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Patent Issued for Substrate Processing Apparatus, Substrate Processing Method, and Program for Implementing the Method

August 6, 2014



By a News Reporter-Staff News Editor at Electronics Newsweekly -- From Alexandria, Virginia, VerticalNews journalists report that a patent by the inventors Yamazaki, Satoshi (Nirasaki, JP); Hashimoto, Mitsuru (Nirasaki, JP), filed on February 24, 2011, was published online on July 22, 2014.

The patent's assignee for patent number 8785216 is Tokyo Electron Limited (Tokyo, JP).

News editors obtained the following quote from the background information supplied by the inventors: "The present invention relates to a substrate processing apparatus, a substrate processing method, and a program for implementing the method, and more particularly to a substrate processing apparatus and a substrate processing method which are capable of carrying out dummy processing, and a program for implementing the method.

"In a plasma process for manufacturing semiconductor chips, etching on thin films and CVD (Chemical Vapor Deposition) which deposits a metal on the etched thin films are carried out, by utilizing interaction between plasma and the inner wall of a vessel. In the vessel, large energy is applied e.g. by high frequency waves, so that the interaction between plasma and the vessel inner wall causes the following serious problem:

"The plasma CVD grows a thin film on a substrate, but the thin film is also deposited on the vessel inner wall as well. On the other hand, the etching process shaves off the film formed on the substrate by subjecting the same to a chemical reaction, so that reaction products are decomposed by plasma and deposit on the vessel inner wall. As the plasma process is continued, the vessel inner wall is contaminated as described above, which adversely affects chemical reactions in plasma and degrades reproducibility of the process.

"Therefore, in mass production plants, a vacuum vessel provided in a semiconductor chip manufacturing apparatus (substrate processing apparatus) is periodically cleaned so as to enhance the availability or rate of operation of the apparatus. In addition, a seasoning (aging) process is carried out after cleaning so as to maintain the inner wall of the vacuum vessel in a predetermined condition. To carry out the seasoning and warming-up of the apparatus, as well as to establish processing conditions for substrates included in one lot, the semiconductor chip manufacturing apparatus is provided with a function of carrying out dummy processing on a non-product substrate before execution of product processing including the plasma process.

"Conventionally, to prevent occurrence of human operating errors, the dummy processing is carried out by an automatic process in which timing for the dummy processing and that for the product processing are collectively managed as a single sequence by on-line control.

"In a first method for carrying out the above-mentioned automatic process, a dummy recipe for the dummy processing is linked to (registered in) a recipe for the product processing (which will be referred to as 'the dummy processing recipe-linking function'), whereby the dummy processing is carried out on a non-product substrate before each execution of the product processing on a substrate lot (see e.g. Japanese Laid-Open Patent Publication (Kokai) No. 2001-176763).

"In a second method for carrying out the automatic process, time intervals at which the cleaning is periodically performed are determined based on a process chamber operating parameter, such as a cumulative time period of RF (radio frequency) power discharge in a process chamber, which is set by a maintenance and management function, or the number of processed substrates (see e.g. U.S. Pat. No. 6,168,672).

"In the above-mentioned first and second methods for the automatic process, however, even when the processing atmosphere in (i.e. the status of the interior of) the process chamber is stable as in the case of the product processing being continuously executed on substrate lots under the same processing conditions, a non-product substrate is subjected to the dummy processing whenever a substrate lot is subjected to the product processing or periodically, which causes not only wasteful use of non-product substrates, but also a decrease in throughput (processing capability) and hence degraded productivity in manufacturing product substrates.

"Further, when the processing atmosphere in (i.e. the status of the interior of) the process chamber is unstable, it is necessary to carry out dummy processing repeatedly."

As a supplement to the background information on this patent, VerticalNews correspondents also obtained the inventors' summary information for this patent: "It is an object of the present invention to provide a substrate processing apparatus and a substrate processing method which are capable of enhancing productivity in manufacturing product substrates, and a program for implementing the method.

"To attain the above object, in a first aspect of the present invention, there is provided a substrate processing apparatus comprising at least one process chamber in which predetermined processing is carried out on a substrate as an object to be processed, dummy processing means for carrying out dummy processing on a non-product substrate, and determining means for determining whether or not the dummy processing is to be executed, wherein the determining means includes stability determining means for determining whether or not an interior of the process chamber is in a stable state, and the dummy processing means includes dummy processing omitting means for omitting execution of the dummy processing when the stability determining means determines that the interior of the process chamber is in the stable state.

"With the arrangement of the first aspect of the present invention, when it is determined that the status of the interior of the process chamber is stable, execution of the dummy processing is omitted, which contributes to enhancement of productivity in manufacturing product substrates.

"Preferably, when a standing time over which the process chamber is left standing and counting of which is started from a time count start reference time set to an execution end time of the predetermined processing has not exceeded a predetermined time period, the stability determining means determines that the interior of the process chamber is in the stable state.

"More preferably, the determining means performs the determination based on preset dummy processing execution requirements or dummy processing non-execution requirements, the dummy processing non-execution requirements including a condition that the standing time does not exceed the predetermined time period.

"Further preferably, the dummy processing non-execution requirements include a condition that the non-product substrate does not exist.

"Further preferably, the dummy processing non-execution requirements include a condition that execution of the dummy processing on the non-product substrate before execution of the predetermined processing on the substrate is not designated.

"Further preferably, the dummy processing execution requirements include a condition that it is configured such that omission of execution of the dummy processing by the dummy processing omitting means is disabled.

"Further preferably, the dummy processing execution requirements include a condition that the process chamber is in an off-line state.

"Further preferably, the dummy processing execution requirements include a condition that the substrate is a first substrate to be processed after power of the substrate processing apparatus is turned on.

"Further preferably, the dummy processing execution requirements include a condition that a substrate processed before the substrate was processed in an off-line state.

"Further preferably, the dummy processing execution requirements include a condition that the substrate is a first substrate to be processed after execution of maintenance of the process chamber.

"Further preferably, the dummy processing execution requirements include a condition that abort processing for forcibly terminating processing being executed was executed on a substrate which was being processed immediately before processing of the substrate.

"Preferably, when the stability determining means determines that the interior of the process chamber is not in the stable state, the dummy processing means carries out the dummy processing once.

"More preferably, processing time of the dummy processing carried out once is longer than processing time of the predetermined processing to be carried out on the substrate.

"More preferably, a set value of power required for the dummy processing to be carried out once is higher than a set value of power required for the predetermined processing to be carried out on the substrate.

"Preferably, the determining means performs the determination for each substrate lot including the substrate.

"Preferably, the substrate processing apparatus comprises abort processing setting means for allowing setting to be made as to whether or not the abort processing is to be executed on the substrate, after abort processing for forcibly terminating processing being executed was executed on a substrate which was being processed immediately before processing of the substrate.

"Preferably, the substrate processing apparatus comprises log recording means for recording a log indicative of whether or not execution of the dummy processing was omitted.

"To attain the above object, in a second aspect of the present invention, there is provided a substrate processing method for a substrate processing apparatus including at least one process chamber in which predetermined processing is carried out on a substrate as an object to be processed, comprising a dummy processing step of carrying out dummy processing on a non-product substrate, and a determining step of determining whether or not the dummy processing is to be executed, wherein the determining step includes a stability determining step of determining whether or not an interior of the process chamber is in a stable state, and the dummy processing step includes a dummy processing omitting step of omitting the execution of the dummy processing when it is determined in the stability determining step that the interior of the process chamber is in the stable state.

"Preferably, when a standing time over which the process chamber is left standing and counting of which is started from a time count start reference time set to an execution end time of the predetermined processing has not exceeded a predetermined time period, it is determined in the stability determining step that the interior of the process chamber is in the stable state.

"More preferably, the determination in the determining step is performed based on preset dummy processing execution requirements or dummy processing non-execution requirements, the dummy processing non-execution requirements including a condition that the standing time does not exceed the predetermined time period.

"Further preferably, the dummy processing non-execution requirements include a condition that the non-product substrate does not exist.

"Further preferably, the dummy processing non-execution requirements include a condition that execution of the dummy processing on the non-product substrate before execution of the predetermined processing on the substrate is not designated.

"Further preferably, the dummy processing execution requirements include a condition that it is configured such that omission of execution of the dummy processing in the dummy processing omitting step is disabled.

"Further preferably, the dummy processing execution requirements include a condition that the process chamber is in an off-line state.

"Further preferably, the dummy processing execution requirements include a condition that the substrate is a first substrate to be processed after power of the substrate processing apparatus is turned on.

"Further preferably, the dummy processing execution requirements include a condition that a substrate processed before the substrate was processed in an off-line state.

"Further preferably, the dummy processing execution requirements include a condition that the substrate is a first substrate to be processed after execution of maintenance of the process chamber.

"Further preferably, the dummy processing execution requirements include a condition that abort processing for forcibly terminating processing being executed was executed on a substrate which was being processed immediately before processing of the substrate.

"Preferably, when it is determined in the stability determining step that the interior of the process chamber is not in the stable state, the dummy processing is carried out once in the dummy processing step.

"More preferably, processing time of the dummy processing carried out once is longer than processing time of the predetermined processing to be carried out on the substrate.

"More preferably, a set value of power required for the dummy processing to be carried out once is higher than a set value of power required for the predetermined processing to be carried out on the substrate.

"Preferably, the determining step comprises performing determination for each substrate lot including the substrate.

"Preferably, the substrate processing method comprises an abort processing setting step of allowing setting to be made as to whether or not the abort processing is to be executed on the substrate, after abort processing for forcibly terminating processing being executed was executed on a substrate which was being processed immediately before processing of the substrate.

"Preferably, the substrate processing method comprises a log recording step of recording a log indicative of whether or not execution of the dummy processing was omitted.

"To attain the above object, in a third aspect of the present invention, there is provided a program for causing a computer to execute a substrate processing method for a substrate processing apparatus including at least one process chamber in which predetermined processing is carried out on a substrate as an object to be processed, comprising a dummy processing module for carrying out dummy processing on a non-product substrate, and a determining module for determining whether or not the dummy processing is to be executed, wherein the determining module includes a stability determining module for determining whether or not an interior of the process chamber is in a stable state, and the dummy processing module includes a dummy processing omitting module for omitting the execution of the dummy processing when the stability determining module determines that the interior of the process chamber is in the stable state.

"The above and other objects, features, and advantages of the invention will become more apparent from the following detailed description taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings."

For additional information on this patent, see: Yamazaki, Satoshi; Hashimoto, Mitsuru. Substrate Processing Apparatus, Substrate Processing Method, and Program for Implementing the Method. U.S. Patent Number 8785216, filed February 24, 2011, and published online on July 22, 2014. Patent URL: http://patft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO1&Sect2=HITOFF&d=PALL&p=1&u=%2Fnetahtml%2FPTO%2Fsrchnum.htm&r=1&f=G&l=50&s1=8785216.PN.&OS=PN/8785216RS=PN/8785216

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

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Source: Electronics Newsweekly


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