Increasing Valve Investment for the Semiconductor Industry

FEATURED STORY Increasing Valve Investment for the Semiconductor Industry

Water scarcities in Arizona, Taiwan, China and many locations where new semiconductor plants are being built have underscored the need for water conservation. Additionally, water reuse may be cheaper than bringing surface water to the ultrapure level.

By Bob McIlvaine, President & Founder – The McIlvaine Company

In industrial areas there are a number of containments, which present a challenge in the water industry. In agricultural ar­eas, for example, water quality can vary considerably due to potential fertilizer contamination.

Water strategy has evolved from the original once-through concept to a re­use concept, which includes treating waste streams separately. Water need­ing moderate treatment are subject to different processes than water needing extensive treatment. Today, about 40% of the initial water extracted is treated and reused, however the percentage is steadily climbing.

For example, Gradiant has a unique re­verse osmosis approach and is targeting 98% reuse. Ovivo has found that reuse is the most economical option when the quality of incoming water varies. In terms of flow quantity and pump investment, what is important is the quantity of water being circulated, not the quantity entering or leaving the plant.

Fabrication Projects and Water Requirements

In the U.S., there are a number of new fabrication projects which will require in­creases in recirculation of more than 100 million gallons per day (mgd). Intel alone will be adding 40 mgd.

Figure 1 covers projects underway, and those where sites have been chosen but no final commitment has been made. This table only includes major projects. The U.S. is presently behind three other countries in terms of recirculated fabri­cation mgd. The recently enacted CHIPS act will narrow the lead of others such as Taiwan, but there is a long way to go. The U.S. presently has 500 mgd of water recir­culated at fabrication plants, compared to 950 mgd in Taiwan.

Treatment costs per mgd are very high in semiconductor applications. However, the quantities are modest when compared to other applications. A large municipal wastewater treatment plant may be treat­ing more than 1,000 mgd, or the entire fabrication recirculated mgd in Taiwan.

A 4,000 MW coal fired power plant can circulate as much as 1 million gallons per minute of FGD slurry or 1,440 mgd. The conclusion is that this a challenging but relatively small market for stainless steel. Nevertheless, it has been shown that the most profitable suppliers are ones who have obtained market leader­ship in high performance niches.1

The semiconductor market is unique in that much of it consists of small valves used in discrete as opposed to process ap­plications. Ultrapure water is used to wash chips and to deliver various chemicals for chip treatment. A fabrication project can require hundreds of tools, and various gases and liquids are used to treat each chip. Because of this, large numbers of small valves are needed for each tool.

Figure 1.

Four million gallons of water can be used per day in a 200 mm wafer plant. This increases to up to 10 million gal­lons per day (gpd) in a fabrication us­ing 300 mm wafers. As the linewidths are reduced there is more on a chip which needs to be treated and there­fore more water needs to be used. It is also important to take into account the need for greater and greater water purity as the linewidth shrinks.

Figure 2.

Supplier Profiles

International companies generate most of the valve sales in semiconductor applica­tions. However, some of these companies are small. The largest suppliers of discrete valves such as Parker Hannifin and Swa­gelok are not the suppliers of the process valves. Examples include:

AGRU Kunststofftechnik GmbH, a manu­facturer of high-purity, thermoplastic pip­ing systems for transportation of pure liquids. The materials of PVDF, ECTFE, PP-Gray, PP-Natural are offered with a wide range of pipe sizes, fittings, valves, vortex flow meters and semi-finished products.

Asahi/America manufactures and distrib­utes a full selection of corrosion resistant thermoplastic fluid flow solutions includ­ing valves, actuators, single and double wall piping systems, wet process solu­tions and specialty components. Festo’s semiconductor manufacturing products include more than 15 types of pneumatic rotary and linear actuators, end-effectors, and compact pneumatic valve manifolds with DeviceNet interface for ‘front-end’ and ‘back-end’ tool applications.

FITOK high purity diaphragm valves are mainly used in the semiconductor, natural gas, photovoltaic solar, microelectronics, liquid crystal panel, chemical, pharmaceu­tical and other industries. They are appli­cable to conditions with ultra-high purity gases, corrosive gases, toxic gases, flam­mable and explosive fluids. GEMU high-purity valves are applied for ultra-pure chemical supply systems, ultra-pure water treatment plant and ultra-pure water distri­bution installations in the semiconductor field. They are produced under cleanroom conditions at the manufacturing site in Switzerland. Both diaphragm and globe valves are supplied.

Georg Fischer supplies piping systems and components for liquid conveyance, measurement, and control. Products in­clude plastic pipe, fittings, valves, actua­tors, rotameters, fusion machines, tank lin­ings, heat exchangers, secondary contain­ment, flow monitoring and process control instrumentation. KITZ-SCT manufacturers ultra-high purity fluid system components for all phases of semiconductor and FPD manufacturing. Products include valves, fit­tings and substrates that support both con­ventional and next generation systems.

Mega Valve is the distributor of high pu­rity bellow valves, diaphragm valves & ball valves, kuze high purity stainless steel tubes, pipes & fittings, ultra-high purity fit­tings, and metal gasket & face seal com­ponents. Parker Hannifin manufactures a complete line of Ultra High Purity fittings, diaphragm and bellows valves, bulk gas valve components, high purity cylinder connections, regulators, TEFLON fittings, valves and tubing, Instrument quick cou­plers, stainless steel filters, ceramic filter elements, membrane filter cartridges, cap­sules and electropolished filter housings, pneumatic and liquid valves, digital and proportional valves.

Swagelok Company is a provider of fluid system products, assemblies, and ser­vices for the semiconductor industry. Swagelok specializes in a variety of criti­cal semiconductor applications including cleanrooms air filtering, process chemi­cals piping systems and process gas handling. White Knight manufactures high purity chemical, solvent, and slurry pumps that are entirely free of metal and O-rings. In addition, White Knight offers a full line of accessories including elec­tronic enhancements such as fiber optic stroke and leak detection, translators, programmers as well as pulsation damp­eners, and pre pump wafer guard filters. White Knight also provides a full line of normally open and normally closed valves for chemistry, solvents and slurry.

Figure 3.

Technology Development

The semiconductor industry is advanc­ing at an unparalleled rate. Relevant valve technology needs to develop along with it. Four subject areas are:

  • Product quality
  • Energy consumption
  • Water consumption
  • Cost

Product quality: Ultrapure water valve suppliers need to reduce contamina­tion potential. Discrete valve suppliers need to keep improving the accuracy of their products.

Energy consumption: There can be thou­sands of valves in a semiconductor plant. The energy consumed by the valves is minimal but valve performance impacts energy efficiency.

Water consumption: Valves play an inte­gral role in water reuse systems which minimize total water consumed. The po­tential for a 98% reduction is dependent on additional loops with additional valves.

Cost: The potential is not to decrease pur­chased cost, but to decrease the total cost of ownership of the valves.

Valve technology needs to develop at the same pace as the production technology. As the linewidth decreases, the damage from smaller particles increases.

Valve suppliers need to keep up with tech­nology advances. Many valve companies are members of SEMI and have direct contact with users. Semiconductors are a challenging and important market for valve manufacturers. The high growth rate and willingness of purchasers to pay for performance are attractive features.

Bob McIlvaine founded the McIlvaine Company in 1974 and oversees the work of 30 analysts and researchers. He has a BA degree from Princeton University.
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Sara Mathov is a feature editor contributing to Fugitive Emissions Journal, Stainless steel World Americas, and other related print & online media.