News Column

Patent Issued for Substrate Processing System and Substrate Processing Method

September 9, 2014



By a News Reporter-Staff News Editor at China Weekly News -- A patent by the inventors Sakaue, Hiromitsu (Yamanashi, JP); Horiuchi, Takashi (Yamanashi, JP), filed on March 16, 2010, was published online on August 26, 2014, according to news reporting originating from Alexandria, Virginia, by VerticalNews correspondents.

Patent number 8814489 is assigned to Tokyo Electron Limited (Tokyo, JP).

The following quote was obtained by the news editors from the background information supplied by the inventors: "For example, in a manufacturing process of a semiconductor device, various processes such as an ion implanting process, an etching process, and a film forming process are performed on a substrate. In a batch-type processing apparatus such as an ion implanting apparatus that processes a plurality of substrates in a processing chamber, it is desirable to perform the unloading of a processed substrate from the processing chamber and the loading of a unprocessed substrate into the processing chamber at the same time, thus allowing the replacement of the processed substrate with the unprocessed substrate to be carried out in a short period of time. It is because the processing apparatus enters a standby mode and stops operation when the replacement of the processed substrate and the unprocessed substrate is performed, thus causing deterioration of a throughput of the processing apparatus.

"In this regard, as disclosed in, for example, Patent Document 1, there has been conventionally proposed a substrate transfer apparatus in which substrate accommodation unit for storing therein substrates in multi-stages and transfer arms for transferring a substrate between the substrate accommodation unit and the processing chamber are independently installed for loading and unloading of the substrates into and out of the processing chamber.

"In using the substrate transfer apparatus disclosed in, for example, Patent Document 1, the substrate processing apparatus still enters the standby mode, for example, when unprocessed substrates in another substrate accommodation vessel installed outside the system are transferred into the substrate accommodation unit by another transfer arm after all the substrates in the substrate accommodation unit are loaded into the processing chamber. In this regard, Patent Document 2, for example, discloses a transfer arm having a plurality of substrate holders in multi-stages as a means for transferring of the substrates between a multi-stage substrate accommodation unit and another transfer arm.

"Patent Document 1: Japanese Patent Laid-open Publication No. H5-67668

"Patent Document 2: Japanese Patent Laid-open Publication No. 2007-123592"

In addition to the background information obtained for this patent, VerticalNews journalists also obtained the inventors' summary information for this patent: "However, even if the transfer of the substrates between the substrate accommodation unit and another transfer arm is carried out efficiently, a final throughput of the processing apparatus is determined depending on the time required for the replacement of the processed substrate with the unprocessed substrate within the processing apparatus. Further, the transfer arm disclosed in, e.g., Patent Document 1 takes various motions such as an elevating motion for accessing an accommodation height of each substrate within the substrate accommodation unit, a translating motion for approaching an accommodation position of each substrate within the substrate accommodation unit after the elevating motion, a substrate transferring motion for transferring the substrate to/from the substrate accommodation unit by being moved up and down below the substrate, and so forth when it transfers the substrate to/from the substrate accommodation units. Therefore, it has been difficult to reduce the operation time of the transfer arm. Thus, the present inventors have conducted various researches to reduce the time required for the replacement of the substrates within the processing chamber and conceived a transfer arm as described below, for example.

"As illustrated in FIGS. 24 and 25, a transfer apparatus 100 includes, for example, a substrate accommodation unit 102 configured to accommodate substrates W to be loaded into a processing apparatus 101, which performs batch processing on the substrates W, in multi-stages; a substrate accommodation unit 103 configured to accommodate processed substrates Wa, which are unloaded from the processing apparatus 101, in multi-stages; a substrate holder 104 configured to hold the substrates W of the substrate accommodation unit 102 so as to load them into the processing chamber 101; a substrate holder 105 configured to hold the substrates Wa of the processing apparatus 101 so as to unload them from the substrate accommodation unit 103 and accommodate the unloaded substrates Wa in the substrate accommodation unit 103. The substrate accommodation units 102 and 103 are configured to be vertically movable. The substrate holders 104 and 105 and supports 110 installed within the substrate accommodation units 102 and 103 so as to support the substrates are configured such that the substrate holders 104 and 105 and supports 110 can pass each other without interference.

"In the transfer apparatus 100 as described above, the substrate holder 104 is first set in a standby position below the substrate accommodation unit 102, for example. In this state, the substrate accommodation unit 102 is lowered, whereby a substrate held by the supports 110 is transferred onto the substrate holder 104 when the supports 110 and the substrate holder 104 pass each other, as illustrated in FIG. 25. The transfer of the substrate between the supports 110 and the substrate holder 104 is carried out by moving the substrate holder 104 to a transfer position of the substrate after mounting the substrate held by the substrate holder 104 onto a rotary table 111 within the processing apparatus 101 and then lowering the substrate accommodation unit 102 again by a distance which is an interval between the supports 110. Accordingly, when the substrate is transferred between the supports 110 and the substrate holder 104, the conventionally performed elevating motion for elevating the substrate holder 104 so as to allow it to access the accommodation height of each substrate in the substrate accommodation unit 102, the translating motion for horizontally moving the substrate holder toward the substrate accommodation position within the substrate accommodation unit 102 after the elevating motion, and the substrate transferring motion for elevating the substrate holder 104 from below the substrate to thereby allow the substrate to be transferred from/to the substrate accommodation unit become unnecessary. Further, by applying this transfer method to the substrate accommodation unit 103 and the substrate holder 105 in a reverse sequence to the above-described sequence, the transfer method can also be used to unload a processed substrate from the processing apparatus 101. Thus, the time for the replacement of the substrates W and Wa between the processing apparatus 101 and the substrate accommodation units 102 and 103 can be shortened, so that the throughput of the processing apparatus 101 can be further improved.

"When, however, the transfer arm having the plurality of multi-stage substrate holders is used between the substrate accommodation units 102 and 103 provided in the transfer apparatus 100 and the substrate accommodation vessel installed outside a system, as disclosed in the above-mentioned Patent Document 2, it involves a new problem.

"The new problem is described in the following. When the loading/unloading of the substrate into/from the processing apparatus 101 is performed by using the transfer apparatus 100, the substrates W are accommodated from outside a system into the substrate accommodation unit 102 in the order of the substrate W1 from the bottom. Then, when they are unloaded from the processing apparatus 1 after their processing has been completed in the processing apparatus 101, the substrates W are accommodated in the substrate accommodation unit 103 by the substrate holder 101 in the order of the substrate W1 from the top. That is, the positions of the substrates W are reversed to their original positions. This reversal of the substrate positions is caused because the transfer of the substrates onto the substrate holder 14 is performed in the order of W1 from the bottom by lowering the substrate accommodation unit 102 when the substrates are unloaded from the substrate accommodation unit 102, whereas the accommodation of the processed substrates in the substrate accommodation unit 103 is performed in the order of Wa1 from the top.

"If the transfer arm having the plurality of multi-stage substrate holders is used when the order of the substrates is reversed, the order of the substrates remains reversed when they are accommodated in the substrate accommodation vessel outside the system, thus causing problems in post processes.

"In view of the foregoing, the present disclosure is capable of transferring substrates between a processing apparatus and a substrate accommodation unit in a shorter period of time as compared to conventional cases, while maintaining the original order of the processed substrate to be accommodated in the substrate accommodation unit.

"In accordance with one aspect of the present disclosure, there is provided a substrate processing system including: a processing chamber that performs a preset process on a plurality of substrates in a batch-type manner; a substrate mounting table, installed within the processing chamber, configured to mount the plurality of substrates on a concentric circle and to be rotatable forward and backward; a first substrate accommodation unit configured to accommodate the plurality of substrates in multi-stages in a vertical direction; a second substrate accommodation unit configured to accommodate the plurality of substrates in multi-stages in a vertical direction; a first substrate holder configured to hold the substrate transferred between the first substrate accommodation unit and the processing chamber; a second substrate holder configured to hold the substrate transferred between the second substrate accommodation unit and the processing chamber; a first elevating mechanism configured to transfer the substrate between the first substrate accommodation unit and the first substrate holder by way of moving at least one of the first substrate accommodation unit and the first substrate holder up and down relative to each other; a second elevating mechanism configured to transfer the substrate between the second substrate accommodation unit and the second substrate holder by way of moving at least one of the second substrate accommodation unit and the second substrate holder up and down relative to each other; and a controller that controls a rotation of the substrate mounting table, an up/down movement of the first and second elevating mechanisms and the transfer of the substrates by the first and second substrate holders. The controller performs: a control so as to transfer unprocessed substrates from the first substrate accommodation unit to the first substrate holder by way of lowering the first substrate accommodation unit for accommodating the unprocessed substrates relative to the first substrate holder, and load the unprocessed substrates into the processing chamber in sequence by the first substrate holder while sequentially rotating the substrate mounting table at a preset angle in one direction; a control so as to perform the preset process on the plurality of substrates within the processing chamber; and a control so as to unload processed substrates from the processing chamber by the first substrate holder after the completion of the preset process; transfer the processed substrates into the first substrate accommodation unit from the first substrate holder by way of raising the first substrate accommodation unit relative to the first substrate holder; transfer unprocessed substrates from the second substrate accommodation unit onto the second substrate holder by way of lowering the second substrate accommodation unit for accommodating the unprocessed substrates relative to the second substrate holder and load the unprocessed substrate into the processing chamber in sequence by the second substrate holder while sequentially rotating the substrate mounting table at the preset angle in the another direction. Here, the meaning of the expression of 'moving at least one of the first substrate accommodation unit and the first substrate holder up and down relative to each other' implies, for example, moving the substrate up and down while the position of the substrate holder is fixed or moving the substrate holder up and down while the position of the substrate is fixed, and it may also imply moving both the substrate holder and the substrate up and down.

"In accordance with the present disclosure, the substrate mounting table that mounts the plurality of substrates on a concentric circle is configured to be rotatable forward and backward. Thus, after the process of the substrate is performed in the processing chamber, by unloading the processed substrates from the processing chamber with the substrate holder used to load the unprocessed substrates into the processing chamber while rotating the substrate mounting table in a reverse direction to a rotation direction in which the unprocessed substrates are loaded into the processing chamber, the lastly loaded substrate can be unloaded first. In this way, by accommodating the processed substrates in the substrate accommodation unit, which is in a standby mode after the loading of the unprocessed substrates is completed, in sequence from the lastly loaded substrate, the transfer of the substrates between the processing apparatus and the substrate accommodation unit can be carried out in a shorter period of time as compared to conventional cases, while maintaining the original order of the processed substrate.

"The substrate processing system may further include a substrate transfer device configured to transfer the substrates between a substrate accommodation vessel and the first and second substrate accommodation units. The substrate transfer device may include substrate holding members in multi-stages in a vertical direction so as to hold the substrates.

"In the first substrate accommodation unit, a support configured to support a the substrate may be provided at a position where the support is not overlapped with the first substrate holder when viewed from the top, and in the second substrate accommodation unit, a support configured to support a the substrate may be installed at a position where the support is not overlapped with the second substrate holder when viewed from the top.

"The first elevating mechanism may move the first substrate accommodation unit up and down, and the second elevating mechanism may move the second substrate accommodation unit up and down. The first substrate accommodation unit may include a first support moving mechanism that moves the support between the inside and the outside of the substrate. The second substrate accommodation unit may include a second support moving mechanism that moves the support between the inside and the outside of the substrate. The first elevating mechanism may move the first substrate holder up and down, and the second elevating mechanism may move the second substrate holder up and down.

"The substrate processing system may further include a first supporting pin configured to support the substrate in the first substrate accommodation unit; and a second supporting pin configured to support the substrate in the second substrate accommodation unit. The first substrate accommodation unit may include a first support moving mechanism that moves the support between the inside and the outside of the substrate. The second substrate accommodation unit may include a second support moving mechanism that moves the support between the inside and the outside of the substrate. The first elevating mechanism may move the first substrate holder up and down, and the second elevating mechanism may move the second substrate holder up and down.

"In accordance with another aspect of the present disclosure, there is provided a substrate processing method using a substrate processing apparatus including a processing chamber that performs a preset process on a plurality of substrates; a substrate mounting table, installed within the processing chamber, configured to mount the plurality of substrates on a concentric circle and to be rotatable forward and backward; a first substrate accommodation unit configured to accommodate the plurality of substrates in multi-stages in a vertical direction; a second substrate accommodation unit configured to accommodate the plurality of substrates in multi-stages in a vertical direction; a first substrate holder configured to transfer the substrate between the first substrate accommodation unit and the processing chamber; a second substrate holder configured to transfer the substrate between the second substrate accommodation unit and the processing chamber; a first elevating mechanism configured to move at least one of the first substrate accommodation unit and the first substrate holder up and down relative to each other; and a second elevating mechanism configured to move at least one of the second substrate accommodation unit and the second substrate holder up and down relative to each other. The substrate processing method includes: transferring unprocessed substrates from the first substrate accommodation unit to the first substrate holder by way of lowering the first substrate accommodation unit for accommodating the unprocessed substrates relative to the first substrate holder, and loading the unprocessed substrates into the processing chamber in sequence by the first substrate holder while sequentially rotating the substrate mounting table at a preset angle in one direction; performing the preset process on the plurality of substrates in a batch-type manner within the processing chamber; and unloading processed substrates from the processing chamber by the first substrate holder after the completion of the preset process, transferring the processed substrates into the first substrate accommodation unit from the first substrate holder by way of raising the first substrate accommodation unit relative to the processed substrate of the first substrate holder, transferring unprocessed substrates from the second substrate accommodation unit to the second substrate holder by way of lowering the second substrate accommodation unit relative to the second substrate holder and loading the unprocessed substrate into the processing chamber in sequence by the second substrate holder while sequentially rotating the substrate mounting table at the preset angle in the another direction.

"Inside the first substrate accommodation unit, a support configured to support the substrate may be installed at a position where the support is not overlapped with the first substrate holder when viewed from the top. Inside the second substrate accommodation unit, a support configured to support the substrate may be installed at a position where the support is not overlapped with the second substrate holder when viewed from the top. The relative up/down movement of the first substrate accommodation unit and the first substrate holder may be carried out by moving the first substrate accommodation unit up and down, and the relative up/down movement of the second substrate accommodation unit and the second substrate holder may be carried out by moving the second substrate accommodation unit up and down.

"The first substrate accommodation unit may include a first support moving mechanism that moves the support between the inside and the outside of the substrate. The second substrate accommodation unit may include a second support moving mechanism that moves the support between the inside and the outside of the substrate. The support configured to support the substrate may be installed inside the first substrate accommodation unit at a position where the support is not overlapped with the first substrate holder when viewed from the top. The support configured to support the substrate may be installed inside the second substrate accommodation unit at a position where the support is not overlapped with the second substrate holder when viewed from the top. The relative up/down movement of the first substrate accommodation unit and the first substrate holder may be carried out by moving the first substrate holder up and down. The relative up/down movement of the second substrate accommodation unit and the second substrate holder may be carried out by moving the second substrate holder up and down. The support may be retreated to a position where the support is not overlapped with the substrate, when viewed from the top, when the support does not support the substrate, and the support may be moved to a position where the support supports the substrate when the substrate is moved from below the support to above the support.

"The substrate processing method may further include: a first supporting pin configured to support the substrate in the first substrate accommodation unit; and a second supporting pin configured to support the substrate in the second substrate accommodation unit. The first substrate accommodation unit may include a first support moving mechanism that moves the support between the inside and the outside of the substrate. The second substrate accommodation unit may include a second support moving mechanism that moves the support between the inside and the outside of the substrate. Inside the first substrate accommodation unit, the support configured to support the substrate may be installed at a position where it is not overlapped with the first substrate holder when viewed from the top. Inside the second substrate accommodation unit, the support configured to support the substrate thereon may be installed at a position where it is not overlapped with the second substrate holder when viewed from the top. The relative up/down movement of the first substrate accommodation unit and the first substrate holder may be carried out by moving the first supporting pin up and down. The relative up/down movement of the second substrate accommodation unit and the second substrate holder may be carried out by moving the second supporting pin up and down. The support may be retreated to a position where the support is not overlapped with the substrate, when viewed from the top, when the support does not support the substrate, and the support may be moved to a position where it supports the substrate when the substrate is moved from below the support to above the support.

"In accordance with still another aspect of the present disclosure, there is provided a substrate processing method using a substrate processing apparatus including a processing chamber that performs a preset process on a plurality of substrates in a batch-type manner; a substrate mounting table, installed within the processing chamber, configured to mount the plurality of substrates on a concentric circle and to be rotatable forward and backward; a first substrate accommodation unit configured to accommodate the plurality of substrates in multi-levels in a vertical direction; a second substrate accommodation unit configured to accommodate the plurality of substrates in multi-levels in a vertical direction; a first substrate holder configured to transfer the substrate between the substrate mounting table and the first substrate accommodation unit; and a second substrate holder configured to transfer the substrate between the substrate mounting table and the second substrate accommodation unit. The substrate processing method includes: accommodating a plurality of unprocessed substrates in the first substrate accommodation unit; transferring a single sheet of processed substrate from the substrate mounting table to the second substrate holder and accommodating the processed substrate in the second substrate accommodation unit; performing, plural times, operations including: transferring the unprocessed substrate from the first substrate accommodating unit onto the first substrate holder and transferring the processed substrate from the second substrate holder into the second substrate accommodation unit, transferring the unprocessed substrate, which is delivered to the first substrate holder, onto the substrate mounting table, mounting the unprocessed substrate, which is transferred onto the substrate mounting table, on the substrate mounting table and receiving the processed substrate mounted on the substrate mounting table by the second substrate holder, transferring the processed substrate, which is received from the substrate mounting table, into the second substrate accommodation unit, and rotating the substrate mounting table at a preset angle in one direction; transferring the unprocessed substrate from the first substrate accommodation unit to the first substrate holder and mounting the unprocessed substrate on the substrate mounting table; performing the preset process on the plurality of substrates within the processing chamber in a batch-type manner; unloading the processed substrate from the second substrate accommodation and accommodating a plurality of unprocessed substrates in the second substrate accommodation unit; transferring a single sheet of processed substrate from the substrate mounting table to the first substrate holder and accommodating the processed substrate in the second substrate accommodation unit; performing, plural times, operations including: transferring the unprocessed substrate from the second substrate accommodating unit to the second substrate holder and transferring the processed substrate from the first substrate holder into the second substrate accommodation unit; transferring the unprocessed substrate, which is delivered to the second substrate holder, onto the substrate mounting table; mounting the unprocessed substrate, which is transferred onto the substrate mounting table, on the substrate mounting table and receiving the processed substrate mounted on the substrate mounting table by the first substrate holder; transferring the processed substrate, which is received from the substrate mounting table, into the first substrate accommodation unit; and rotating the substrate mounting table at a preset angle in the another direction.

"In accordance with the present disclosure, the transfer of the substrates can be carried out between the processing apparatus and the substrate accommodation unit in a shorter period of time as compared to conventional cases, while maintaining the original order of the processed substrates to be accommodated in the substrate accommodation unit."

URL and more information on this patent, see: Sakaue, Hiromitsu; Horiuchi, Takashi. Substrate Processing System and Substrate Processing Method. U.S. Patent Number 8814489, filed March 16, 2010, and published online on August 26, 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=8814489.PN.&OS=PN/8814489RS=PN/8814489

Keywords for this news article include: Asia, Japan, Tokyo Electron Limited.

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Source: China Weekly News


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