24 October 2011
Rubicon begins on-site processing of aluminum oxide for sapphire crystal growth
Rubicon Technology Inc of Bensenville, IL, USA, which makes monocrystalline sapphire substrates and products for the LED, RFIC, semiconductor and optical industries, has begun the transition to on-premise processing of aluminum oxide used for the production of sapphire wafers.
Using a customized in-house method, Rubicon converts raw aluminum oxide powder into a form usable in its ES2 crystal growth process, which enables the firm to reduce its manufacturing costs while increasing control of the quality of its raw materials.
Rubicon says that, in addition to providing greater control of quality and cost, the new process developed by the firm’s crystal growth engineers forms the powder into different shapes which can optimize the space in the crucibles in its crystal growth furnaces, resulting in larger crystals.
“As the LED industry transitions to larger-diameter substrates, ensuring a steady supply of raw material becomes increasingly important,” says president & CEO Raja Parvez. “Large-diameter wafers are as much as three times thicker than two- to four-inch wafers and require more aluminum oxide,” he adds. “It is important that our new on-site processing capability brings us a reliable supply of raw material that we can process into large-diameter sapphire wafers for LED manufacturers.”
Advances in raw material handling combined with the recent company-wide installation of enhancements to its proprietary crystal growth furnaces (Rubicon Furnace Version ES2-XLG3.0) delivers cost efficiencies for the production of large-diameter sapphire, says the firm. The next-generation ES2-XLG3.0 furnaces provide automation for vacuum monitoring and crystal growth rates for greater yield consistency, and require less operator intervention (five staff per 100 furnaces at any given time). The ES2-XLG3.0 furnaces operate in Rubicon’s US crystal growth facilities in Batavia and Bensenville, IL.
The transition to larger-diameter wafers in LED production has started, with several key LED chip makers having announced plans to migrate to and/or test large-diameter wafers in 2011/2012, says Rubicon. The firm claims that its robust process platforms for large-diameter sapphire wafers and its ability to scale to commercial volumes can create superior performance factors for the LED industry. To date, Rubicon has shipped more than 150,000 six-inch sapphire wafers.