WAFER CARRIER PURGE APPARATUSES, AUTOMATED MECHANICAL HANDLING SYSTEMS INCLUDING THE SAME, AND METHODS OF HANDLING A WAFER CARRIER DURING INTEGRATED CIRCUIT FABRICATION
Publication Date: 2014-Nov-20
The IP.com Prior Art Database
A wafer carrier purge apparatus, an automated mechanical handling system, and a method of handling a wafer carrier during integrated circuit fabrication are provided. The wafer carrier purge apparatus includes a purge plate adapted for insertion into a carrier storage position. The purge plate includes a gas port and a gas nozzle in fluid communication with the gas port. The gas port receives a gas flow. The gas nozzle is adapted to contact an inlet port of a wafer carrier. The purge plate further includes a vacuum port and a vacuum nozzle in fluid communication with the vacuum port, spaced from the gas nozzle. The vacuum nozzle is adapted to capture gas that escapes from the wafer carrier through an outlet port of the wafer carrier. The purge plate is separate and removable from the carrier storage position.
 The technical field generally relates to wafer carrier purge apparatuses, automated mechanical handling systems (AMHSs) including the wafer carrier purge apparatuses, and methods of handling a wafer carrier during integrated circuit fabrication. More particularly, the technical field relates to wafer carrier purge apparatuses, AMHSs, and methods of handling the wafer carriers that enable gas to be introduced into and captured from the wafer carriers while the wafer carriers are disposed in carrier storage positions in the AMHSs during integrated circuit fabrication.
 Automated mechanical handling systems (AMHSs) are widely used during integrated circuit fabrication to organize, handle, and track supplied wafers in a fabrication facility to use in fabrication of integrated circuits in the most efficient manner possible. AMHSs generally employ carrier storage positions, e.g., storage positions in a stocker or zero footprint storage bins. The carrier storage positions are adapted to receive a wafer carrier, such as a front opening shipping box (FOSB). The AMHSs also generally include a container transporter that is adapted to move the FOSBs into and out of the carrier storage positions. During handling, FOSBs that include the supplied wafers are removed from the carrier storage positions and unwrapped, followed by placing the supplied wafers and an empty front opening unified pod (FOUP) on a sorter. The FOUP allows the supplied wafers to be accessed during automated integrated circuit fabrication. The supplied wafers are transferred to the empty FOUP on the sorter. The FOUP is then generally returned to the carrier storage position, where the FOUP remains until the supplied wafers are needed.
 Queue times during automated integrated circuit fabrication have a significant impact on integrated circuit quality due to environmental impact on materials that are used to fabricate the integrated circuits. In particular, prolonged exposure to moisture or other airborne environmental contaminants such as organic compounds and ions can lead to corrosion and/or crystallization on the wafers, thereby resulting in out-of-specification integrated circuits that must be discarded or reworked. To avoid excessive queue times, fabrication facilities often employ production holds at various stages in the fabrication to ensure that queue times are not exceeded that would otherwise result in rework and scrap of fabricated integrated circuits. Wafer Environment Control (WEC) solutions are another option that has been considered to prevent contamination of the supplied wafers from moisture and organic compounds that may be present in the ambient atmosphere surrounding the carrier storage positions while the supplied wafers are stored....