Umicore’s new substrates plant needed several major process improvements in order to achieve the quality, yield and production rates for pure germanium wafers used in the semiconductor industry and in the manufacture of solar cells. To assist with process improvements, we provided on-site process design and construction management services.
- The original plant was designed by a Belgian engineering firm that had limited presence during the construction phase and was not familiar with US customary materials and construction techniques. Additionally, the contractor was not familiar with the needs of the facility. We provided practical design solutions and monitored construction to ensure quality of workmanship and provide guidance for any issues that were encountered.
- Many tasks were completed during shut down periods. We planned for the contractors to complete as much work as possible during operating hours and prepare piping/assemblies to encourage a streamlined operation while the plant was not in operation.
- Completed the job ahead of schedule.
- This is one of three facilities of this nature in the world. The processes are very unique, as germanium is a rare earth metal that is used in the fiber optic, semiconductor, electronics and ultraviolet industries.
- Equipment used on the project included crystal pullers, various wafer machining operations wafer surface grinder tools, wafer chemical etching tools, wafer polishers, vapor phase coating equipment, chemical treatment systems, flash driers, glass lined reactors, and high purity piping.
- Work included process piping design and process exhaust dealing with multiple chemicals such as hydrochloric acid, chlorine, sodium hydroxide, high molecular weight polymers, sodium hypochlorite, germanium recovery and other process gases.
- Our embedded Project Engineer was very familiar with cleanrooms and high purity piping design, and highly experienced with the type of processes and operations Umicore needed to improve yield, quality and improve their waste stream germanium recovery. The client valued our opinions and we were considered an asset to the project.
- Additional projects included design for HVAC improvements in the germanium refinery area and the installation of two different type of thin film coating machines for application on ultraviolet and night vision lenses.