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Hirata Corporation
Using scSTREAM to Evaluate Airflow in Production Facilities Improves the Technical Staff's Understanding and Enables More Effective Presentations to Clients

Airflow control is crucial in the production of equipment used for semiconductor assembly. These processes require a clean environment and delicate control of the facility air-conditioning system. As a total manufacturer of production facilities, Hirata Corporation uses scSTREAM, a thermal-fluid analysis tool, to simulate the principal flow mechanisms for different types of manufacturing facilities and equipment. Using the tool is beneficial in many ways. It is used for product development and to more effectively communicate the results in presentations.

 

Hirata Corporation is one of the largest manufacturers of production facility equipment in Japan. They mainly specialize in manufacturing tools and equipment for the vehicle, semiconductor, and home appliance industries. They manage operations for the Japanese domestic market from seven facilities throughout the country, including their Tokyo headquarters and Kumamoto Operations Center. They also have affiliated companies in nine countries including the USA, Mexico, and Germany. Production facility start-up projects managed by the Hirata Corporation are highly regarded both domestically and internationally. They are recognized for providing immediate solutions using a diverse range of core technologies, including robotics, carrier control, equipment control, cleaning, and precision instruments.

Picture 1: Mr. Takahiro Motoyama (left) and Mr. Michitaka Matsumura (right) from the Development Division, Development Department

The company's prominence is closely linked to their policy to conduct development, design, component production, assembly and evaluation of their products, and facility startups using Hirata Corporation resources. The biggest strength of the Hirata Corporation is having the capability to manufacture components, which smoothens the transition to the later assembly processes. This results in stable delivery of high-quality products. To achieve this strength, the Hirata Corporation introduced large-scale engineering machinery, such as a machining center with a 5-face Machining Center, laser machines, and aluminum die casting machines. Having these manufacturing capabilities in-house has enabled them to minimize cost and delivery time as well as provide first-class, reliable production facilities.

Picture 2: Hayate, a flexible assembly system. Click to enlarge.

At their Development Department, the Hirata Corporation exploits new engineering fields and undertake research development in highly specialized topics. One of these research concerns is Hayate, a flexible assembly system (Picture 2). Mr. Takahiro Motoyama and Mr. Michitaka Matsumura from the Development Department (Picture 1) are analysis specialists who conduct advanced research in specialized subject areas. Mr. Motoyama specializes in airflow analyses, and Mr. Matsumura is an expert in structural analyses. Simple analyses, like linear analyses, are handled individually by each division, whereas the analysis specialists are responsible for more complicated cases. These include material non-linear, contact non-linear, and fluid analyses.

Introducing scSTREAM to Visualize Airflow

The Hirata Corporation started using scSTREAM in 2007, in response to their engineers’ requests to develop capabilities to visualize airflow, which is basically invisible. Although they had tried using flow visualization techniques during experimental tests, the findings were not sufficient to answer many of their design questions. Visualizing the flow using a computational simulation would promote greater understanding of physical phenomena, leading to quality improvements and cost reduction. The Hirata Corporation assigned this responsibility to Mr. Motoyama, and he led the search to find the right fluid analysis tool.

The team initially looked for an analysis tool that could simulate moving objects, such as large-scale substrate transfer robots. Since many of the company's end products were large-scale, simple-shape equipment, the Hirata Corporation searched for a structured mesh analysis tool equipped with a fast solver. After performing extensive due diligence, the team decided to use scSTREAM, which satisfied their product and budget requirements.

Figure 1: EFEM used in the prior process of semiconductor production (left) and 
analysis example of EFEM showing the velocity vectors and contours (right). Click to enlarge.

Airflow Analyses of Equipment Used for Semiconductor Production

One series of analyses Hirata Corporation conducted was for the EFEM (Equipment Front End Module), which is used in semiconductor production (Figure 1).

The EFEM is implemented throughout the wafer manufacturing process, and is used for wafer transfer from the FOUP (Front-Opening Unified Pod), a container of dozens of wafers, to the manufacturing equipment. “The space used for semiconductor production must be absolutely clean. The larger the space becomes, the higher the cost to maintain cleanliness. As a solution to this, we applied the concept of ‘mini environments’, which maintains the cleanliness only around the wafer's immediate surroundings,” explains Mr. Matsumura. EFEM uses the concept of mini environments to transfer wafers. The process for fabricating semiconductor devices consists of seven phases, which can be divided into more than 100 steps. EFEM is used in many phases including patterning, etching, and ion beam infusion, to transfer wafers and keep the space around the wafers clean.

Picture 3: Mr. Matsumura

One example that illustrates the concept is for the etching equipment connected to the EFEM, which is linked to an interface called the load port. When the FOUP (container containing wafers) is placed on the load port, the port opens or closes the FOUP, allowing the EFEM carrier system to dispatch wafers to the etching equipment.

​​*All product and service names mentioned are registered trademarks or trademarks of their respective companies.
*Contents and specifications of products are as of December 1, 2014 and subject to change without notice. We shall not be held liable for any errors in figures and pictures, or any typographical errors in this brochure.

Company Details











 

Hirata Corporation
Founded December 29, 1951
Business Manufacturing of production systems, industrial robots, and logistics equipment
Representative Yuichiro Hirata, President
Employees 1940 (consolidated)*
64 (non-consolidated)*
Locations - Headquarters in Shinagawa-ku, Tokyo, Japan
- Kumamoto Headquarters in Uekimachi, Kita-ku, Kumamoto-shi, Kumamoto, Japan
Capital Approx. 2.6 billion JPY*
URL http://www.hirata.co.jp/en/

* Figures are as of March 2014

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