Smaller, faster, smarter - three keywords that summarise the trends in the high-tech machine building industry well. This holds for various industries:
- Complex machines in the semiconductor industry, that manufacture integrated circuits or 'chips' for devices like tablets, smartphones and notebooks.
- Machines in the solar industry, that manufacture solar panels to convert sunlight into electrical energy as a decentral replacement of traditional power plants.
- Analytical equipment within and outside chemical laboratories, that analyses or diagnoses the chemical composition or other physical properties of samples taken from a process flow.
- Machines in food and beverage industry where several nutritional compounds or flavourings are added, mixed and processed to obtain the desired food.
Measurement and control of gas and liquid flows
The common part where Bronkhorst and machine builders operate is that part of the machine where gas and liquid flows have to be measured or controlled. Machines for chips or solar panel manufacturing make use of chemical vapour deposition steps for coating application or diffusion doping, where organometallic vapours have to be generated and supplied to (silicon) supports onto which a solid deposition has to take place.
Read more in our blog about the solar energy future in which one of our project leaders shares his experience with Boron and Phosphor doping for solar panels.
In analytical devices such as various chromatography equipment (e.g. GC or HPLC) and mass spectrometers (MS), very low gas or liquid flows carry the to-be-analysed chemical compounds along with them.
In his blog ‘A closer ion them’ our analytical industry specialist shares his ideas about mass spectrometry and mass flow control.
In food machines, liquid additives such as colours, aromas and flavours have to be supplied accurately, to control the exact food composition.
For dosing flavours to your sweets the ultrasonic waves technology could be a solution. Read about it in our previous blog ‘Ultrasonic waves technology’.
Miniaturisation of high-tech machines
The miniaturisation trend is observed in many places. Small components need fewer quantities of raw materials, in production as well as in (chemicals) use. Customers of high-tech machines would like to have their equipment as compact as possible. Machines have to be smaller in size, as floor area is expensive, especially in cleanrooms - the 'natural' habitat of machines that manufacture solar panels and chips.
Compactness is also needed for online on-site analysis and monitoring - so outside the lab. Under those conditions, test equipment is preferably handy-sized. One would like to know on-site and in real-time what is going on - in order to react proactively instead of reactively, and to reduce the time to bring measuring samples to the lab. It is part of the online quality control: as a safeguard, but also to save on raw materials.
Removing the housings of standard products, and putting the components on a manifold gives a desired saving of space. Placing the input and output lines and connections on positions that are suitable for the customer often leads to a unique and compact solution. Compact devices with a combination of several analyses on a small surface area increase speed and reduce costs.
Read more about miniaturization in flow control in our blog The trend towards miniaturization in flow solutions. The latest technology is MEMS (micro electro mechanical system) technology, a micro-Coriolis mass flow sensor. Read about this new development of our R&D department.
Customized measurement systems
To stay ahead of competition, and to cope with fast evolving technological demands, the time-to-market is getting shorter and shorter. This asks for a new and flexible approach, where machine builders increasingly need to subcontract parts of their machine in a smart and efficient way.
Such a subcontractor is fully responsible for his part of the machine, and he takes away the worries of the machine builder in the field where he is 'king' - by supplying a total solution, preferably a compact unit. This 'subsystem' is a reliable combination of components that works as a whole, contrary to components that operate independently of each other. Moreover, the subsystem requires no more than one I/O connection.
The scrum methodology - known from software development - is ideal for this approach, in order to guide the process in a flexible way, using multidisciplinary teams that co-operate in short runs to anticipate evolving conditions and product demands.
'Smarter' deals with the process to manufacture such a machine - as mentioned above - but also with the way the machine itself is being managed. Of course, each subsystem needs to be compatible with the rest of the machine, but it also needs to be well integrated - for example to be suitably controlled by the main control system of the machine. Preferably it should work instantly, tested and 'plug & perform' delivered to the machine builder.
Bronkhorst flow solutions
For machine builders all over the world who are searching for simplification and integration of their gas, liquid or vapour flow processes, Bronkhorst can help in developing and supplying customised flow solutions.
Watch our video about Bronkhorst Customized Flow Solutions and the Co-creating Process