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Modern semiconductor chips are manufactured in a complex production sequence featuring up to 1,000 process steps on different systems. The complexity and high precision required of the process parameters and hardware are increasing constantly.

Test wafers are used to qualify the equipment and processes used in semiconductor production. These base plates for electronic components are used to control defect density, deposition rate and stripping behavior. Some of these test wafers require a structure that cannot always be removed without damaging the material. The majority of these wafers also contain sensitive structures and are therefore shredded after testing and disposed of as hazardous waste at high cost. The “HERA” project aims to adapt the patented vacuum method in order to be able to recycle these wafers.

Similar to traditional sandblasting, vacuum suction blasting uses the kinetic energy of an accelerated blasting abrasive in order to selectively process surfaces. Unlike the conventional method used up to now, however, it strips less material from the wafer surface. The vacuum technology works with negative pressure in a closed system, which accelerates the blasting agent and treats the surface. Immediately after hitting the surface, the blasting agent is suctioned off together with the removed material and can be recycled. This means the energy and resources required by the technology are much lower than for conventional processes. Applications of the vacuum suction technology have been developed for the automobile, rail vehicle and aircraft construction industries, for solar and energy technologies and for electrical engineering, among others.

The “HERA” project optimizes the process for wafers in the semiconductor industry. GP Anlagenbau GmbH, which develops and constructs the systems, is the project coordinator. The tests take place at the semiconductor foundry Globalfoundries. The aim is to double the reusability of the electrical base plates.