Contact photolithographic mask aligner technology has been successfully used for the past twenty years — primarily in the manufacture of integrated circuits in the semiconductor industry. Over that time, however, perceptive engineers in industries other than the semiconductor began to recognize the ability of mask aligners to reproduce extremely minute designs on substrates other than silicon wafers. As a result, this process has recently been harnessed to create a multitude of new products in unexpected markets, including those incorporating the latest LED technology.
Contact proximity mask aligners have helped usher in increased opportunities for enterprising organizations who find new, unexpected uses for them. Currently, this equipment is being used to help produce millions of new products that incorporate LEDs, for example, as well as MEMS and microfluidics technology, notes Brett Arnold, President of Morgan Hill, California-based Neutronix, photolithography specialists providing custom engineered contact/proximity and mirror projection mask aligners.
Arnolds’s company, Neutronix, focuses on remanufacturing and custom-engineering Canon PLA 501/600 and MPA 600 series mask aligners. These Canon series have been utilized in semiconductor production for 25 years, a remarkable feat when compared to other industrial technologies that are now considered obsolete.
These particular mask aligners are a very robust production tool, and no longer limited to silicon wafers, adds Arnold.
For manufacturers that require equipment that is more current, automated, or capable of handling larger wafer sizes, companies like Quintel Corp. (www.quintelcorp.com) step in to offer the latest proximity contact mask aligners at a reasonable cost of ownership.
Quintel mask aligners are capable of handling wafer sizes of up to 200mm in diameter and providing single and double-sided exposure. The equipment is flexible enough to be modified as needed to meet the needs of new applications that might vary from traditional mask sizes and types, as well as types and thicknesses of substrate.
Universal Display Corporation (UDC) (http://www.universaldisplay.com) of Ewing, New Jersey, adapted Quintel photolithography mask aligner technology for the purpose of perfecting its innovative organic light emitting device (OLED) technology for use in flat panel displays, lighting and other opto-electronic applications.
An OLED is a monolithic, solid-state device that typically consists of a series of organic thin films sandwiched between two thin-film conductive electrodes. The choice of organic materials and the layer structure determine the device’s8217;s performance features: emitted color, operating lifetime and power efficiency. The layer structure is strongly influenced by the use of a mask aligner.
When we purchased it, the Quintel equipment seemed to have the best combination of product features and cost performance for our needs, and we are very happy with the technical support, says Janice K. Mahon, vice president of technology commercialization for UDC.
The fact that Quintel mask aligners have a more “open” architecture than similar equipment is conducive to quick conversion to non-semiconductor type applications such as LED.
A significant amount of our contact mask aligner business is from orders that require some level of custom tooling design, Jeff Lane, vice president of sales and marketing for Quintel. The equipment often has to be modified–even if slightly–to accommodate specific substrate, mask or printing requirements of LED, MEMS and microfluidics device manufacturing.