirmed in the method of accommodating and processing a substrate of the second embodiment.

"FIG. 13A is a sectional view showing a state of a docked position of the cassette with the lid removed in the method of accommodating and processing a substrate of the second embodiment, FIG. 13B is a sectional view showing a state where the lid attaching/detaching mechanism is moved to a lid closing position and engages the lid, FIG. 13C is a sectional view showing a state where the cassette with the lid engaged thereto is moved to an undocked position, and FIG. 13D is a sectional view showing a state of a docked position of the cassette."

URL and more information on this patent application, see: MATSUMOTO, Akihiro; MATSUSHITA, Michiaki; SHINTO, Satoru; KURATOMI, Kazunori. Apparatus, Method and Non-Transitory Storage Medium for Accommodating and Processing a Substrate. Filed January 7, 2014 and posted July 24, 2014. Patent URL: http://appft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO2&Sect2=HITOFF&u=%2Fnetahtml%2FPTO%2Fsearch-adv.html&r=2738&p=55&f=G&l=50&d=PG01&S1=20140717.PD.&OS=PD/20140717&RS=PD/20140717

Keywords for this news article include: Electronics, Semiconductor, Tokyo Electron Limited.

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Source: Electronics Newsweekly


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