In this case, the solution is equipment
that is modular by design, allowing for easy
changing and reconfiguration should process or product requirements change.
Another powerful feature: each unit should
be designed with software that is capable of
performing all tool functions, including those
that are not required. With this, end-users can
create their own process, or recipes, with all
sub-routines at their disposal.
The flexibility enables users to dial in applications, such as chemical concentrations,
but also turn various features off, depending
on process requirements. Even though a
user may not need some of the features today, that doesn’t mean those same features
won’t be in demand in a few years’ time.
Specifying the design parameters for
manual benches may not be as involved
as those of automated systems. However,
soliciting the opinion of equipment manufacturers regarding equipment design may
be highly beneficial.
“Certain processes like etchings and
cleanings lab managers will want to
be flexible enough to accommodate a
wide range of users and projects,” says
Bertagnolli. “We are often asked for tank
construction materials that can withstand
a number of concentrated acids, so part
of design flexibility is ensuring you use the
most compatible materials for the most
acids. Another aspect to consider is properly separating, neutralizing and disposing
of all the chemistries involved after use,
whether in drains or tanks for treatment or
Having the vendor visit the user’s facility
can contribute to equipment design versatility that can accommodate changes in lab
use over the long term.
“An eye toward optimizing working
space, operating cost or maintenance can
go a long way toward creating a cleanroom
that will serve the user community well now
and in the future,” says Bertagnolli.
Optimizing LNF’s lab
LNF’s Schweiger recalls that the original
equipment design for the new lab area’s wet
processing benches was very specific, and
determined by LNF staff.
“We had looked at it in terms of process
flow, from start to finish, not really taking
into account the variety, and variation, of
process samples that our user community
might be working with, how we’d accommodate non-standard sample sizes, or what the
impact might be in total cost of ownership
with respect to chemical usage,” he says.
Schweiger adds that some of the new
benches had their decks reconfigured once
the tools were installed. Several of the earlier benches, some of which were purchased
over 20 years ago, were also modified to
allow for more flexibility in meeting the
process needs of the user community.
“In retrospect, our initial plan for the
deck space, and processing capability of
the benches, wasn’t adaptable or flexible
enough, [so] we worked to implement
modifications so that the bench decks were
simpler, and could provide more working
space,” Schweiger concluded.