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1. WO2002040987 - AUTOMATED ACOUSTIC MICRO IMAGING SYSTEM AND METHOD

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[ EN ]

WHAT IS CLAIMED IS:
1. An automated acoustic micro imaging system, comprising:
a part-storage station favoring a dry environment;
a part-transport robot favoring a non-wet part-handling environment; and
a wet-environment inspection station including:
an ultrasonic beam generator,
a beam-coupling fluid,
a part-retention stage, and
a preliminary dryer for at least partially removing coupling fluid from a part which has been inspected by an ultrasonic beam from the beam generator in a coupling fluid environment, but before being picked up by the robot, thereby facilitating the robot pickup and reducing the amount of coupling fluid carried to the part-storage station by the robot.
2. The system defined by claim 1 wherein said preliminary dryer includes a gas jet directed at a first surface of a part to be engaged by said robot.
3. The system defined by claim 2 wherein said preliminary dryer includes a second gas jet directed at a second surface of the part which is opposed to said first surface.
4. The system defined by claim 1 wherein said preliminary dryer is adapted to be moved between an inoperative position and an operative position.
5. The system defined by claim 4 wherein said dryer comprises a gas jet aimed away from said part-storage station when said dryer is in said operative position.

6. The system defined by claim 1 wherein said dryer includes at least one permanently mounted gas jet aimed at said part in a direction having a component oriented away from said part-storage station.
7. The system defined by claim 1 wherein said preliminary dryer comprises a spin dryer.

8. The system defined by claim 1 wherein said system includes a secondary dryer for enhancing the dryness of the part before being returned to the part-storage station.
9. An automated acoustic micro imaging system, comprising:
a part-storage station favoring a dry environment;
a wet-environment inspection station including:
an ultrasonic beam generator,
a coupling fluid in which parts are inspected, and
a part-retention stage;
a part-transport station located between said part-storage station and said inspection station and including a part-handling robot; and
a moisture barrier located between said wet-environment inspection station and said part-transport station.
10. The system defined by claim 9 wherein said moisture barrier comprises a gas curtain effective to pass a robot arm while impeding the migration of moisture from said inspection station to said part-transport station.
11. The system defined by claim 10 wherein said gas curtain is formed by a pair of opposed gas knives, said gas knives being canted toward said inspection station to improve the moisture retention effectiveness of said knives.

12. The system defined by 9 including a second moisture barrier located between said transport station and said storage station.
13. The system defined by 12 wherein said second moisture barrier comprises a gas curtain effective to pass a robot arm while impeding the migration of moisture from said part-transport station to said part-storage station.
14. An automated acoustic micro imaging system, comprising:
a part-storage station favoring a dry environment;
a part-transport robot favoring a non-wet part-handling environment;
a wet-environment inspection station including:
an ultrasonic beam generator,
a beam-coupling fluid,
a part-retention stage, and
a preliminary dryer for at least partially removing coupling fluid from a part which has been probed by an ultrasonic beam from the beam generator in a coupling fluid environment, but before being picked up by the robot, thereby facilitating the robot pickup and reducing the amount of coupling fluid carried to the part-storage station by the robot; and
a moisture barrier located between said wet-environment inspection station and said part-storage station favoring a dry environment.
15. The system defined by claim 14 wherein said preliminary dryer includes a gas jet directed at a first surface of a part to be engaged by said robot.
16. The system defined by claim 15 wherein said preliminary dryer includes a second gas jet directed at a second surface of the part which is opposed to said first surface.

17. The system defined by claim 14 wherein said preliminary dryer is adapted to be moved between an inoperative position and an operative position.
18. The system defined by claim 17 wherein said dryer comprises a gas jet aimed away from said part-storage station when said dryer is in said operative position.
19. The system defined by claim 14 wherein said dryer includes at least one permanently mounted gas jet aimed at said part in a direction having a component oriented away from said part-storage station.
20. The system defined by claim 14 wherein said robot favors a dry environment and is located in said part-storage station.
21. The system defined by claim 14 wherein said robot is wet-adapted and is located in said wet-environment inspection station.
22. The system defined by claim 14 where said system includes a part-transport station between said inspection station and said part-storage station which contains said robot, and wherein said moisture barrier is located between said inspection station and said part-transport station.
23. The system defined by claim 22 wherein said system includes a second moisture barrier between said part-transport station and said part-storage station.
24. The system defined by claim 14 where said system includes a part-transport station between said inspection station and said part-storage station which contains said robot, and wherein said part-transport station includes a dryer.
25. An automated acoustic micro imaging system, comprising:
a part-storage station favoring a dry environment;
a part-transport robot;

a wet-environment scanning station including:
an ultrasonic beam generator,
a coupling fluid in which parts are inspected, and
a part-retention stage; and
a moisture barrier located between said wet-environment inspection
station and said part-storage station favoring a dry environment.
26. The system defined by claim 25 wherein said robot favors a dry environment and is located in said part-storage station.
27. The system defined by claim 25 wherein said robot is wet-adapted and is located in said wet-environment inspection station.
28. The system defined by claim 25 where said system includes a part-transport station between said inspection station and said part-storage station which contains said robot, and wherein said moisture barrier is located between said inspection station and said part-transport station.
29. The system defined by claim 28 wherein said system includes a second moisture barrier between said part-transport station and said part-storage station.
30. The system defined by claim 25 where said system includes a part-transport station between said inspection station and said part-storage station which contains said robot, and wherein said part-transport station includes a dryer.
31. A acoustic micro imaging system, comprising:
a wet-environment inspection station including:
an ultrasonic beam generator,
a beam-coupling fluid, a part-retention stage, and
a part dryer for at least partially removing coupling fluid from a part which has been inspected by an ultrasonic beam from the beam generator in a coupling fluid environment.
32. The system defined by claim 31 wherein said dryer includes a gas jet directed at a first surface of a part.
33. The system defined by claim 32 wherein said dryer includes a second gas jet directed at a second surface of the part which is opposed to said first surface.
34. The system defined by claim 31 wherein said dryer is adapted to be moved between an inoperative position while said part is being inspected and an operative position after the part has been inspected.
35. The system defined by claim 31 wherein said dryer includes at least one permanently mounted gas jet aimed at said part in a direction having a component oriented away from said part-storage station.
36. The system defined by claim 31 wherein said preliminary dryer comprises a spin dryer.
37. An automated acoustic micro imaging system, comprising:
an inspection station including an ultrasonic beam generator and a part-retention stage including a kinematically mounted part-retaining chuck; and
robot means for picking parts to be inspected, depositing them at said part-retention stage, and removing them from said part-retention stage after they have been inspected in said inspection station, and for automatically interchanging part-retaining chucks.

38. The apparatus defined by claim 37 wherein said inspection station has a coupling fluid environment, and wherein said apparatus includes a preliminary dryer for at least partially removing coupling fluid from a part which has been inspected, but before being picked up by the robot means, thereby facilitating the pickup by the robot means and reducing the amount of moisture carried by the part away from the inspection station.

39. The apparatus defined by claim 37 wherein said part-retention stage includes a stage base adapted to be connected to a vacuum source, and wherein said part-retaining chuck is a vacuum chuck supported on said stage base in a quick-change, position-repeatable kinematic mount arrangement, said stage base and said vacuum chuck being configured such that a sealed vacuum conduit is formed between a vacuum source connected to said stage base and a part placed upon said vacuum chuck, whereby kinematic positioning accuracy is retained and vacuum integrity is preserved when said vacuum chuck is replaced on said stage base by another vacuum chuck having a similarly constructed kinematic mount arrangement.
40. An acoustic micro imaging system, comprising:
an ultrasonic beam generator; and
a part-retention stage for supporting a part as it is being inspected by an ultrasonic beam from the beam generator, said part-retention stage comprising:
a stage base adapted to be connected to a vacuum source, and
a part-retaining vacuum chuck supported on said stage base in a quick- change, position-repeatable kinematic mount arrangement, said stage base and said vacuum chuck being constructed such that a sealed vacuum conduit is formed between a vacuum source connected to said stage base and a part placed upon said vacuum chuck, whereby kinematic positioning accuracy is retained and vacuum integrity is preserved when said vacuum chuck is replaced on said stage base by another vacuum chuck having a similarly constructed kinematic mount
arrangement.
41. The apparatus defined by claim 40 wherein said sealed vacuum conduit is formed automatically when a vacuum chuck is placed upon said stage base.
42. The apparatus defined by claim 40 wherein said vacuum conduit includes a hollow coupler anchored at one end in said stage base and having at its opposed end a flexible cup sealingly engaging the periphery of a vacuum conduit opening in said vacuum chuck.

43. The apparatus defined by claim 41 wherein said stage base includes a base plate and a kinematic plate tilt-adjustably connected to said base plate and kinematically couplable to said vacuum chuck.
44. The apparatus defined by claim 43 wherein said vacuum conduit includes a hollow coupler anchored at one end in said base plate and having at its opposed end a flexible cup sealingly engaging the periphery of a vacuum conduit opening in said vacuum chuck.

45. The apparatus defined by claim 40 wherein said vacuum chuck includes a plurality of hollow part-supporting posts forming part of said vacuum conduit, said posts having a predetermined common height effective to elevate a inspected part above coupling fluid collected on said vacuum chuck during a part scanning operation.
46. The apparatus defined by claim 45 wherein said vacuum chuck includes means for expediting drainage of said coupling fluid collected on said vacuum chuck.
47. An automated acoustic micro imaging system, comprising:
an ultrasonic beam generator; and a part-retention stage for supporting a part as it is being inspected by an ultrasonic beam from the beam generator, said part-retention stage comprising:
a stage base, and
a part-retaining chuck supported on said stage base in a quick-change, position-repeatable kinematic mount arrangement; and
a robot for automatically replacing said chuck with a second chuck having a similarly constructed kinematic mount arrangement.
48. An automated acoustic micro imaging system, comprising:
an ultrasonic beam generator; and
a part-retention stage for supporting a part as it is being inspected by an ultrasonic beam from the beam generator, said part-retention stage comprising:
a stage base adapted to be connected to a vacuum source, and
a part-retaining vacuum chuck supported on said stage base in a quick- change, position-repeatable kinematic mount arrangement; and
a robot for automatically replacing said vacuum chuck with a second vacuum chuck having a similarly constructed kinematic mount arrangement,
said stage base and said vacuum chuck being constructed such that a sealed vacuum conduit is formed between a vacuum source connected to said stage base and a part placed upon said vacuum chuck, whereby kinematic positioning accuracy is retained and vacuum integrity is automatically preserved between said stage base and said vacuum chuck when said robot replaces said vacuum chuck with another vacuum chuck having a similarly constructed kinematic mount arrangement.

49. The apparatus defined by claim 48 wherein said sealed vacuum conduit is formed automatically when a vacuum chuck is placed upon said stage base.
50. The apparatus defined by claim 49 wherein said vacuum conduit includes a hollow coupler anchored at one end in said stage base and having at its opposed end a flexible cup sealingly engaging the periphery of a vacuum conduit opening in said vacuum chuck.

51. The apparatus defined by claim 48 wherein said stage base includes a base plate and a kinematic plate tilt-adjustably connected to said base plate and kinematically coupled to said vacuum chuck.
52. The apparatus defined by claim 51 wherein said vacuum conduit includes a hollow coupler anchored at one end in said base plate and having at its opposed end a flexible cup sealingly engaging the periphery of a vacuum conduit opening in said vacuum chuck.

53. The apparatus defined by claim 51 wherein said vacuum chuck includes a plurality of hollow part-supporting posts forming part of said vacuum conduit, said posts having a predetermined common height effective to elevate a inspected part above coupling fluid drainage produced during a part scanning operation.
54. The apparatus defined by claim 48 including a second robot for automatically interchanging parts to be inspected between a part-storage station and said
part-retention stage.
55. The apparatus defined by claim 53 wherein said parts are inspected in a coupling fluid environment, and wherein said system includes a preliminary dryer for at least partially drying said parts before being retrieved by said second robot for return to said storage station.

56. The apparatus defined by claim 55 including a secondary dryer to enhance the dryness of said parts before they are returned to said storage station.
57. A method for automated inspection of semiconductor wafers or other parts stored in a dry-environment storage station, comprising:
robotically retrieving a dry part from said storage station and placing it in a part-retention stage in an inspection station;
inspecting the part with an ultrasonic beam in the presence of a beam-coupling fluid, thereby undesirably creating a wet scanning environment hostile to robotic handling;
at least partially drying the part preliminary to robotic pickup; and
robotically retrieving the part from the inspection station and returning it to the dry environment storage station,
the drying of the part preliminary to robotic pickup serving to facilitate pickup of the part by the robot and to reduce the amount of coupling fluid carried to the storage station.
58. A method for automated inspection of semiconductor wafers or other parts stored in a dry-environment storage station, comprising:
robotically retrieving a dry part from said storage station and placing it in a part-retention stage in an inspection station;
inspecting the part with an ultrasonic beam in the presence of a beam-coupling fluid, thereby undesirably creating a wet scanning environment hostile to robotic handling;
at least partially drying the part preliminary to robotic pickup;

robotically retrieving the part from the inspection station and returning it to the dry environment storage station,
the drying of the part preliminary to robotic pickup serving to facilitate pickup of the part by the robot and to reduce the amount of coupling fluid carried to the storage station; and
providing secondary drying of a part being returned to the storage station to enhance the drying of the part effected by said preliminary drying operation.
59. A method for automated inspection of semiconductor wafers or other parts, comprising:
robotically retrieving a first part from storage and placing it on a first part-retaining chuck in a part-retention stage in an inspection station;
probing the part with an ultrasonic beam;
robotically retrieving the first part from the inspection station and returning it to storage;
robotically substituting a second part-retaining chuck for said first part-retaining chuck;
robotically retrieving a second part from storage and placing it on said second chuck;
probing the second part with an ultrasonic beam; and
robotically retrieving the second part from the inspection station and returning it to storage.

60. The method defined by claim 59 wherein said inspection is conducted in the environment of a coupling fluid, and wherein before said parts are retrieved from the inspection station they are at least partially dried.
61. The method defined by claim 59 where said chucks are vacuum chucks which are kinematically retained on said part-retention stage, and wherein vacuum integrity is automatically restored after the interchange of vacuum chucks.
62. A method for automated inspection of semiconductor wafers or other parts stored in a dry-environment storage station, comprising:
robotically retrieving a dry part from said storage station and placing it in a first vacuum chuck in a part-retention stage in an inspection station;
probing the part with an ultrasonic beam in the presence of a beam-coupling fluid, thereby undesirably creating a wet scanning environment hostile to robotic handling;
preliminarily drying the first part;
robotically retrieving the part from the first vacuum chuck and returning it to the dry environment storage station;
robotically substituting a second vacuum chuck for said first vacuum chuck, said second vacuum chuck being configured to hold a second part differently configured from said first part;
robotically retrieving the second part from said storage station and placing it on said second vacuum chuck;
probing the second part with an ultrasonic beam in the presence of a beam-coupling fluid;
drying the second part preliminary to robotic pickup;

robotically retrieving the second part from the second vacuum chuck and returning it to said storage station;
the drying of the parts preliminary to robotic pickup serving to facilitate pickup of the parts by the robot and to reduce the amount of coupling fluid carried thereby to the storage station; and
providing secondary drying of the first and second parts being returned to the storage station to enhance the drying of the parts effected by said preliminary drying operations.
63. The apparatus defined by claim 2 including a gas pump supplying gas under pressure to said gas jet through a line which includes a buffer tank for softening the gas blast when the pump is activated.
64. The apparatus defined by claim 6 including a gas pump supplying gas under pressure to said gas jet through a line which includes a buffer tank for softening the gas blast when the pump is activated.
65. The apparatus defined by claim 15 including a gas pump supplying gas under pressure to said gas jet through a line which includes a buffer tank for softening the gas blast when the pump is activated.
66. The apparatus defined by claim 32 including a gas pump supplying gas under pressure to said gas jet through a line which includes a buffer tank for softening the gas blast when the pump is activated.
68. A method for automated inspection of semiconductor wafers or other parts, comprising: providing a plurality of wet-environment acoustic micro imaging systems, each having a part-retention stage; and
robotically moving parts between one or more part-storage stations and at least one of said plurality of acoustic micro imaging systems for inspection, said plurality of micro imaging systems being serviced by the same acoustic scanning transducer.
69. The method defined by claim 68 wherein the acoustic scanning transducer moves between spatially separated part-retention stages.
70. The method defined by claim 68 wherein the acoustic scanning transducer has an X- Y scan which encompasses a plurality of part-retention stages.
71. A method for automated inspection of semiconductor wafers or other parts, comprising:
providing one or more dryers and a plurality of wet-environment acoustic micro imaging systems, each having a part-retention stage; and
robotically moving parts in a cycle between a part-storage station, at least one of said plurality of acoustic micro imaging systems for inspection, a dryer and a storage station.
72. The method defined by claim 71 wherein said plurality of micro imaging systems is serviced by the same acoustic scanning transducer.
73. The method defined by claim 72 wherein the acoustic scanning transducer moves between spatially separated part-retention stages.
74. The method defined by claim 73 wherein the acoustic scanning transducer has an X- Y scan which encompasses a plurality of part-retention stages.
75. An acoustic micro imaging system, comprising: a wet-environment scanning station including:
an ultrasonic beam generator,
a beam-coupling fluid, and
a part-retention stage having an upwardly facing surface which is undesirably prone to become laden with coupling fluid during inspection of a part, said surface being configured and arranged to expedite drainage of coupling fluid therefrom.

76. The apparatus defined by claim 75 wherein said surface is convexly curved.

77. The apparatus defined by claim 75 wherein said surface has drainage grooves.