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Fluoropolymers provide purity to semiconductor manufacturers

In their never-ending quest to improve quality, semiconductor manufacturers have been pushing their materials suppliers to minimize – and even eliminate – any type of chemical or material contamination.

So, if the idea is to reduce contamination at all costs, are ultra-pure fluoropolymer plastics the most logical manufacturing solution? To help answer this question, we spoke with Ashwin Rao. He’s the semiconductor manager with Daikin Industries Ltd., a leading global supplier of fluoropolymers (and fluorochemicals) for the semiconductor industry.

According to Rao, fluoropolymers have already become the preferred material for critical semiconductor manufacturing applications like fluid handling and delivery, chemical packaging, wafer handling and filtration. Why? Because fluoropolymers offer strong chemical resistance, excellent performance at extreme temperatures and – perhaps most important of all – very high purity.

“Semiconductor manufacturers have a laser focus on eliminating contamination-driven excursions in their manufacturing process, as they impact their process yield and profitability,” explains Rao. “By reducing the levels of extracted contaminants such as trace metals, organics and other particles, components made from high-purity fluoropolymers allow semiconductor manufacturers to produce leading-edge chips in a cost-effective manner.”

So, what specific fluoropolymers are most used today in semiconductor manufacturing? According to Rao, PTFE (Polytetrafluoroethylene) is more widely used than PFA (Perfluoroalkoxy alkane). And while both fluoropolymers are well suited for a range of demanding applications, they’re markedly different in performance and processing characteristics.

“In many cases, material selection comes performance requirements, design complexity and even the design engineer’s familiarity with processing options,” explains Rao. “PTFE, for example, generally offers better flex life, making it more appropriate for applications where parts are subjected to repetitive deformations. But due to its poor processability, PTFE parts are typically machined from compression-molded PTFE stock.”

He says PFA is used in the semiconductor industry in making tubes, fittings and valve seats. More importantly, PFA parts can be created via more efficient, higher productivity manufacturing processes, such as extrusion or injection molding.

“By injecting molding parts from PFA, users could potentially take advantage of the lower manufacturing costs compared to machined PTFE,” says Rao.

Ensuring consistency in fluoropolymer purity

Given that semiconductor manufacturers could see both productivity and profit gains from using injection molded PFA, we wanted to know how a fluoropolymer supplier like Daikin ensures they are consistently providing quality, high-purity fluoropolymer resins.

Rao says Daikin has developed and honed a combination of proprietary processing conditions and packaging methods that reduce the level of trace contaminants throughout their entire manufacturing and shipping process.

“We start by selecting the best construction material for processing equipment, then optimizing processing conditions to minimize resin decomposition and using cleanrooms to control the manufacturing environment,” explains Rao. “We also pay special attention to the quality of packaging materials, which helps in limiting further trace metals and contaminants.”

Rao and his team at Daikin also keep an open line of communication with their semiconductor clients.

“We continuously engage semiconductor OEMs and chip manufacturers to understand how our product quality impacts their performance, and work with our customers in developing solutions to address these needs,” he says. “Going forward, we know semiconductor OEMs will continue to emphasize purity, consistency and reliability from their entire supply chain.”

Want to read more about all things semiconductors and fluoropolymers? Check out our deeper dive into using PFAvs. PTFE for semiconductor manufacturing and explore our full suite of fluoropolymer processing and manufacturing capabilities.