News Column

Patent Issued for Workpiece Alignment Device

September 10, 2014

By a News Reporter-Staff News Editor at Electronics Newsweekly -- According to news reporting originating from Alexandria, Virginia, by VerticalNews journalists, a patent by the inventors Daniel, Malcolm N. (Austin, TX); Carlson, Charles T. (Cedar Park, TX); Weaver, William T. (Austin, TX), filed on March 8, 2012, was published online on August 26, 2014.

The assignee for this patent, patent number 8813338, is Varian Semiconductor Equipment Associates, Inc. (Gloucesler, MA).

Reporters obtained the following quote from the background information supplied by the inventors: "Ion implantation is a standard technique for introducing conductivity-altering impurities into a workpiece. A desired impurity material is ionized in an ion source, the ions are accelerated to form an ion beam of prescribed energy, and the ion beam is directed at the surface of the workpiece. The energetic ions in the ion beam penetrate into the bulk of the workpiece material and are embedded into the crystalline lattice of the workpiece material to form a region of desired conductivity.

"Solar cells are one example of a workpiece. Lower production costs for high-performance solar cells or any efficiency improvement to high-performance solar cells would have a positive impact on the implementation of solar cells worldwide. This will enable the wider availability of a clean energy technology. Ion implantation is one way to improve efficiency of solar cells. Solar cells or other workpieces may be loaded into a carrier after processing in an ion implanter or other piece of processing equipment.

"Loading workpieces, such as solar cells, into a carrier from an ion implanter or other piece of processing equipment may have multiple drawbacks. The solar cell industry does not have well-defined standards for sizing or tolerances of solar cell workpieces or the carriers that transport these workpieces. There may be a wide variation in alignment and clearances between the workpieces and the carriers due to the lack of standardization. This also may lead to problems when loading workpieces into the carriers. Differences in workpiece sizes or carrier dimensions may result in improperly-loaded workpieces or even workpiece breakage during loading.

"Besides the lack of well-defined standards, workpiece loading into carriers may be affected by machine setup, calibration, alignment, and consistency between carriers. Manufacturer tolerances are one factor in consistency between carriers. Thus, there may be differences in dimensions of the carriers from a single manufacturer. Deformation of the carrier caused by chemical processing, other wet processing, or mechanical forces is another factor in consistency between carriers. Attempts to use carriers from multiple manufacturers in a single tool also may affect consistency between carriers because each manufacturer's carrier may have different dimensions or specifications. Loading a workpiece into a deformed carrier or into carriers from different manufacturers also may result in improperly-loaded workpieces or workpiece breakage.

"If the workpieces are not loaded correctly in the carrier, then the workpieces may end up in the processing equipment or on the floor. Throughput or productivity within the facility may be affected due to missing workpieces in the carrier. Workpieces also may be broken during processing if loaded incorrectly. This increases a manufacturer's material costs. Thus, there is a need in the art for an improved alignment device or an improved alignment method for loading workpieces or, more particularly, for solar cell workpieces."

In addition to obtaining background information on this patent, VerticalNews editors also obtained the inventors' summary information for this patent: "According to a first aspect of the invention, an alignment device is provided. The alignment device comprises a carriage, two rails on the carriage that are configured for a workpiece to pass therebetween, and a finger that protrudes a distance from the carriage and is configured to be disposed on a carrier for the workpiece.

"According to a second aspect of the invention, a workpiece loading apparatus is provided. The apparatus comprises a conveyor belt, a carrier configured to hold workpieces, a carriage, two rails disposed a distance apart on the carriage that are positioned above the conveyor belt, and a finger protruding from the carriage that is configured to be disposed on the carrier.

"According to a third aspect of the invention, a method of alignment is provided. The method comprises transporting a plurality of workpieces on a conveyor belt toward a carrier. The carrier is moved in a first direction such that the workpieces are disposed within multiple positions in the carrier. A finger of an alignment device runs along the carrier during the moving. Each workpiece is aligned on the conveyor belt in a plane perpendicular to the first direction using the alignment device while the finger runs along the carrier."

For more information, see this patent: Daniel, Malcolm N.; Carlson, Charles T.; Weaver, William T.. Workpiece Alignment Device. U.S. Patent Number 8813338, filed March 8, 2012, and published online on August 26, 2014. Patent URL:

Keywords for this news article include: Electronics, Semiconductor, Varian Semiconductor Equipment Associates, Varian Semiconductor Equipment Associates Inc.

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Source: Electronics Newsweekly

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