Increased need for high quality orbital welding in high and ultra-high purity environments
The market of semiconductor-based devices is currently subject to dynamic changes. Increased demand is generated by trends towards accelerated digitalization, the development of artificial intelligence, supercomputing, and the Internet of Things. In the course of ongoing technical evolution, global players like Intel, Samsung or TSMC are preparing the commercial production of 3 nm semiconductor nodes whereas IBM has recently presented their first prototype of a 2 nm chip. To reduce their dependence from global semiconductor supply chains, Chinese firms with techniques which remained far behind the level of leading global companies now try to get away from acting as pure-play foundries.
To cope with the rising need, existing production facilities must be expanded, and new semiconductor fabrication plants must be built. Successful fabrication of semiconductors and semiconductor manufacturing equipment requires a significant number of additional clean room facilities which comply with Ultra High Purity standards.
Under the impact of the global pandemic new pharmaceutics are currently being developed and must be produced, the necessary capacities especially for the huge number of vaccines depend as well on advanced clean room technology with UHP or at least High Purity adequacy.
Recent product developments following these trends conducted the French company Polysoude to launch its brand-new Smart Welding Station P3 UHP (Fig.1) at the beginning of this year, after only 16 months of lead time.
In the field of semiconductor production, extended tube network is necessary to supply clean room installations with ultra-pure gases and liquids, which serve for inertisation, etching and rinsing, whereas the preparation of pharmaceuticals depends on steam and germ-free water for sterilisation, diluting and injection purposes. The high-quality tubes for the network assembly are usually connected by welded joints which must meet extremely stringent provisions.
Fig.2: On-site installation for medical gas lines in a hospital
Cleanroom equipment manufacturers and suppliers of related components like tubes, valves, fittings etc. execute these welds in their workshops, whereas cleanroom builders who mount the final installations must carry out the welds on site (Fig.2). Anyhow, the required joint quality can only be reached if all of these welds are manufactured under clean room conditions.
The ultimate goal of the P3 UHP concept had been to make available specific welding equipment which is exclusively designed and intended for cleanroom purposes. The end user of a cleanroom facility understands the quality of the joints has direct consequences on the results of his own production, so he expects perfect welds proved by a complete and reliable documentation. The subcontractor who carries out the welds takes care that his welding equipment offers all prerequisites to complete the required UHP and HP jobs in a satisfactory manner.
New P3 UHP Smart Welding Station, the Polysoude orbital welding answer tailor-made for the High and Ultra High Purity environments
The Smart Welding Station P3 UHP is designed to fulfil these jobs with welding heads of the type UHP 500 or UHP 625. These orbital TIG welding heads produce joints of unrivalled quality without cracks, pores and roughness, their closed chamber provides perfect gas protection to avoid heat tint of the tubes and reduced particle emission to keep the cleanroom clean. The gas cooled UHP type welding heads allow autogenous welding of thin-walled tubes with diameters between 1.6 and 6.35 mm. As precision welds require precision adjustment, the welding current can be programmed in steps of 1/10 A.
With a weight of only 17 kg the power source P3 UHP is the lightest automatic welding station on the market and can be carried without hoisting equipment, which is comfortable in the workshop but especially advantageous if used on site.
To avoid additional particle release, water cooling is not wished in cleanroom environments and not necessary to operate UHP type welding heads. However, if improved performance is required or tubes with more important diameters up to 170 mm have to be joined, water cooled closed chamber welding heads of the MW type become the tool of choice, in this case a separate cooling unit can be added to the Smart Welding Station P3 UHP. Finally, further orbital welding heads from Polysoude or even other suppliers are supported as well.
Fig.3: Wireless Touchscreen Controller to pilot one or several Smart Welding installations
Automatic welding guarantees best results if the related procedures are thoroughly respected. To support the operator as far as possible, the Smart Welding Station P3 UHP comes with several unique features. Compared with a conventional remote control pendant or even a tablet it has turned out that a Wireless Touchscreen Controller (WTC) offers substantial advantages concerning ergonomics of use, for example flexible access to one or several Welding Stations and their related welding heads (Fig.3). The set values of the mass flow meters for welding and backing gas are displayed directly on the screen, the software-controlled flow rates can be adjusted precisely by means of particular buttons.
The authorization of the operator himself, the used welding gas type and the identity of the workpiece can be quickly determined by a bar code scanner which transmits the data to the welding station via WiFi or by cable. During connection to the power source the type of welding head is detected automatically.
Matching Welding Procedure Specifications from the inbuilt WPS library appear on a LAN/WLAN based touchscreen controller, which can be used as well to add necessary data. After the welding head has been correctly positioned, the weld cycle can be started and controlled either by the touchscreen or by a remote-control pendant, a laptop via LAN or WLAN or on the welding head itself. The real-time progress of the weld cycle is displayed on screen whereas the momentary welding parameter values are listed at the same time.
After the end of the cycle a welding report is immediately at hand by means of the integrated printer. For traceability and quality assurance the data can also be transferred to the company network by LAN or WLAN, the DHCP WEB protocol is supported. Furthermore, the Smart Welding Station P3 UHP is prepared for Smart Factory application; it interfaces perfectly with the Industry 4.0 process and the related OPC-UA protocol.
Together with the wide range of available accessories the Smart Welding Station P3 UHP stands for unrivalled quality of tube connections which meets or exceeds even the most stringent specifications. Its optimised design for cleanroom activities eases the tasks of the operator, different configurations allow the user to customise the equipment perfectly to UHP and HP environments. Ready for Industry 4.0 applications and equipped for almost any type of network organisation, the equipment becomes a future-proof investment.
Discover the Polysoude Ultra High Purity (UHP) Smart Welding Solutions.
More on video here: Polysoude channel
DR.- Ing. Jürgen Krüger