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1. (WO2019050507) METHODS OF HANDLING A MASK DEVICE, APPARATUS FOR EXCHANGING A MASK DEVICE, MASK EXCHANGE CHAMBER, AND VACUUM SYSTEM
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METHODS OF HANDLING A MASK DEVICE, APPARATUS FOR EXCHANGING A MASK DEVICE, MASK EXCHANGE CHAMBER, AND VACUUM SYSTEM

TECHNICAL FIELD

[0001] Embodiments of the present disclosure relate to methods of handling a mask device. In particular, embodiments of the present disclosure relate to methods of handling a mask device configured for masked deposition on a substrate in a vacuum system. Further embodiments relate to an apparatus for exchanging a mask device from a mask carrier employed in a vacuum system. Further embodiments relate to a vacuum system for depositing a material on a substrate including an apparatus for exchanging a mask device from a mask carrier.

BACKGROUND

[0002] Opto-elecirontc devices mat make use of organic materials are becoming increasingly popular for a number of reasons. Many of the materials used to make such devices are relatively inexpensive, so organic oplo-eleclronic devices have the potential for cost advantages over inorganic devices. The inherent properties of organic materials, such as flexibility, may be advantageous for applications such as for the deposition on flexible or inflexible substrates. Examples of organic opto-electronic devices include organic light emitting devices (OLEDs), organic pholotransistors, organic photovoltaic cells, and organic photodetectors.

[0003] For OLEDs, the organic materials may have performance advantages over conventional materials. For example, the wavelength at which an organic emissive layer emits light may be readily tuned with appropriate dopants. OLEDs make use of thin organic films that emit light when a voltage is applied across the device. OLEDs are becoming an increasingly interesting technology for use in applications such as flat panel displays, illumination, and backlighting.

[0004] Materials, particularly organic materials, are typically deposited on a substrate in a vacuum system under sub-atmospheric pressure. During deposition, a mask device may be arranged in front of the substrate, wherein the mask device may have at least one opening or a plurality of openings that define an opening pattern corresponding to a material pattern to be deposited on the substrate, e.g. by evaporation. The substrate is typically arranged behind the mask device during deposition and is aligned relative to the mask device. For example, a mask carrier may be used to transport the mask device into a deposition chamber of the vacuum system, and a substrate carrier may be used to transport the substrate into the deposition chamber for arranging the substrate behind the mask device.

[0005] It may be beneficial to remove used mask devices from the vacuum system at regular time intervals, e.g. for cleaning, mask exchange or maintenance of the used mask devices. Further, it may be beneficial to load mask devices to be used into the vacuum system at regular time intervals, e.g. for mask exchange or tot providing clean or unused masks in the system. However, mask exchange is time-consuming and may lead to idle times of the system which increase the cost of ownership.

[0006] Accordingly, there is a need for a method and an apparatus for quick and efficient mask handling in a vacuum system. In particular, simplifying and accelerating the mask exchange in a vacuum system configured for masked deposition on substrates would be beneficial.

SUMMARY

j 00071 in light of the above, methods of handling a mask device, a method of exchanging a mask device a mask device from a mask carrier, an apparatus for exchanging a mask device from a mask carrier, a mask exchange chamber as well as a vacuum system for depositing a material on a substrate are provided.

[0008] According to an aspect of the present disclosure, a method of handling a mask device is provided. The method includes: Loading the mask device on a holding arrangement for holding the mask device; moving the holding arrangement from a first state into a second state, the second state being a non-horizontal state; aligning the holding arrangement with a mask earner, and transferring the mask device from the holding arrangement to the mask carrier.

[0009] According to further aspect of the present disclosure, a method of handling a mask device is provided. The method includes: Loading the mask device on a holding arrangement for holding the mask device; moving the holding arrangement from a first orientation or first position into a second orientation or second position, the second orientation or second position being a non-horizontal orientation or non-horizontal position; aligning the holding arrangement with a mask carrier, and transferring the mask device from the holding arrangement to the mask carrier.

[0010] According to a former aspect of (he present disclosure, a method of handling a mask device is provided. The method includes: Aligning a holding arrangement with a mask carrier holding the mask device, the holding arrangement being in a second state; transferring the mask device from the mask carrier to the holding arrangement, and moving the holding arrangement from the second state into a first state, the second state being a non-hori/ontal state.

[0011] According to a further aspect of the present disclosure, a method of handling a mask device is provided. The method includes: Aligning a holding arrangement with a mask carrier holding the mask device, the holding arrangement being in a second orientation or second position; transferring the mask device from the mask carrier to the holding arrangement, and moving the holding arrangement from the second orientation or second position into a first orientation or first position, the second orientation or second position being a non-horizontal orientation or non-horizontal position.

[0012] According to a further aspect of the present disclosure, a method of exchanging a mask device from a mask carrier is provided. The method includes: aligning a holding arrangement with a mask carrier holding the mask device, the holding arrangement being in a second state and the mask device being a first mask device; transferring the first mask device from the mask carrier to the holding arrangement, and moving the holding arrangement from the second state into a first state, the second state being a non-horizontal state. Further, the method includes loading a mask device on a holding arrangement for

holding the mask device, the mask device being a second mask device; moving the holding arrangement from a first state into a second state, the second slate being a non-horizontal state; aligning the holding arrangement with a mask carrier; and transferring the second mask device from the holding arrangement to the mask carrier.

[0013] According to a further aspect of the present disclosure, a method of exchanging a mask device from a mask carrier is provided. The method includes: aligning a holding arrangement with a mask carrier holding the mask device, the holding arrangement being in a second orientation or second position and the mask device being a first mask device; transferring the first mask device from the mask carrier to the holding arrangement, and moving the holding arrangement from the second orientation or second position into a first orientation or first position, the second orientation or second position being a non-horizontal orientation or non-horizontal position. Further, the method includes loading a mask device on a holding arrangement for holding the mask device, the mask device being a second mask device; moving the holding arrangement from a first orientation or first position into a second orientation or second position, the second orientation or second position being a non-horizontal orientation or non-horizontal position; aligning the holding arrangement with a mask carrier; and transferring the second mask device from the holding arrangement to the mask carrier.

[0014] According to a further aspect of the present disclosure, an apparatus for exchanging a mask device from a mask carrier is provided. The apparatus includes: A holding arrangement for holding the mask device; a mechanism for moving the holding arrangement between a first state and a second state, the second state being a non-horizontal state; and an alignment assembly for aligning the holding arrangement with the mask carrier.

[0015] According to a further aspect of the present disclosure, an apparatus for exchanging a mask device from a mask carrier is provided. The apparatus includes: A holding arrangement for holding the mask device; a mechanism for moving the holding arrangement between a first orientation or first position and a second orientation or second position, the second orientation or second position being a non-horizontal orientation or a non-horizontal position; and an alignment assembly for aligning the holding arrangement with the mask carrier.

[0016] According to a farther aspect of the present disclosure, a mask exchange chamber is provided. Hie mask exchange chamber includes a magnetic levitatkm system configured for holding a mask carrier; and an apparatus for exchanging a mask device from a mask carrier according to any embodiments described herein.

[0017] According to a further aspect of (he present disclosure, a vacuum system for depositing a material on a substrate is provided. The vacuum system includes a mask exchange chamber according to any embodiments described herein, at least one deposition chamber, and a mask transportation system configured for transporting mask devices to be used and used mask devices in a non-horizontal orientation between the mask exchange chamber and die at least one deposition chamber.

[0018] Further aspects, advantages and features of the present disclosure axe apparent from the description and the accompanying drawings.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0019] So that the manner in which the above recited features of the present disclosure can be understood m detail, a more particular description of the present disclosure, briefly summarized above, may be had by reference to embodiments. The accompanying drawings relate to embodiments of the disclosure and are described in the following. Typical embodiments are depicted in the drawings and are detailed in the description which follows.

[0020] FIG 1 is a schematic illustration of subsequent stages (a), (b), (c), (d) of a method of handling a mask device according to embodiments described herein;

[0021] FIG. 2 is a schematic illustration of subsequent stages (a), (b). (c), (d) of a method of handling a mask device according to farther embodiments described herein;

[0022] FIGS. 3a and 3b are a schematic illustrations of two different stages of a method of handling a mask device according to embodiments described herein;

[0023] FIG.3c is a schematic representation of a mask device and a mask carrier according to embodiments described herein illustrating the stage of unloading the mask device from the mask carrier,

[0024] FIGS.4 and 5 are How diagrams for illustrating methods of handling a mask device according to embodiments described herein;

[0025] FIG. 6 is a flow diagram for illustrating a method of exchanging a mask device according to embodiments described herein;

[0026] FIG. 7 is a schematic view of a mask exchange chamber according to embodiments described herein; and

[0027] FIG. 8 is a schematic view of a vacuum system according to embodiments described herein.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF EMBODIMENTS

[0028] Reference will now be made in detail to the various embodiments, one or more examples of which are illustrated in the figures. Each example is provided by way of explanation and is not meant as a limitation. For example, features illustrated or described as part of one embodiment can be used on or in conjunction with any other embodiment to yield yet a further embodiment. It is intended that the present disclosure includes such modifications and variations.

[0029] Within, the following description of the drawings, the same reference numbers refer to the same or to similar components. Generally, only the differences with respect to the individual embodiments are described Unless specified otherwise, the description of a part or aspect in one embodiment applies to a corresponding part or aspect in another embodiment as well.

[0030] Before various embodiments of the present disclosure are described in more detail, some aspects with respect to some terms and expressions used herein are explained.

[0031] FIG. 1 schematically illustrates subsequent stages (a), (b), (c), and (d) of a method of handling a mask device 10 according to embodiments described herein. According to embodiments which can be combined with any other embodiments described herein, the method includes: Loading (XI) the mask device 10 on a holding arrangement 20 for holding the mask device; moving (X2) the holding arrangement 20 from a first state into a second state, the second state being a non-horizontal state; aligning (X3) the holding arrangement 20 with a mask carrier IS; and transferring (X4) the mask device 10 from the holding arrangement 20 to the mask carrier 15.

[0032] In the present disclosure, the term "state" may refer to an "orientation" and/or to a "position". In particular, a "first state" may refer to a first orientation and/or a first position. Accordingly, a "second state" may refer to a second orientation and/or a second position.

[0033] Accordingly, the subsequent stages (a), (b), (c), and (d) of FIG. 1 schematically illustrate a method of handling a mask device in which the mask device is loaded onto a mask carrier for carrying the mask device. In particular, the method of handling a mask device as exemplarily described with reference to FIG. 1, beneficially provides for an improved method of loading a mask device onto a mask carrier. Typically, loading (XI) the mask device 10 on the holding arrangement 20 includes loading a new, unused or cleaned mask on the holding arrangement.

[0034] FIG. 2 schematically illustrates subsequent stages (a), (b), (c)s and (d) of a method of handling a mask device according to further embodiments described herein. According to embodiments which can be combined with any other embodiments described herein, the method includes: Aligning (Yl) a holding arrangement 20 with a mask carrier 15 holding the mask device 10, the holding arrangement being in a second suite; transferring (Y2) the mask device 10 from the mask carrier IS to the holding arrangement 20, and moving (Y3) the holding arrangement 20 from the second state into a first state, the second stale being a non-horizontal state.

[0035] Accordingly, the subsequent stages (a), (b), (c), and (d) of FIG. 2 schematically illustrate a method of handling a mask device in which the mask device is unloaded from a mask carrier. In particular, the method of handling a mask device, as exemplarily described

with reference to FIG. 2, beneficially provides for an improved method of unloading a mask device from a mask carrier. Typically, unloading the mask device from the mask carrier includes unloading the used mask, i.e. for masked substrate deposition.

[0036] In particular, it is to be understood that embodiments of the method of handling a mask device as described herein include using an apparatus 100 for exchanging a mask device 10 according to embodiments described herein. Further, it is to be understood that by combining the method of handling a mask device as exempiarily described with reference to FIG. 2 with the method of handling a mask device as exempiarily described with reference to FIG. 1, an improved method of exchanging a mask device can be provided. Accordingly, by exchanging a mask device as described herein, a used mask can be unloaded from the mask carrier, e.g. for cleaning, and a new or cleaned mask can be loaded on to the mask carrier.

[0037] In the present disclosure, a "mask device" is to be understood as a mask device configured for masked deposition on a substrate. In particular, the mask device is configured to be arranged in front of a substrate that is to be coaled with a material pattern defined by (he mask device. For example, the mask device may be configured for a masked evaporation process, wherein a material pattern is formed on a substrate by evaporation. The evaporated material may include organic compounds in some embodiments. For example, an OLED device may be manufactured.

[0038] In some embodiments, the mask device may include a mask and a mask support. The mask support may be configured for supporting and holding the mask which is typically a delicate component. For example, the mask support may be a mask frame that surrounds the mask and has the shape of a frame. The mask may be permanently fixed to the mask frame, e.g. by welding, or the mask may be releasably fixed to the mask frame. A circumferential edge of the mask may be fixed to the mask frame.

[0039] The mask may include a plurality of openings formed in a pattern and configured to deposit a corresponding material pattern on a substrate by the masked deposition process. During deposition, the mask may be arranged at a close distance in front of the substrate or in direct contact with the front surface of the substrate. For example, the mask may be a fine metal mask (FMM) with a plurality of openings, e.g. 100.000 openings or more. For example, a pattern of organic pixels may be deposited on the substrate. Other types of masks are possible, e.g. edge exclusion masks.

[0040] In some embodiments, the mask device may be at least partially made of a meted, e.g. of a metal with a small thermal expansion coefficient such as invar. The mask may include a magnetic material so that the mask can be magnetically attracted toward the substrate during deposition. Alternatively or additionally, the mask frame may include a magnetic material so that the mask device can be attracted to a mask carrier via magnetic forces.

[0041] The mask device may have an area of 0.5 m2 or more, particularly 1 m1 or more. For example, a height of the mask device may be 0.S m or more, particularly 1 m or more, and/or a width of the mask device may be 0.5 m or more, particularly 1 m or more. A thickness of the mask device may be 1 cm or less, wherein the mask frame may be thicker than the mask.

[0042] With exemplary reference to FIG. 1 (c) and FIG. 2 (a), according to embodiments which can be combined with any other embodiments described herein, aligning (X3, Yl) the holding arrangement 20 with the mask carrier 15 comprises moving (22) one or more alignment elements 22 relative to the holding arrangement 20. In particular, as exemplarily shown in FIGS. 1 (c) and 2 (a), the one or more alignment elements 22 can be moved in a direction towards the mask carrier 15. Typically, the one or more alignment elements 22 of the holding arrangement 20 are configured for engaging with one or more corresponding alignment elements 16 of the mask carrier for providing the alignment between the holding arrangement 20 and the mask carrier 15. For example, the one or more alignment elements 22 of the holding arrangement 20 can include one or more alignment pins 27. The one or more corresponding alignment elements 16 of the mask carrier can include one or more recesses configured for receiving the one or more alignment elements 22 of the holding arrangement 20, particularly the one or more alignment pins 27.

[0043] As exemplarily shown in FIG. 1 (d) and FIG. 2 (a), the mask carrier 15 may hold the mask device 10 in a non-horizontal orientation (V). For example, the mask device 10 may be held by the mask carrier 15 in an essentially vertical orientation, e.g. during transport and/or during deposition.

[0044] An "essentially vertical orientation" as used herein may be understood as an orientation of the mask device 10. wherein an angle between a main surface of the mask device 10 and the gravity vector is between +10° and -10°, particularly between 0* and -5*. In some embodiments, the orientation of ihe mask may not be (exactly) vertical, e.g. during transport and/or during deposition, but slightly inclined with respect to the vertical axis, e.g. by an inclination angle of between 0° and -5°. A negative angle refers to an orientation of the mask device wherein the mask device is inclined downward. A deviation of the mask (and substrate) orientation from the gravity vector during deposition may be beneficial and might result in a more stable deposition process, or a facing down orientation might be suitable for reducing particles on the substrate during deposition. However, also an exactly vertical orientation (+/-1*) of the mask device, e.g. during transport and/or during deposition is possible.

[0045] Also a larger angle between the gravity vector and the mask device, e.g. during transport and/or during deposition, is possible. An angle between 0° and +/-800 may be understood as a "non-horizontal orientation of the mask device*' as used herein. For instance, transporting the mask device in a non-horizontal orientation may have the advantage to save space and allow for smaller vacuum chambers.

[0046] In particular, as exemplarily shown in FIGS. 1 and 2, the one or more alignment elements 22 may include two or more alignment elements. For instance, with exemplary reference to FIG. 1 Id) and FIG. 2 (b), a first alignment element 22A, e.g. a first alignment pin, may be provided which is arranged and configured for engaging with a first corresponding alignment element 16A, e.g. a first recess, provided in the mask carrier IS. Further, a second alignment element 22B, e.g. a second alignment pin, may be provided which is arranged and configured for engaging with a second corresponding alignment element 16B, e.g. a second recess, provided in the mask carrier 1 S. According to an example, the apparatus 100 for exchanging a mask device may include four alignment elements coupled to respective actuators for moving each of the four alignment elements. Accordingly, the mask carrier 15 may include four corresponding alignment elements

configured for receiving the four alignment elements, particularly the respective alignment pins 27 of the four alignment elements.

[0047] As exemplariiy shown in FIG. 1 (d) and FIG. 2 (b), the first alignment element 22A of the holding arrangement 20 can be provided at a first end 20A of the holding arrangement 20 and the second alignment element 22B can be provided at a second end 20B of the holding arrangement 20. Typically, the second end 20B of the holding arrangement 20 is opposed to the first end 20A of the holding arrangement 20. The first corresponding alignment element 16A of the mask carrier 15 can be provided at a first end 15 A of the mask carrier 15 and the second corresponding alignment element 166 can be provided at a second end lSB of the mask carrier IS. Typically, the first end 15A of the mask carrier IS is opposed to the second end 15B of the mask carrier IS. For instance, the first end ISA of (he mask carrier IS can be an upper end of the mask carrier IS and the second end 1SB of the mask carrier 15 can be a lower end of the mask carrier 15, as exemplariiy shown in FIG. 1 <d) and FIG.2 (b).

[0048] Accordingly, according to embodiments which can be combined with any other embodiments described herein, aligning (X3, Yl) the holding arrangement 20 with the mask carrier 15 may include engaging one or more alignment elements 22 with the mask carrier 15, particularly with one or more corresponding alignment elements 16 of the mask carrier 15, as exemplariiy shown in FIG. 1 and 2.

[0049] According to embodiments which can be combined with any other embodiments described herein, aligning <X3, Yl) the holding arrangement 20 with the mask carrier can include lifting (Zl) the mask carrier, as exemplariiy shown in FIG. 1 (c) and FIG. 2 (a). In particular, lifting (Zl) the mask carrier may include using an electromagnetic arrangement 35 for generating a magnetic force acting on the mask carrier 15. In the figures of the present disclosure, an activated electromagnetic arrangement is indicated by being shaded and a dash behind the reference number, i.e. 35 \ For instance, the electromagnetic arrangement 35 may be part of a mask transportation system for transporting the mask carrier in a vacuum system as described herein. Additionally or alternatively, the electromagnetic arrangement 35 can be a magnetic levitation system configured for holding at least a pari of the weight of the mask carrier 15 by magnetic forces from above.

[0050] In particular, lifting the mask carrier can include releasing a contact between a support element 18 of the mask carrier 15 and a support arrangement 40 for supporting the mask carrier 15, particularly in a vertical direction. Further, by lifting (21) the mask carrier, a carrier alignment pin 17 can be moved within a reception 13 provided in the mask device 10, as exemplarily shown in in FIG. 1 (c) and FIG. 2 (a). In particular, by lifting (Zl ) the mask carrier the carrier alignment pin 17 may be moved from a first surface of the reception 13 to a second surface of the reception 13. Typically, the first surface of the reception 13 and the second surface pf the reception 13 provide an abutment surface for the carrier alignment pin 17.

[0051] According to embodiments which can be combined with any other embodiments described herein, transferring (X4, Y2) the mask device 10 comprises using one or more electromagnetic elements 23 for providing a magnetic force acting on the mask device 10. In the figures of the present disclosure, an activated electromagnetic element is indicated by being shaded and having an aposirophebehind the reference number, i.e. 23'.

[0052] In particular, as exemplarily shown in FIG. 1(d), for transferring the mask device 10 from the holding arrangement 20 to the mask carrier 15, the electromagnetic elements 23 of the holding arrangement are inactivated and the electromagnetic elements 23' of the mask carrier 15 are activated. Accordingly, as exemplarily shown in FIG. 2(b), for transferring the mask device 10 from the mask carrier 15 to the holding arrangement 20, the electromagnetic elements 23 of the mask carrier 15 are inactivated and the electromagnetic elements 23' of the holding arrangement 20 are activated.

[0053] Accordingly, the holding arrangement 20 may include one or more electromagnetic elements 23 configured for holding the mask device 10 at the holding arrangement 20. Further, the mask carrier 15 may include one or more electromagnetic elements 23 configured for holding the mask device 10 at the mask carrier 15. For example, the one or more electromagnetic elements 23 of the mask carrier 15 can be integrated in the mask carrier 15.

[0054] With exemplary reference to FIG. 2 (c\ before moving (Y3) the holding arrangement (20) from the second state into the first state the method may include retracting (Y23) dte one or more alignment elements 22 from the mask carrier 15.

[0055] According to embodiments which can be combined with any other embodiments described herein, the first state is a substantially horizontal state (H), as exemplarily shown in FIGS. 1 (a) and 2 (d). In particular, the first state is a state in which an angle between a main surface of the mask device and a horizontal plane is 30° or less.

[0056] According to embodiments which can be combined with any other embodiments described herein, the second state is a substantially vertical state (V), as exemplarily shown in FIG. 1 (b), (c), (d) and FIG. 2 (a), (b), (c). In particular, as exemplarily shown in FIG. 3, the second state can be a state in which an angle a between a main surface 1 OA of the mask device 10 and the gravity vector G is between +10* and -10°. In particular, the angle a between the main surface 10A of the mask device 10 and the gravity vector G can be between +5° and -5°. According to an example, the angle a is a - +3° or a ~ -3°.

[0057] With exemplary reference to FIG. 1 (b) and FIG. 2 (d). according to embodiments which can be combined with any other embodiments described herein, moving (X2, Y3) the holding arrangement 20 includes rotating (or swinging) the holding arrangement around a rotation axis 25, particularly by using a mechanism 24 for moving the holding arrangement 20 as described herein. In particular, the rotation axis 25 can be in a horizontal plane.

[0058] In FIGS. 3a and 3b two different stages of a method for exchanging a mask device from a mask carrier according to embodiments described herein. In particular, FIG. 3(a) shows a stage in which the electromagnetic arrangement 35' for generating a magnetic force acting on the mask carrier 15 is activated and the mask carrier is levitated. FIG. 3(b) shows a stage in which the electromagnetic arrangement 35 for generating a magnetic force acting on the mask carrier 15 is inactivated and the mask carrier is dropped onto the support arrangement 40. Accordingly, after transferring (Y2) the mask device 10 from the mask carrier 15 to the holding arrangement 20 and retracting (Y23) the one or more alignment elements 22, unloading the mask device from the mask carrier can include dropping (Z3) the mask carrier, for instance on a support arrangement 40 for supporting die mask carrier 15. In particular, dropping (23) the mask carrier may Include inactivating the electromagnetic arrangement 35 for generating a magnetic force acting on the mask carrier 15.

[0059] As can be understood from the schematic representation in FIG. 3 (c) of the mask device JO and the mask carrier 15, providing the second state such that an angle a between a main surface lOA of the mask device 10 and the gravity vector G is provided, i.e. the mask device and the mask carrier are inclined with respect to the gravity vector G> having the advantage that during separation of the mask device from the mask area, e.g. by dropping (Z3) the mask carrier, a friction due to surface to surface contact between the mask device and the mask carrier can be avoided.

[0060] FIG. 4 is a flow diagram for illustrating a method 400 of handling a mask device according to embodiments described herein. Box 410 represents the action of loading (XI) the mask device 10 on a holding arrangement 20 lor holding the mask device, as exemplarily described with reference to FIG 1 (a). Box 420 represents the action of moving (X2) the holding arrangement 20 from a first state into a second state, the second state being a non-horizon lal state, as exemplarily described with reference to FIG 1 (b). Box 430 represents the action of aligning (X3) the holding arrangement 20 with a mask carrier 15, as exemplarily described with reference to FIG 1 (c). Box 440 represents the action of transferring (X4) the mask device 10 from the holding arrangement 20 to the mask carrier 15, as exemplarily described with reference to FIG 1 (d).

[0061] With exemplary reference to the flow diagram shown in FIG. 5 a method 500 of handling a mask device according to further embodiments described herein is illustrated. Box 510 represents the action of aligning (Yl) a holding arrangement 20 with a mask carrier 15 holding the mask device 10, the holding arrangement being in a second stale, as exemplarily described with reference to FIG 2 (a). Box 520 represents the action of transferring (Y2) the mask device 10 from the mask carrier 15 to the holding arrangement 20, as exemplarily described with reference to FIG 2 (b). Box 530 represents the action of moving (Y3) the holding arrangement (20) from the second state into a first state, the second state being a non-horizontal state, as exemplarily described with reference to FIG 2 (b). [0062] FIG. 6 is a flow diagram for illustrating a method 600 of exchanging a mask device according to embodiments described herein. The method 600 includes: conducting the method 500 of handling a mask device as exemplary described with reference to FIGS. 2 and 5, wherein the mask device is a first mask device. Further, the method 600 includes: Conducting the method 400 of handling a mask device as exemplary described with reference to FIGS. 1 and 4, wherein the mask device is a second mask device. For instance, the first mask device can be a used mask device and the second mask device can be a mask device to be used.

[0063] "Mask devices to be used" as used herein may be understood as mask devices that are to be transported into at least one deposition chamber to be used for masked deposition on a substrate. In some embodiments, a mask device to be used may be a new mask device, a cleaned mask device or a mask device that has undergone service or maintenance.

[0064] "Used mask devices" as used herein can be understood as mask devices that have been used for masked deposition in a deposition chamber. The used mask devices are to be transported out of the deposition chamber, e.g. for cleaning or maintenance. For example, the used mask devices are to be unloaded from the vacuum system, e.g. for cleaning under atmospheric pressure. By using a mask device for masked deposition on one or more substrates, a mask device to be used becomes a used mask device. Typically, a mask device is used for masked deposition on ten or more substrates, whereupon the mask device may be cleaned. After cleaning, the mask device can be loaded again into the vacuum system to be used for masked deposition.

[0065] In particular, the method 600 of exchanging a mask device typically includes: Aligning (Yl) a holding arrangement 20 with a mask carrier 15 holding the mask device 10, the holding arrangement 20 being in a second state and the mask device 10 being a first mask device; transferring (Y2) the first mask device from (he mask carrier 15 to the holding arrangement 20, and moving (Y3) the holding arrangement 20 from the second state into a first state, the second state being a non-horizontal state. Further, the method 600 includes loading (XI) a mask device 10 on a holding arrangement 20 for holding the mask device 10, the mask device being a second mask device; moving (X2) the holding arrangement 20 from a first state into a second state, the second state being a non-horizontal state; aligning (X3) lite holding arrangement 20 with a mask carrier 15; and transferring (X4) the second mask device from the holding arrangement 20 to the mask carrier 15.

[0066] As exemplarily described with reference to FIGS. 1 -3, according to an aspect of the present disclosure an apparatus 100 for exchanging a mask device 10 from a mask carrier 1 S is provided. In particular, according to embodiments which can be combined with any other embtxiiments described herein, the apparatus 100 includes: A holding arrangement 20 for holding the mask device 10; a mechanism 24 for moving the holding arrangement 20 between a first state and a second state, the second state being a non-horizontal state; and an alignment assembly 26 for aligning the holding arrangement 20 with the mask carrier 15. For example, the mechanism 24 for moving the holding arrangement 20 can be a rotational mechanism for rotating the holding arrangement 20 around a rotation axis 25. More specifically, the mechanism 24 for moving the holding arrangement 20 may be an automated mechanism. For instance, the holding arrangement 20 can include a robot arm that is configured for holding the mask device, e.g. using a magnetic force.

[0067] In particular, with exemplary reference to FIG. 1 (a) and 2 (d), the first state can be a substantially horizontal state. More specifically, the first state can be a state in which an angle between a main surface of the mask device and a horizontal plane is 30° or less. The second state can be a substantially vertical state, as exemplarily shown in FIG. 1 (b) and FIG. 2 (a). More specifically, the second state can be a state in which an angle between a main surface of the mask device and the gravity vector is between Ή0* and -10°.

[0068] According to embodiments ytrhich can be combined with any other embodiments described herein, the alignment assembly 26 comprises one or more alignment elements 22 being moveable relative to the holding arrangement 20. In particular, as exemplarily shown in FIGS. 1 (c) and 2 (a), the one or more alignment elements 22 can be configured for being movable in a direction towards the mask carrier 15. Further, as exemplarily shown in FIG. 2 (c), the one or more alignment elements 22 can be configured for being movable in a direction away from the mask carrier 15. For instance, the one or more alignment elements 22 may be provided with a drive, e.g. a linear actuator, for moving the one or more alignment elements relative to the holding arrangement 20.

[0069] According to embodiments which can be combined with any other embodiments described herein, the one or more alignment elements 22 of the holding arrangement 20 are configured for engaging with one or more corresponding alignment elements 16 of the mask carrier for providing the alignment between the holding arrangement 20 and the mask carrier 15. For example, the one or more alignment elements 22 of the holding arrangement 20 can include one or more alignment pins 27. The one or more corresponding alignment elements 16 of the mask carrier can include one or more recesses configured for receiving the one or more alignment elements 22 of the holding arrangement 20, particularly the one or mote alignment pins 27.

[0070] According to an example, apparatus 100 for exchanging a mask device 10 may include four alignment elements 22 coupled to respective actuators for moving the respective alignment elements. Accordingly, the mask carrier 15 may include four corresponding alignment elements 16 configured for receiving the four alignment elements 22, particularly the respective alignment pins 27 of the four alignment elements 22.

[0071] According to embodiments which can be combined with any other embodiments described herein, the holding arrangement 20 comprises one or more electromagnetic elements 23 for holding the mask device 10 by magnetic force. Accordingly, in the present disclosure a "holding arrangement" as described herein is to be understood as an arrangement which is configured for holding a mask device, particularly using magnetic interaction between a mask holding portion of the holding arrangement and the mask device.

[0072] It is to be understood mat the features as described with respect to the embodiments of the apparatus 100 for exchanging a mask device can also be applied to the embodiments of the methods described herein.

[0073] FIG. 7 shows a schematic view of a mask exchange chamber 300 according to embodiments described herein. As exemplarily shown in FIG. 7, the mask exchange chamber 300 includes a magnetic levitation system 350 configured for holding a mask carrier 15. Further, the mask exchange chamber 300 includes an apparatus 100 for exchanging a mask device 10 from a mask carrier 15 according to any of the embodiments described herein. Accordingly, lite apparatus 100 for exchanging a mask device can be arranged in the mask exchange chamber 300.

[0074] According to embodiments which can be combined with any other embodiments described herein, mask exchange chamber 300 may include a closable opening 310 provided in a side wall 305 of the mask exchange chamber 300. Accordingly, the mask device 10 may be moved through the closable opening 310» e.g. from or to a mask magazine or another mask storage device that is configured to store a plurality of mask devices. For example, the mask magazine may be arranged in a load lock chamber. According to embodiments which can be combined with any other embodiments described herein- the apparatus 100 for exchanging a mask device 10 may be configured to be movable into the mask magazine through the opening.

[0075] FIG. 8 shows a schematic view of a vacuum system 700 for depositing a material on a substrate according to embodiments described herein. As exemplarily shown in FIG. 8, the vacuum system 700 includes: A mask exchange chamber 300 according to embodiments described herein; at least one deposition chamber 710; and a mask transportation system 720 configured for transporting mask devices to be used and used mask devices in a non-horizontal orientation between the mask exchange chamber 300 and the at least one deposition chamber 710. For instance the mask transportation system 720 may be configured as a magnetic levitation system.

[0076] With exemplary reference to FIG. 8, according to embodiments which can be combined with other embodiments described herein, the mask exchange chamber 300 may include a first apparatus 100 A for exchanging a mask device and a second apparatus 100B for exchanging a mask device. For example, the first apparatus 100 A for exchanging a mask device may be arranged in a first mask handling area 701 and the second apparatus 100B for exchanging a mask device may be arranged in a second mask handling area 702.

[0077] The second mask handling area 702 and the first mask handling area 701 may correspond to different sections of the mask exchange chamber 300 that may be adjacent to each other or that may be spaced apart from each other. For example, the first mask handling area 701 and the second mask handling area 702 may be opposite parts of the mask exchange chamber 300. In some embodiments, the first mask handling area 701 and the second mask handling area 702 are located on opposite sides of transport paths configured for the transport of the mask carriers IS. For instance, the first mask handling area 701 with first apparatus 100 A can be configured for handling mask devices to be used 711 and the second mask handling area 702 with the second apparatus 100B can be configured for handling used mask devices 712.

[0078] Accordingly, beneficially the mask devices to be used 711 can be handled, e.g. attached, detached, loaded, unloaded, stored, moved, rotated and/or translated, separately from the used mask devices 712, which has the advantage that a contamination of cleaned mask devices can be reduced or avoided.

[0079] In some embodiments, which may be combined with other embodiments described herein, a main transportation path Z of the vacuum system includes four or more tracks, including a first mask track 731, a second mask track 732, a first substrate track 733 and a second substrate track 734. Further tracks may be provided. The tracks may extend parallel to each other in the main transport direction of the vacuum system. The first substrate track

733 and the second substrate track 734 may be provided as outer tracks, and the first mask track 731 and the second mask track 732 may be provided as inner tracks that are arranged between the substrate tracks. Other arrangements are possible.

[0080] For example, the first mask track 731 and the second mask track 732 can be part of a magnetic mask levitation system configured for levitating and/or transporting mask carriers through the vacuum system 700. The first substrate track 733 and the second substrate (rack

734 can be part of a magnetic substrate levitation system configured for levitating and/or transporting substrate carriers through the vacuum system 700.

[0081] According to embodiments which can be combined with any other embodiment described herein, a mask loading passage may be provided which extends to the first mask handling area 701 and may be configured for loading the mask devices to be used 711 into the vacuum system 700, e.g. via a first load lock chamber 703. Further, a mask unloading passage may be provided which extends from the second mask handling area 702 and may

be configured for unloading the used mask devices 712 from the vacuum system 700, e.g. via a second load lock chamber 704.

[0082] The first load lock chamber 703 and the second load lock chamber 704 may be provided adjacent to the mask exchange chamber 300 on two opposite sides of the mask exchange chamber 300. For example, as is schematically depicted in FIG. 8, the first load lock chamber 703 may be arranged on a first side of the mask exchange chamber 300, and the second load lock chamber 704 may be arranged on a second side of the mask exchange chamber 300 opposite the first side. In particular, the first load lock chamber 703 and the second load lock chamber 704 may be arranged on opposite sides of mask tracks configured for guiding mask carriers.

[0083] Typically, the vacuum system 700 includes one or more vacuum chambers. For instance, the mask exchange chamber 300 and/or the at least one deposition chamber 710 can be configured as a vacuum chamber. A "vacuum chamber" (also referred to as "vacuum module") as used herein may be understood as a specific area within a vacuum system than can be provided at a sub-atmospheric pressure. Typically, but not necessarily, a passage between two adjacent vacuum chambers or vacuum modules can be closed for service or maintenance of one vacuum chamber without flooding the adjacent vacuum chamber. Accordingly, a sub-atmospheric pressure may be provided in the vacuum system 700. For example, an timer volume of the vacuum system 700 may be pumped down to a pressure of 100 mbar or less, particularly 10 robar or less, more particularly 1 mbar or less, or even a smaller pressure. In particular, a vacuum chamber of the vacuum system may be provided at a low absolute pressure of 10 mbar or less during deposition.

[0084] As exemplari!y shown in FIG. 8, a deposition source 715 for masked deposition of a material on a substrate can be provided in the at least one deposition chamber 710. For instance, the deposition source 715 can be an evaporation source. The present disclosure is however not restricted to vacuum systems with an evaporation source. For example, chemical vapor deposition (CVD) systems, physical vapor deposition (FVD) systems, e.g. sputter systems, and/or evaporation systems were developed to coat substrates, e.g. thin glass substrates, e.g. for display applications, in a deposition chamber. In typical vacuum systems, the substrates may be held by substrate carriers, and the substrate carriers may be transported through Hue vacuum chamber by a substrate transport system. The substrate carriers may be moved by die substrate transport system such mat at least a part of the main surfaces of the substrates are exposed toward coating devices, e.g. a sputter device or an evaporation source. The main surfaces of the substrates may be coated with a thin coating layer, white the substrates may be positioned in front of an evaporation source which may move past the substrate at a predetermined speed. Alternatively, the substrate may be transported past the coating device at a predetermined speed.

[0085] The substrate may be an inflexible substrate, e.g., a wafer, slices of transparent crystal such as sapphire or the like, a glass substrate, or a ceramic plate. However, the present disclosure is not limited thereto and the term substrate may also embrace flexible substrates such as a web or a foil, e.g. a metal foil or a plastic foil.

[0086] The substrate may be a large area substrate in some embodiments. A large area substrate may have a surface area of 0.5 nr or more. Specifically, a large area substrate may be used for display manufacturing and be a glass or plastic substrate. For example, substrates as described herein shall embrace substrates which are typically used for an LCD (Liquid Crystal Display), a PDP (Plasma Display Panel), and the like. For instance, a large area substrate can have a main surface with an area of 1 m2 or larger. In some embodiments, a large area substrate can be GEN 4.5, which corresponds to about 0.67 ma substrates (0.73 x 0.92m), GEN 5, which corresponds to about 1.4 m2 substrates (1.1 m x 1.3 m), or larger. A large area substrate can further be GEN 7.5, which corresponds to about 4.29 m2 substrates (1.95 m x 2.2 in). GEN 8.5, which corresponds to about 5.7m3 substrates (2.2 m x 2.5 m), or even GEN 10, which corresponds to about 8.7 m2 substrates (2.85 m * 3.05 m). Even larger generations such as GEN 11 and GEN 12 and corresponding substrate areas can similarly be implemented. In some implementations, an array of smaller sized substrates with surface areas down to a few cm2, e.g. 2 cm x 4 cm and/or various individual shapes may be positioned on a single substrate support The mask devices may be larger than the substrates in some embodiments in order to provide for a complete overlap with the substrates during deposition.

[0087] In some implementations, a thickness of lite substrate in a direction perpendicular to the main surface of the substrate may be I mm or less, e.g. from 0.1 ram to 1 mm, particularly from 0.3 mm to 0.6 mm, e.g. 0.5 mm. Even thinner substrates are possible.

[0088] In some embodiments, which can be combined with other embodiments described herein, the vacuum system 700 may farther include a routing chamber 708 which is arranged between the mask exchange chamber 300, (he at least one deposition chamber 710 and a second deposition chamber 713. The routing chamber 708 may include a routing device 709, e.g. a rotation device, configured for routing the mask devices to be used 711 and the used mask devices 712 between the mask exchange chamber 300 and (he at least one deposition chamber 710, as well as between the mask exchange chamber 300 and the second deposition chamber 713. For example, an orientation of the at least one deposition chamber 710 and of the second deposition chamber 713 may be perpendicular with respect to the main transportation path Z of (he vacuum system, so mat the mask carriers and (he substrate carriers are to be rotated around an essentially vertical rotation at an intersection between the main transportation path Z and the deposition chambers. The mask carriers and/or the substrate carriers may be rotated in the routing chamber 708.

[0089] In some embodiments, further deposition chambers, transition chambers and/or routing chambers may be provided on (he other side of the mask exchange chamber 300, e.g. on the upper side in FIG. 8.

[0090] According to embodiments described herein, the comparably lightweight mask devices can be loaded from an ambient environment into the vacuum system, and the mask devices can be quickly attached to mask carriers in the vacuum system. Accordingly, the mask handling can be accelerated and idle times of the system can be reduced.

[0091] In particular, the mask frames of (he mask devices can be disassembled from the mask carriers directly in the vacuum system. Therefore, only the mask device is to be transported outside the vacuum system, e.g. by overhead transport vehicles. The mask carriers will remain under vacuum together with the shield segments which can remain in the vacuum system for a much longer time than the mask devices. The maximum weight per mask that has to be handled outside the vacuum system decreases drastically, e.g. from about 300 kg or more of a mask carrier to 150 kg or less for a mask device without a mask carrier. Therefore, typical overhead transport vehicles cm easily transport 7 or more mask devices instead of a much smaller number of mask carriers. Mask exchange can be accelerated and the number of overhead transport systems, the number of mask carriers and/or the number of mask stockers can be reduced. Therefore, costs can also be reduced and space requirements can be improved. The mask carriers, e.g. together with shields mounted thereon, can remain under vacuum for a longer time and, therefore, the maintenance effort is significantly reduced. The mask carriers can be fed put to atmosphere when the shields are to be cleaned or exchanged. Therefore, the total number of mask carriers can be reduced.

[0092] According to embodiments described herein, mask devices and/or substrates are transported in the vacuum system in an essentially vertical orientation. The concept of a vertical transport allows for the handling of bigger substrate sizes as compared to a concept wherein mask devices and/or substrates are transported and processed in an essentially horizontal orientation. The transport of the mask devices and/or of the substrates in the essentially vertical orientation can be facilitated by mounting the mask devices and/or the substrates to respective carriers. According to embodiments described herein, the attachment or the detachment of the mask devices to or from the mask carriers is not conducted under atmospheric conditions, but inside the vacuum system. Therefore, the weight that has to be handled outside the vacuum system can be reduced.

j 0093 J Accordingly, in view of the above, it is to be understood mat the embodiments as described herein provide for a quick and efficient mask exchange, tn particular, embodiments as described herein have the advantage of simplifying and accelerating the mask exchange in a vacuum system configured for masked deposition on substrates.

[0094] While the foregoing is directed to embodiments of the disclosure, other and further embodiments of the disclosure may be devised without departing from the basic scope thereof, and the scope thereof is determined by the claims that follow.

[0095] In particular, this written description uses examples to disclose the disclosure, including the best mode, and also to enable any person skilled in the art to practice the described subject-matter, including making and using any devices or systems and

performing any incorporated methods. While various specific embodiments have been disclosed in ihe foregoing, mutually nonexclusive features of die embodiments described above may be combined with each other. The patentable scope is defined by the claims, and other examples are intended to be within the scope of the claims if the claims have structural elements that do not differ from the literal language of the claims, or if the claims include equivalent structural elements with insubstantial differences from the literal language of the claims.