Declan Irish, Director of Technology and Development
Carten Controls was founded by Dan Carten in 1970 in Connecticut, USA. At that stage, their product line consisted solely of valves, regulators, and flow control instrumentation constructed from brass. The company expanded with the construction of the Waterford, Ireland site (Carten Controls Ltd) in 1981. Over the past ten years, Carten has focused on integrating valve products and additional flow control instrumentation into integrated systems - manufactured onsite at the Waterford facility to reduce validation requirements FAB construction time and resources for customers.
Today, Carten’s core semiconductor business pertains to controlling the distribution of ultra-high purity bulk (UHP) gases–from cryogenically frozen liquid stored onsite at semiconductor wafer fabrication (FAB) sites to vaporized UHP gases distributed throughout the FAB for supply to semiconductor equipment tools.
As integrated microchips reduced significantly in terms of size and their manufacturing became more complex, Carten’s product offerings became more advanced. They have evolved from 316L stainless steel and Hastelloy alloys through material upgrades, to a reduced (or smoother) surface roughness finish, to the valve internal surface’ wetted area’ (gas contact surfaces), to automated valves with higher flow capacity. These improvements ensure much larger FABS will not be restricted in terms of UHP gas supplies.
UHP gas distribution throughout a FAB requires the transport of gases to the highest purity level possible – typically 9.0 pure (99.9999999%). This requires any ‘dead space’ within UHP piping networks, UHP valves, and instrumentation to be minimized as trapped gases and particle generation can reduce wafer production yield. To this end, Carten multiport ‘block’ valves in TEE (uniplex) and CROSS (duplex) flow configurations allows FABS to divert and distribute gas flows through UHP filtration and purification skid assemblies, UHP piping networks, and directly into wafer fabrication equipment tools with a minimum of dead space.
In bulk gas distribution, maintaining gas ultra-high purity conditions throughout the full distribution network is key. As FABS are constructed larger and larger, this gets more difficult as flow control products such as valves must be manufactured with higher capacity without restricted flow rates or significant pressure drops. In addition, larger dynamic components within flow control assemblies can produce larger internal dead space and require larger polymeric material to ensure sealing and containment.Preventing outgassing is, therefore, significantly more complex in today’s semiconductor environment.
This key condition is what distinguishes Carten from its competitors. “The capacity of our valves is higher than our competitors and does not compromise the challenging purity requirement of today’s semiconductor industry.
As we’ve moved to manufacturing complex integrated systems, this key product advantage is of even greater importance,” says Declan Irish, Director of Technology and Development at Carten Controls. “In terms of integrated systems, we manufacture much of the system components at our Waterford facility. It has allowed us offer complex and bespoke solutions to semiconductor customers. In addition, Fujikin, our parent Japanese company – and a major valve, component, and equipment supplier in the semiconductor industry – allow us the scale to compete on a global level across all regions.”
Given that moving to ‘off-site manufacturing’ (OSM) during the construction of semiconductor FABS is a trend, OEM requires full gas or valve manifold cabinets to be supplied as a fully integrated mechanical and electrical system for ‘plug & play.’
Recognizing this trend, Carten has moved from supplying fully integrated gas panels to providing fully electro-pneumatic controlled cabinets onsite at their Waterford facility. As a result, the company’s customers now receive a system-contained product qualified and validated in terms of operator and facility safety, fully customized to the required user HMI interface, designed to hook up mechanically onsite on a tool-by-tool basis.
Recently, a contractor at one of the largest FABS on the globe that has been built to date required an off-site method to supply multiple valve manifold cabinets in predefined clusters for dropping directly into the FAB construction site. This involved the bundling of multiple cabinets into sets of 3-6 units, structurally supporting each unit, adding the UHP supply pipework at Carten, adding mobility to the bundled units to allow manoeuvring when delivered, and the ability to permanently lock into position these complex gas supply units onto the subfab floor for site acceptance testing (SAT). This had not been attempted at this scale before. The first phase was successfully completed in partnership with Carten, with phase 2 now underway due to this successful completion.
Our leading-edge designs, high-performance valve characteristics, and quality systems and processes, coupled with our customer service, have enabled us to manufacture and supply the best products
To continue scripting such success stories, the company recently added a further Cleanroom to their site in Waterford, which means they have four semiconductor class Cleanrooms in operation. In addition, they have tripled their operations capacity and added the same capacity to their R&D laboratory.
“We see integrated systems and OSM becoming more critical with the current supply chain issues in the industry, and we will continue to invest in our capability and capacity here to support that industry growth. In terms of product growth, we see a continuation of requirements for large capacity valves, higher pressure needs to industry segments, and further bundling of gas control assemblies at FABS to reduce validation time and resource requirements onsite,” adds Mr. Irish.
Throughout its development and expansions over the past ten years, one thing has remained constant at Carten— its experienced employees. Providing a strong backbone and leadership during the pandemic, the company remained open and continued to expand in all its markets.
“Our leading-edge designs, high-performance valve characteristics, and quality systems and processes, coupled with our customer service, have enabled us to manufacture and supply the best products,” Concludes Mr. Irish. Carten proudly bestows this credit to its valuable employees who have always backed the company no matter what.