11 things to consider when choosing a semiconductor manufacturing particle counter

Published: 4-Apr-2024

Choosing a particle counter for semiconductor manufacturing is not a small decision. It is a massive investment that has ramifications throughout your systems and cleanroom. When you choose one, you should consider all these implications, as well as the particle counter’s functionality in your cleanroom

Lighthouse Worldwide Solutions shares: "As clean air and particle counter experts, we’ve compiled a list of 11 things you should consider when choosing a new semiconductor manufacturing particle counter.

Particle Size Range

Semiconductors can be harmed by particles of all sizes, including microscopic particles that might be too small to harm other products during production. Thus, when you are choosing a particle counter for semiconductor manufacturing, you need to consider one that provides size channels suitable for semiconductor-specific particle sizes, such as 0.1 μm, 0.2 μm, 0.3 μm, 0.5 μm, 1.0 μm, and 5.0 μm.

Sensitivity and Accuracy

The sensitivity and accuracy of the particle counter are vital for precise measurements. Look for a counter with high sensitivity to detect particles at low concentrations. Accuracy is essential to ensure reliable and consistent results. You should consider counters from qualified manufacturers with a history of excellence and technology that sets industry standards. We’ll dive more into what to look for in a particle counter manufacturer specifically further on.

Flow Rate and Sample Time

Particle counters have a specified flow rate at which air is sampled. As a semiconductor manufacturer, you will need a particle counter with a flow rate that aligns with your cleanroom and process requirements. Additionally, consider the sample time, which affects the data collection frequency. Shorter sample times provide more real-time data, enabling prompt response to any contamination events.

Data Storage and Connectivity

To retain historical data for analysis and reporting, you should look for a particle counter with adequate data storage capacity. Your ideal particle counter should also have convenient data transfer options, such as USB, Ethernet, or wireless connectivity, to easily transfer data to a computer or network for further analysis and record-keeping. You will also want to ensure that the connectivity options align with your current processes or do not present a large disturbance. Change in an organisation is not easy. Around 50% of change initiatives fail, but handling them with communication and ease can improve their success. Thus, you should choose a particle counter that makes the transition as easy as possible.

Compliance with Standards

Semiconductor manufacturing requires adherence to specific cleanliness standards, such as ISO 14644. You need to ensure the particle counter you choose complies with relevant standards and regulations. You should look for counters that provide calibration certificates traceable to national standards and comply with international calibration standards.

Real-Time Monitoring and Alarms

Real-time monitoring capabilities are essential for immediate detection of particle contamination events. If you choose a particle counter with a clear and easily readable display that provides real-time particle count data, your job should become substantially easier. Additionally, consider particle counters with rapid configurable alarms that notify operators when particle concentrations exceed predefined thresholds.

Type of Airborne Particle Counter

Airborne particle counters come in a few configurations, including handheld, portable, or remote monitoring options. You need to consider the specific needs of your cleanroom, as each serves its own unique purpose. Handheld and portable particle counters offer options for spot checking, but portable particle counters offer a more comprehensive and integrated solution. Remote particle counters are a more permanent solution for a particle counter network.

User-Friendly Interface

A user-friendly interface simplifies operation and data interpretation. Look for particle counters with intuitive menus, clear graphical displays, and easy-to-navigate settings. Consider touchscreen interfaces and intuitive software that facilitate data analysis and generate comprehensive reports. If your particle counter has an integrated touchscreen, you will be able to see results without leaving the cleanroom or accessing a computer.

Support and Service

Your particle counter manufacturer is your best resource, so you should choose a particle counter from a reputable manufacturer with a proven track record in the semiconductor industry. Consider the availability of technical support, calibration services, and software updates. A reliable support system ensures prompt assistance and reduces downtime during any troubleshooting or maintenance requirements.

Integration with Existing Systems

If your facility already utilises specific monitoring or data management systems, consider the compatibility and integration capabilities of the particle counter with your existing infrastructure. Seamless integration can streamline data collection, analysis, and reporting processes.
Future Scalability

You want to ensure your particle counter is adaptable and scalable so it does not hold you back in future endeavours.

The Particle Counter That Meets Your Needs

While this might feel like an overwhelming and daunting task, we can make it easy for you. Here at LWS, we specialise in designing top-of-the-line particle counter solutions, such as the ApexZ.

The ApexZ is a lightweight, ergonomic portable particle counter with the longest battery life on the market and shockingly short recharge time. It is designed to make your life easier and your cleanroom safer with its rapid alert real-time monitoring system and 0.3 – 10.0μm particle size range."

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