KUKA develops mobile robot for semiconductor production

August 19, 2019

The production of semiconductors is complex. Until now there was no mobile, automated semiconductor production system that enabled component transfer from one step to the next. That has now changed with the KUKA wafer handling solution.

Semiconductors can be found everywhere

Small, smart computer chips – so-called semiconductors – are meanwhile used in all areas of everyday life: from smartphones and tablets to cars. This component is of central importance when it comes to the megatrends in the automotive industry. In the production of semiconductors, the chemical element silicon is processed in the form of wafers. The wafers are stored in special plastic cassettes during production under cleanroom conditions and processed in numerous process steps. Since the demand for semiconductors is set to increase, manufacturers also wish to automate the production process still further.

Automated handling of wafers: KUKA wafer handling solution

With the KUKA wafer handling solution, KUKA has developed the world’s first solution from a single source for the automated transfer and handling of semiconductor cassettes. The application consists of a standardized automated guided vehicle (AGV) and the service-proven LBR iiwa lightweight robot. Additionally, a sophisticated gripper system has been developed. The software is also from KUKA.

Robotic solution for cleanroom environments in the semiconductor industry

Mobility is provided by the KMR 200 CR mobile platform. The platform has Mecanum wheels which enable omnidirectional motion. Sensors on the platform sense the environment in real time, thereby avoiding collisions. The human-robot collaboration-capable LBR iiwa is installed on the platform. The sensitivity of the robot enables it to handle the sensitive wafer cassettes safely and without vibrations. The third component of the application is a customized gripper. The gripper system has been patented by KUKA.

Software controls mobile robot fleet

Both the hardware and the software of the cleanroom application for wafer handling are from KUKA. The wafer handling software solution blends seamlessly into the Manufacturing Execution System of the semiconductor manufacturers. The fleet manager integrated into the software controls the transfer orders to ensure optimally automated semiconductor production. All solutions are from a single source and are certified. This results in extremely short commissioning times, making the system the most flexible handling system on the market.

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