Customer Challenge

A prominent semiconductor equipment manufacturer was experiencing issues with retrofitting and moving its tools around in the production environment.  Particularly, the assembly technicians were finding it difficult to mate the threaded-style connector and cable assemblies between the process chambers and the sub-systems. Cross-threading in hard-to-reach, blind mate situations, lack of the correct assembly tools, galling as a result of cross-threading, maintaining clean room conditions, and safety were areas of concern raised by the technicians. Cross-threading also proved very costly as the RF generators or match networks used in the assembly had to be scrapped due to the damage caused during installation.

Challenge Review

Many of the tools in wafer fabrication facilities (“fab”) are in difficult-to-access locations and the sub-systems are often located in areas of the fab that aren’t close to the tool’s process chambers. The correct assembly tools, such as torque wrenches, are not always capable of fitting into locations at which the connection is to be made. In many instances, the technicians utilize various wrenches, vise grips, and other methods to thread the connectors in these tight spaces. In blind mate situations, there is a greater chance of cross-threading the connector and cable assemblies, causing plating particles to flake off and contaminate the clean room environment. Safety was also of concern to the technicians – a technician could easily touch the center conductor of a threaded connector when the RF power was on.

Winchester Solution

Winchester presented the TRU Quick Disconnect connector solution, as it was clear the customer would benefit from utilizing this design to address its high power, safety, and reliability demands.

Replacing the threaded connector with a coupling-style quick disconnect greatly reduces the chances of galling during assembly. Varying thread tolerances can cause the male and female connectors to be slightly mismatched. In this situation, the galling that occurs due to cross-threading during mating could cause flaking of the plating material. TRU’s Quick Disconnect prevents this from occurring, thus eliminating contaminants in the clean room environment. In addition, the quick disconnect eliminates the need for additional tooling that is not always available to the assembly technician. The recessed center contact provides added safety by not allowing the technician to come in contact with the power-carrying conductor. This is a critical feature in blind-mate applications.

All TRU Quick Disconnect connectors have a red line visual indicator that lets the technician know that the RF connection has been properly mated and yields a secure connection between the sub system and the process chamber. When the red band contained in the male connector is covered, the male and female contacts have been fully engaged.

In addition, the TRU family of quick disconnect products (QDS, SQS, QRM) have been tested to provide equal or better electrical performance and mating life than that of comparable threaded connectors.

Customer Improvement

  • During retrofit and preventative maintenance, the customer is able to replace threaded RF cable assemblies with a more robust solution.
  • Galling of threaded connectors, and the resulting particulates, can be eliminated with Winchester/TRU’s Quick Disconnect solution.
  • Assembly technicians are able to leverage ease of installation (no tools required) with a greater safety advantage (recessed center conductor) by using the Winchester/TRU Quick Disconnect solution.
  • The quick coupling mechanism provides a highly reliable, safe connection and a visual red-line indicator that ensures a true connection every time.
Tru-Win™ Quick Disconnect