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Researchers Submit Patent Application, "End Effector Device and Substrate Conveying Robot Including End Effector Device", for Approval

August 20, 2014



By a News Reporter-Staff News Editor at Electronics Newsweekly -- From Washington, D.C., VerticalNews journalists report that a patent application by the inventors Hashimoto, Yasuhiko (Kobe-shi, JP); Ono, Shigeki (Kobe-shi, JP); Fukushima, Takayuki (Takarazuka-shi, JP), filed on August 9, 2012, was made available online on August 7, 2014.

The patent's assignee is Kawasaki Jukogyo Kabushiki Kaisha.

News editors obtained the following quote from the background information supplied by the inventors: "A semiconductor manufacturing process includes a step of conveying a plurality of semiconductor wafers at once from a foup that houses the plurality of semiconductor wafers lined up in an upper-lower direction to a processing shelf in which the semiconductor wafers are subjected to predetermined processing. While the semiconductor wafers are being conveyed, the upper-lower interval (hereinafter referred to as a 'pitch') between the adjacent semiconductor wafers may be changed. A pitch changing mechanism is used to change this pitch.

"A conventional pitch changing mechanism includes: a plurality of wafer holding trays each configured to receive the entire lower surface of the semiconductor wafer; and vertical shafts respectively provided at base end portions of the wafer holding trays (see PTL 1). Each of the wafer holding trays moves up and down along the vertical shaft and rotates around the vertical shaft in a horizontal plane. The wafer holding trays of the pitch changing mechanism hold the entire lower surfaces of the plurality of semiconductor wafers at a position opposed to the foup to take out the plurality of semiconductor wafers at once. After the pitch changing mechanism has moved in a horizontal direction, the wafer holding trays move down, so that the pitch between the adjacent semiconductor wafers is shortened. Next, the wafer holding trays rotate around the vertical shafts to house all the semiconductor wafers in the processing shelf."

As a supplement to the background information on this patent application, VerticalNews correspondents also obtained the inventors' summary information for this patent application: "Technical Problem

"The applicants have thought of attaching the end effector device incorporating the pitch changing mechanism to the tip end portion of the robot arm to smoothly transfer the semiconductor wafers from the foup to a processing booth. However, the conventional pitch changing mechanism is large since the wafer holding tray receives the entire lower surface of the semiconductor wafer. Therefore, the conventional pitch changing mechanism is unsuitable for the incorporation into the end effector device.

"An object of the present invention is to provide an end effector device including a mechanism configured to change an interval between semiconductor wafers.

"Solution to Problem

"The present invention is an end effector device attached to a tip end portion of a robot arm, the end effector device including: a blade including a base end portion and a tip end portion; and a support unit provided at the blade and configured to support peripheral portions of a plurality of plate-shaped members such that the plate-shaped members are parallel to one another and spaced apart from one another in an upper-lower direction and also configured to change intervals of the plate-shaped members. Here, the wording 'provided so as to be located at the blade' includes both a case where the support unit is directly provided at the blade and a case where the support unit is provided at a portion of the end effector device other than the blade in a manner similar to the above case.

"According to the present invention, a peripheral portion of the plate-shaped member is supported by the support unit. To be specific, since the support unit does not have to receive the entire surface of the plate-shaped member, a portion where the support unit supports the plate-shaped member can be reduced in size. With this, the support unit configured to change the intervals of the plate-shaped members can be reduced in size so as to be suitable for the incorporation into the end effector device. In the present application, the reduction in size also denotes that the size reduction that has been conventionally impossible is realized. That is, the reduction in size in the present application does not just means the size reduction.

"In the above end effector device, a plurality of pitch changing mechanisms are provided at the blade, each of the plurality of pitch changing mechanisms includes holding portions, which are provided so as to be spaced apart from one another in a direction perpendicular to axes of the holding portions, each of the axes extending in one flat plane, and are configured to respectively hold peripheral portions of the plurality of plate-shaped members, each of the plurality of pitch changing mechanisms changes intervals of the plurality of plate-shaped members, the intervals being formed in a direction perpendicular to the one flat plane, at least one of the pitch changing mechanisms is provided at the support unit and is configured to move forward to the tip end portion of the blade and move backward to the base end portion of the blade, and the one of the pitch changing mechanisms holds the plate-shaped members at a position where the one of the pitch changing mechanisms has moved forward to the tip end portion of the blade and cancels the holding of the plate-shaped members at a position where the one of the pitch changing mechanisms has moved backward to the base end portion of the blade.

"According to the present invention, when one pitch changing mechanism moves backward, the holding of the plate-shaped members by the holding portions of this pitch changing mechanism is cancelled. With this, the plurality of plate-shaped members whose intervals have been changed can be easily passed to the next processing stage. In the following explanation, a configuration in which the pitch changing mechanism presses the peripheral portion of the plate-shaped member in a direction connecting the base end and tip end of the blade to hold the plate-shaped member is called an edge grip type.

"Advantageous Effects of Invention

"In the present invention, the incorporated support unit has a pitch changing function and supports the peripheral portions of the plate-shaped members. With this, a mechanism configured to change the pitches in the end effector device can be reduced in size.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF DRAWINGS

"FIG. 1 is a perspective view of an entire substrate conveying robot.

"FIG. 2 is an enlarged perspective view of the end effector device.

"FIG. 3 is a plan view of the end effector device shown in FIG. 2.

"FIG. 4 is a perspective view of a nail piece.

"FIG. 5 is a side view showing a state where a semiconductor wafer is held by the nail pieces.

"FIG. 6 is a diagram showing another type of nail pieces.

"FIGS. 7A and 7B are partial cutaway views each showing a side surface of a pitch changing mechanism according to one embodiment. FIG. 7A shows an initial state where the pitches are large, and FIG. 7B shows a state where the pitches are small.

"FIG. 8 is a plan view of the nail piece located at a lowest position when viewed from a direction A1 of FIG. 7A.

"FIGS. 9A and 9B are partial cutaway views each showing the side surface of the pitch changing mechanism according to another embodiment.

"FIG. 9A shows an initial state where the pitches are large, and FIG. 9B shows a state where the pitches are small.

"FIGS. 10A and 10B are partial cutaway views each showing the side surface of the pitch changing mechanism according to still another embodiment. FIG. 10A shows an initial state where the pitches are large, and FIG. 10B shows a state where the pitches are small.

"FIG. 11 is a perspective view of the nail piece used in the pitch changing mechanism of FIG. 10.

"FIGS. 12A and 12B are partial cutaway views each showing the side surface of the pitch changing mechanism according to yet another embodiment. FIG. 12A shows an initial state where the pitches are large, and FIG. 12B shows a state where the pitches are small.

"FIG. 13 is a side view of a cylindrical body used in the pitch changing mechanism of FIG. 12.

"FIGS. 14A and 14B are partial cutaway views each showing the side surface of the pitch changing mechanism according to still another embodiment. FIG. 14A shows an initial state where the pitches are large, and FIG. 14B shows a state where the pitches are small.

"FIGS. 15A and 15B are partial cutaway views each showing the side surface of the pitch changing mechanism according to yet another embodiment. FIG. 15A shows an initial state where the pitches are large, and FIG. 15B shows a state where the pitches are small.

"FIGS. 16A and 16B are partial cutaway views each showing the side surface of the pitch changing mechanism according to still another embodiment. FIG. 16A shows an initial state where the pitches are large, and FIG. 16B shows a state where the pitches are small.

"FIGS. 17A and 17B are partial cutaway views each showing the side surface of the pitch changing mechanism according to yet another embodiment. FIG. 17A shows an initial state where the pitches are large, and FIG. 17B shows a state where the pitches are small.

"FIG. 18 is a plan view of the pitch changing mechanism according to still another embodiment.

"FIG. 19 is a perspective view showing major portions of the pitch changing mechanism shown in FIG. 18.

"FIGS. 20A and 20B are side views each showing the pitch changing mechanism when viewed from a direction B1 of FIG. 18. FIG. 20A shows an initial state where the pitches are large, and FIG. 20B shows a state where the pitches are small.

"FIGS. 21A and 21B are side views each showing the pitch changing mechanism according to yet another embodiment. FIG. 21A shows an initial state where the pitches are large, and FIG. 21B shows a state where the pitches are small.

"FIG. 21C is a cross-sectional view taken along line C1-C1 of FIG. 21A, which is viewed from a back surface of the pitch changing mechanism.

"FIGS. 22A and 22B are partial cutaway views each showing the side surface of the pitch changing mechanism according to still another embodiment. FIG. 22A shows an initial state where the pitches are large, and FIG. 22B shows a state where the pitches are small.

"FIGS. 23A and 23B are partial cutaway views each showing the side surface of the pitch changing mechanism according to yet another embodiment. FIG. 23A shows an initial state where the pitches are large, and FIG. 23B shows a state where the pitches are small.

"FIG. 24 is an exploded perspective view of the pitch changing mechanism according to still another embodiment.

"FIGS. 25A and 25B are cross-sectional views each showing the pitch changing mechanism when viewed from a direction D1 of FIG. 24.

"FIG. 25A shows an initial state where the pitches are large, and FIG. 25B shows a state where the pitches are small.

"FIG. 26 is an enlarged perspective view of the end effector device according to another embodiment.

"FIGS. 27A and 27B are plan views each showing a moving operation of a support unit shown in FIG. 26.

"FIGS. 28A to 28C are diagrams each showing a rotating operation of the pitch changing mechanism shown in FIG. 26 and are diagrams each viewed from a direction B of FIG. 26.

"FIGS. 29A and 29B are diagrams each showing the rotating operation of another pitch changing mechanism.

"FIG. 30 is a plan view showing an internal mechanism of the end effector device.

"FIG. 31 is an enlarged view of a driving source unit when viewed from a direction D1 of FIG. 30.

"FIGS. 32A and 32B are diagrams each showing a rotating operation of a swinging member.

"FIG. 33 is a diagram showing the configuration of a linear guide member.

"FIGS. 34A to 34C are side views each showing a first air cylinder when viewed from a direction E1 of FIG. 30.

"FIGS. 35A and 35B are side views each showing another mechanism of causing a second guide pin to project from a lower surface of a blade.

"FIGS. 36A to 36C are diagrams each showing yet another pitch changing mechanism.

"FIG. 37 is a diagram when viewed from a direction F1 of FIG. 36B.

"FIG. 38 is a diagram showing still another pitch changing mechanism.

"FIG. 39 is a plan view showing a substrate processing device including the substrate conveying robot of FIG. 1 and a substrate processing facility including the substrate processing device."

For additional information on this patent application, see: Hashimoto, Yasuhiko; Ono, Shigeki; Fukushima, Takayuki. End Effector Device and Substrate Conveying Robot Including End Effector Device. Filed August 9, 2012 and posted August 7, 2014. Patent URL: http://appft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO2&Sect2=HITOFF&u=%2Fnetahtml%2FPTO%2Fsearch-adv.html&r=5448&p=109&f=G&l=50&d=PG01&S1=20140731.PD.&OS=PD/20140731&RS=PD/20140731

Keywords for this news article include: Electronics, Semiconductor, Kawasaki Jukogyo Kabushiki Kaisha.

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Source: Electronics Newsweekly


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