Manufacturing in a Vacuum Environment

Vacuum chambers and components are specialized vessels that can maintain a high vacuum process environment for manufacturing thin films, microelectronics, optics and materials. Vacuum chambers usually consist of a series of components — such as a bell jar, baseplate, feedthrough collar and service well — that together provide a complete chamber. Complex vacuum chambers are often custom solutions, designed and fabricated specifically for an end-application. Gloveboxes, welding chambers, degassing boxes or surface analysis chambers are vacuum chambers that have been pre-engineered for specific applications. Degassing chambers and gloveboxes typically operate in the rough to low vacuum range for welding, degassing plastics or composite laminates or encapsulating components.

Some of the components in the vacuum equipment area include vacuum chambers, feedthroughs, viewports, vacuum sensors and instruments, vacuum gauges, deposition systems, evaporation sources and materials, sputtering targets, plasma etching equipment, ion implanters, vacuum furnaces and specialized vacuum pumps, flanges, fittings and valves. Vacuum equipment is used for degassing, welding and the manufacturing of thin films, semiconductors, microelectronics / wafers, optics and specialty materials.

  • A baseplate is a large flanged adapter that connects the lower section of a chamber or bell jar to the pumping stack or system. Baseplates usually have a centrally located port or flange connection that may be connected to a vacuum pumping system.
  • A box or degassing chamber is a box shaped chamber usually with a hinged access door for applications that do not require a high vacuum, such as the outgassing of samples including plastics, blood, adhesives, chemicals, or other liquids.
  • Service wells are components that provide a transition stage between the pumping stack or system and the bell jar or chamber.
  • Base wells integrate the features of both a baseplate and a feedthrough collar. They provide the functionality of both components while replacing one vacuum seal with a weld joint.
  • A bell jar consists of a cylindrical main body with a domed or spherical end. Bell jars are available in glass, metal or plastic. Standard diameters for bell jars are 12", 14", 18" and 24".
  • Specialty chambers are customized or designed shapes or port openings for a specific manufacturing process or analysis application.
  • Surface analysis or universal chambers are often the starting point for a custom configured chamber design.
  • Gloveboxes and weld chambers are specialized chambers for manual or experimental melting, welding or processing of titanium, zirconium, or other atmosphere sensitive materials.
  • Feedthrough collars are a transition component between the baseplate and the bell jar or chamber. Feedthrough collars provide additional height and more feedthrough ports.
  • A load lock chamber is a specialized, small chamber that is built onto a main chamber to allow movement of samples, wafers or process components from atmosphere to high vacuum without breaking the main vacuum.
  • Surface analysis or universal chambers are often the starting point for a custom configured chamber design.

Vacuum ranges for vacuum chambers and components can be rough or low, (< 760, > 1 torr), medium (< 1, >10-3 torr), high vacuum (< 10-3, >10-8 torr), ultra-high vacuum (< 10-8 torr), and elevated pressures (> 760 torr). The nominal size, width or outer diameter of the chamber is the most important dimension specification. Standard diameters for bell jars and cylindrical chambers are 12", 14", 18" and 24".

Features common to vacuum chambers and components are flange and fitting choices, polished or electro-polished surfaces, openings or feedthrough ports, heaters, and cooling options.

Ferrotec Solutions for Manufacturing in a Vacuum

Ferrofluidic seals are used as component solutions where rotation is required in the vacuum process. The ferrofluidic seal locks out atmosphere and contaminants.

Fabricated quartz is used to form components like viewports and fittings that are used in many manufacturing processes

Vacuum coating solutions features Ferrotec's Electron Beam Evaporation systems for PVD processes.

Vacuum Industry Resources

Here is a list of resources and organizations that offer more information about manufacturing in a vacuum, and the vacuum proccess.

The American Vacuum Society (AVS) is a national organization. There are also 17 regional chapters throughout the United States. The AVS hosts meetings, provides educational programs and more.

The Society of Vacuum Coaters (SVC) is a national organization. The SVC hosts meetings, provides educational programs and more.