Microtome began producing reticle cassettes at the request of users of litho equipment who were experiencing reticle damage and contamination when using other reticle handling products, the makers of which were either unable or unwilling to improve them.

It was realized very early on that plastic molded components could not be made with adequate dimensional tolerance to be used in multi-reticle cassettes, which have extremely tight constraints on their dimensions to ensure handling safety when using robotics.

So, every component part used in our cassettes is machined, and the most critical parts are made using a stress-free machining process so that the required tolerances can be guaranteed.

This manufacturing method allows us to continually enhance our products, and offers us greater flexibility to produce design variants for special applications.

We started to make our own reticle pods during the development of the SEMI Standards for reticle handling, thereby eliminating some design weaknesses in the SMIF pods that were already being used.

We initially produced a single reticle pod that was made from plastic material. However, research quickly identified that no plastic single reticle pod could provide adequate electrostatic protection for a reticle.

Electrostatic protection was one of the most critical factors for single reticle pod users at that time, which is why we undertook our own research into the subject.

We discovered that reticles' susceptibility to electric field induced damage is orders of magnitude greater than had previously been believed.
Microtome's pioneering research has led to a significant strengthening of the advice given in the ITRS (now the IRDS) about the need to avoid exposing reticles to electric field. We have also shown through our research that the use of static dissipative plastics for the manufacture of reticle pods is perhaps the worst mistake the industry could have made, because this material increases the risk of cumulative field-induced reticle degradation.

Our commitment to provide the most protective reticle handling products on the market has led to us developing and patenting the world's first all-metal single reticle SMIF pod, which we call the E-Pod.

Having developed a design that completely excludes electric field, we embarked on the development of a novel reticle clamping system that would prevent damage to the underside of the reticle if the pod was badly handled, a common problem with existing designs.

This new reticle clamping system makes the E-Pod the only 150mm single reticle SMIF pod that clamps the reticle at the bevelled edges (like in a transit box) but that can also be used directly on lithography systems.

You can read more about the E-Pod and the need for total electrostatic protection here. You can also read our technical publications on this subject on ResearchGate.

The cost of an E-Pod is more than double that of the most "advanced" plastic molded single reticle SMIF pod on the market, which independent testing has proven to be incapable of providing adequate electrostatic protection for a reticle.

Nevertheless, the value of making such an investment in total electrostatic protection for a reticle is abundantly clear - because avoidable electrostatic damage to a single production reticle over a decade ago cost the fab over $1 million in lost output and scrapped inventory.

Is it really worth saving money on the cost of a reticle SMIF pod if a consequence of using a cheaper plastic pod that provides insufficient protection for the reticle it carries can be as high as $1 million per damage event?

Since an E-Pod will probably be used to protect many generations of critical production reticles, and may even outlast the fab that it is used in, it represents the best-value investment available in the reticle SMIF pod market.

We have seen first-hand the consequences of plastic single reticle pods providing inadequate reticle protection, and we don't think a production facility costing billions of dollars and producing millions of dollars worth of products a day should be put at such risk.

Let us help you to avoid experiencing the consequences of avoidable reticle damage.

At Microtome, reticle protection is not just a part of what we do...

reticle protection IS our business.