One of the leading players in the automotive semiconductor sensors market, as well as in the integrated circuits for motor driving, car networking and wireless communication, is Melexis, and it has recently completed the first phase of a new project to ensure components are delivered in the same impeccable condition that they were made in.
Moisture in semiconductors is a serious issue. Trapped moisture can vaporise and expand when subjected to the temperatures of a reflow oven during assembly. While this can lead to catastrophic failure of the part during the production process – an effect called ‘popcorning’ – it can also introduce cracks and weaknesses in the component that could present reliability issues once the assembly is out on the market. It is an issue that is obviously taken very seriously both by the electronics assembly sector in the way that they handle and store components, and by the semiconductor makers themselves.
Final drying stage
With this latest project, Melexis is aiming to provide additional assurance for the step from its semiconductor factory in leper, Belgium to its assembly customers. The site works around the clock to test around 40 million ICs a month, principally sensors for the automotive market, though their high performance has also led to applications in consumer and industrial.
Bertrand Leterme, Manufacturing Manager at Ieper, explained he was “looking to control temperature, humidity and timing. The Dry Tower project enables us to do this accurately.”
Dry Tower is the solution provided by Totech, a company that was already well-known to Melexis. “Totech solutions and tools are known and used internally and at our customers,” continued Leterme, who also recognised Totech’s support and reactivity.
This project was looking at the stage just before final packing and sending off to customers. All components will have had their testing at three different temperatures: –40 °C, 25 °C and 135 °C, followed by final optical inspection before being taped and reeled. Then this final drying stage ensures components are completely dry before despatch. It is a stage that is standard – and defined by JEDEC standards – within the industry. All components are held for a minimum of 24 hours at 1 % RH (relative humidity).
Totech’s standard drying cabinets were already being deployed at an earlier stage in the company’s process. However, to use these cabinets for the final drying application would have meant a footprint of around three times that of the adopted Dry Tower solution – and floor space was one of the key considerations.
After benchmarking against another main European supplier, it was considered that the Dry Tower would offer the best solution. Leterme said: “Totech provided more technical answers to our concerns. And has proved in the past year to give good support in case of trouble – important in our market.”
The Dry Tower is really designed for automated storage with precise and proven environmental control technology. However, its ability to tie in with inventory control systems made this an ideal solution to Melexis’ drying requirements. Leterme says: “It gives us the expected control and traceability for our products and our customers. There is also flexibility in the software to manage large batches of reels including a high automated quality control.”
Moreover, it will allow Melexis to continue to develop the project. “The tool is flexible and gives us capacity for potential future production automation projects,” Leterme commented. The next step over the coming year or so is to increase the level of automation with the addition of customised conveyors and other automated handling equipment – the Dry Tower is currently loaded and unloaded manually.
Perhaps, ultimately, this drying solution could play its part in a full ‘Smart factory’ scenario. All component data is saved into a data base, from when it enters the system after reeling to when it leaves the Tower for packaging and shipping.
It sounds like a complex arrangement for a one-day stop-over for components on their way to their end application, especially as they will already have passed their ‘final’ test. However, it is a stage that forms a crucial bridge connecting the often separate worlds of semicon and assembly, and it is imperative to drive in efficient, comfortable and, most importantly, safe cars – that these components cross that bridge in perfect condition.
Moisture in semiconductors
Ever increasing miniaturization of electronics, including thinner components and new materials has made the management and treatment of moisture sensitivity an increasingly critical element of electronics manufacturing and product reliability. Electronics manufacturers are thus challenged to manage larger and larger volumes of parts in a controlled and traceable manner.
The Totech Dry Tower comprises integrated drying and storage environments with complete operator free material handling. Incorporating mature, proven drying technology and WMS-system integration capabilities, the system is also modular, and can be configured for different size and storage requirements. All relevant data for processing components is saved into a data base, from entering the system through to the retrieval of components. Important storage parameters, such as humidity and temperature, are logged and available for analysis.
The Dry Tower storage system can be connected to different inventory control systems (WMS) through standard interfaces. Automated input and output at a central point reduces personnel time. Incoming reels are recognized by specific characteristics and automatically scanned by unique barcode before they are fed into the system ready to be transported to storage locations. The gripper systems are driven by low-noise and low-maintenance servomotors and move simultaneously within a 5-axis system. Vacuum grippers transport component packages quickly and safely.
The system can also calculate the smallest storage position the components require, in order to save space. As an example of storage capacity, up to 15,000 7 ” reels can be stored. Like the entire range of Totech Super Dry products, these are solutions for a new generation of electronics process problems. They are also cost efficient and extremely eco-friendly. They consume less energy than traditional methods, while at the same time reducing overall floor space and logistics.
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