Title:
Universal storage tray for electronic components
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A universal storage tray for holding a plurality of electronic components during storage, processing and transport. The tray includes an adjustable sidewall, a stationary sidewall, and opposing end walls. The adjustable sidewall engages to opposing end walls to form channels of a predetermined length. The channel is configured to have a longitudinal dimension greater than the longitudinal dimension of the components. The universal storage tray also includes a cover for securing components to the trays.



Inventors:
White Jr., Robert J. (Tracy, CA, US)
Application Number:
10/888042
Publication Date:
01/12/2006
Filing Date:
07/08/2004
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
206/454, 211/41.18
International Classes:
B65D85/48; A47G19/08
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
REYNOLDS, STEVEN ALAN
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Isabelle R. McAndrews;Peake International (38507 Cherry Sreet,, Unit G, Newark, CA, 94560, US)
Claims:
I claim:

1. A storage tray for holding wafer segments comprising: a tray frame including first and second opposing end walls; and a removable sidewall having terminal ends for engagement with the tray frame, said removable sidewall and an opposing sidewall having a plurality of slots to together form at least one channel for receiving said wafer segments.

2. The storage tray of claim 1, wherein said at least one channel is configured to have a longitudinal dimension greater than a longitudinal dimension of said wafer segment.

3. The storage tray of claim 1 wherein said removable side wall engages a plurality of regions on a surface of said end walls.

4. The storage tray of claim 3, wherein said removable side wall is press fitted into said plurality of regions.

5. The storage tray of claim 4, wherein said plurality of regions comprise a plurality of recesses, protrusions, and indentations.

6. The storage tray of claim 4, further comprising loading a wafer segment into said at least one channel.

7. The storage tray of claim 6, further comprising securing the wafer segments with a transparent cover.

8. The storage tray of claim 7, wherein said transparent cover is either a processing cover or a shipping cover.

9. A storage tray for holding wafer segments comprising: a) a tray frame including first and second opposing slotted members, and first and second opposing end walls; b) said first opposing slotted member being adjustable to form more than one discrete channel with the slots of said second opposing slotted member; c) said first opposing slotted member being adjustable by engaging with a region in said opposing end walls, wherein the first and second slotted members are separated from each other.

10. The storage tray of claim 9, wherein said region is a recess, a protrusion or an indentation.

11. The storage tray of claim 9, wherein the distance between said region and said second opposing slotted member corresponds substantially to the length of the wafer segments.

12. The storage of claim 9, wherein said at least one channel is configured to have a longitudinal dimension greater than a longitudinal dimension of said wafer segments.

13. The storage tray of claim 9, wherein said first opposing slotted member is temporarily secured into position with a transparent cover.

14. The storage tray of claim 13, wherein said transparent cover contains openings at regular intervals.

15. A storage tray for holding electronic components during processing comprising: a) a stationary sidewall integral with a frame; b) a first end wall; c) a second end wall opposing said first end wall, each of said first and second end walls having a groove; d) an adjustable sidewall that is moved along said groove in said first and second end walls to a predetermined position relative to said stationary sidewall to form a channel for receiving electronic components, wherein said channel is configured to have a longitudinal dimension greater than a longitudinal dimension of said electronic components.

16. The storage tray of claim 15, wherein said adjustable sidewall has terminal ends that mate with the grooves within said first and second end walls.

17. The storage tray of claim 14 further comprising a hollow cover for temporarily securing said electronic components within the tray.

18. The storage tray of claim 15, wherein said hollow cover is transparent.

19. The storage tray of claim 18, wherein said transparent cover contains openings at regular intervals.

20. A method of handling a wafer segment comprising: providing a tray having a first slotted member and first and second opposing end walls; positioning an adjustable slotted member opposite said first slotted member to form a channel having a longitudinal dimension greater than a longitudinal dimension of a wafer segment; and loading said wafer segment into the tray.

21. The method of claim 20, further comprising securing said wafer segment within the tray with a processing cover.

22. The method of claim 20, wherein said positioning step comprises adjusting said opposing slotted member by sliding it to a desired location along an indentation or a groove.

23. The method of claim 20, wherein said positioning step comprises connecting said opposing slotted member to a plurality of regions.

24. The method of claim 23, wherein said regions comprise recesses, notches, protrusions, or indentations.

25. A method of storing a wafer segment comprising: a) determining the length of the wafer segment; b) selecting a plurality of regions that cause a channel to be formed having a first channel length corresponding substantially to the length of the wafer segment; c) positioning a removable sidewall into the selected regions to form said channel of said first channel length; and d) inserting the wafer segment into the channel.

26. The method of claim 25 comprising: a) removing the wafer segment and adjusting the channel length by removing the adjustable sidewall; b) positioning the adjustable sidewall into two regions that are different than the regions corresponding to the first channel length.

27. The method of claim 26 comprising inserting a wafer segment having a channel length different than said first channel length.

28. The method of claim 25, wherein said plurality of regions is selected from a plurality of recesses, indentations, and protrusions.

29. The method of claim 25, wherein said positioning step comprises sliding said removable sidewall on a groove within an end wall to a position that corresponds substantially to the channel length of the determined wafer segment.

30. The method of claim 25, further comprising placing a cover on the tray.

31. The method of claim 25, wherein said cover is transparent.

32. The method of claim 31, wherein said transparent cover contains openings at regular intervals.

Description:

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

A number of different trays exist for storing, processing, and transporting components. Since electronic components have various sensitive and delicate features, they must be handled with extreme care. Traditionally, trays for storing electronic components have had stationary side walls. FIG. 1 illustrates a bottom view of a conventional tray 10. Tray 10 has stationary sidewalls 12, and can only be used for holding segments of uniform length. Currently different segment lengths are processed by using different frames for each type of length. The use of different trays is inefficient since typically both segment strips undergo similar manufacturing processes.

Accordingly, there is a need for an adjustable tray and method designed to enhance the efficiency of processing electronic components of different channel lengths.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention concerns a universal storage tray for automation handling and transporting electronic components. In particular, the tray is an adjustable tray that can receive wafer segments of varying dimensions.

In one embodiment the storage trays comprise a tray frame having opposing end walls; and a removable sidewall, The slots from the removable sidewall and an opposing sidewall together form channels for receiving wafer segments. The removable sidewall has terminal ends that engage to a portion of the tray frame, in particular to the end walls of the frame.

In a second embodiment, the storage trays comprise end walls integral with a frame, each having a groove; and a stationary sidewall. This embodiment includes an adjustable sidewall that can be moved along the grooves to a predetermined position relative to the stationary sidewall to form a channel for receiving a wafer segment. The resulting channel is configured to have a longitudinal dimension greater than a longitudinal dimension of said wafer segment.

Another aspect of the invention comprises securing the contents of the storage tray with a hollow cover. The hollow cover can be either solid or fitted with rectangular gaps. In either case, the hollow cover is preferably fabricated from a clear material that allows the contents of the tray to be easily viewed.

Yet another aspect of the invention comprises a method of storing a wafer segment. In one embodiment the method comprises determining the length of the wafer segment; selecting a plurality of regions that cause a channel to be formed having a first channel length corresponding substantially to the desired wafer segment; positioning a removable sidewall into the selected regions to form the channel of said first channel length; and inserting the wafer segment into the channel.

The advantages provided by the present invention include a universal storage tray that can be used to process, handle, or transport electronic components in strip format.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a prior art tray used for processing electronic components.

FIG. 2A is a perspective view of an embodiment of an adjustable tray having recesses in opposing end walls for receiving a removable sidewall.

FIG. 2B illustrates one embodiment of an adjustable tray in accordance with the present invention.

FIG. 2C illustrates a second embodiment of an adjustable tray in accordance with the present invention.

FIG. 3A illustrates an embodiment of a removable sidewall.

FIG. 3B is an alternative removable sidewall having crown-shaped tabs.

FIG. 4A is a cross-sectional view of an adjustable sidewall in a recess.

FIG. 4B illustrates a removable sidewall positioned in indentations at a maximum channel length.

FIG. 4C illustrates a removable sidewall positioned in indentations at a minimum channel length.

FIG. 5 illustrates an end wall having crown-shaped recesses.

FIG. 6 illustrates an indentation that can accommodate the sidewall of FIG. 3B.

FIG. 7 illustrates a sidewall with crown-shaped tabs inserted into a tray in accordance with the present invention.

FIG. 8 is a perspective view of an embodiment of an adjustable tray with a wafer segment secured therein in accordance with the present invention.

FIG. 9A is a perspective top view of a processing cover with a window for securing components within the storage tray of the invention.

FIG. 9B is a perspective top view of an alternate processing cover for securing components within the storage tray of the invention.

FIG. 10 is a preferred embodiment of a transparent cover.

FIG. 11 is a perspective view of stackable trays and their covers.

FIG. 12 is a cross-sectional view of FIG. 11 taken generally along line A-A thereof.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

The present invention encompasses an adjustable tray for holding components during processing or shipping. Components may include unfinished die, wafer segments, semiconductor devices, and other material contained on a strip. Components stored in accordance with the present invention may be subject to various process steps, including testing, inspection, washing and chemical treatment. These process steps are wholly or partially performed in an automated computer-controlled environment. The primary purpose of the invention is for use as a storage and processing tray. However, when the tray is provided with a solid cover, the present invention may also be used as a shipping tray.

FIG. 2A illustrates a tray in accordance with a first embodiment of the invention. Recesses 24A, 24B and 22A, 22B are located on end walls 35 of the tray. The recesses are located at points (stop points) along the top surface of the end wall 35. The distance from sidewall 15 to the recesses 22, 24 correspond substantially to the component length and the clearance space combined. The engagement of side wall 25 in tray frame 28 is shown in FIGS. 2B-2C. FIG. 2B illustrates the engagement of side wall 25 with recesses 24A/24B for components on a short strip, hereinafter referred to as short bars. In this case, tab 40A of adjustable side wall 25 engages with recess 24A and tab 40B engages with recess 24B to form channels 45 for short bars. FIG. 2C illustrates the engagement of side wall 25 with recesses 22A/22B for components on a long strip, hereinafter referred to as long bars. Specifically, tab 40A engages with recess 22A while tab 40B engages with recess 22B to form channels suitable for receiving long bars. Accordingly, the same tray can be reused to process wafer segments of a different length by removing side wall 25 and placing it into a different pair of parallel recesses.

Stop points identify predetermined channels available for receiving the components. Components such as disk heads are inserted into one of the numbered channels 45. Although only two possible regions are shown in FIGS. 2A-2C for engaging adjustable side wall 25, more than two regions can be provided on the end walls 35 to accommodate a plurality of component sizes.

The present invention allows the same tray to be used for different lengths of wafer segments, such as disk head strips. In a first embodiment, as shown in FIG. 2A, the invention comprises a tray 20 in the shape of a frame having a central opening that extends through the tray. Accordingly, it is not essential for tray 20 to have a floor. Frame 28 has a stationary sidewall 15 with a plurality of slots 50 and depressions 48 as shown in FIG. 2A. Slots 50 are interposed with depressions 48. Preferably sidewall 15 is a unitary structure with the frame. A removable sidewall 25 is placed opposite sidewall 15 in end walls 35 as shown in FIG. 2B. The slots of sidewall 15 and the slots of sidewall 25 together form elongated channels 45 for receiving wafer segments.

Sidewall 25 preferably has an equal number of slots 50 and depressions 48 as sidewall 15. Depressions 48 are for drainage purposes and do not receive wafer segments. Indeed, depressions 48 are an optional feature of the present invention.

The present invention is considered to have universal applications because it incorporates an adjustable sidewall 25. The channel length is adjusted by moving sidewall 25 along parallel grooves (FIG. 8) or by removing sidewall 25 from specific regions and reinserting it in a new position on the frame. Therefore, adjustable sidewall 25 can also be removable.

In each embodiment, the slot width is greater than the width of the wafer segment to ensure that the delicate features of the wafer segment are properly safeguarded. In a preferred embodiment, the slot width is greater than the width dimension of the wafer segment so that the slot width clearance, or free space between the slot width and the wafer segment is between 0.50 mm and 1.0 mm. In a more preferred embodiment, the clearance between the wafer segment and the slot width should be between 0.50 and 0.65 mm, inclusive.

The channel in the present invention preferably has a longitudinal dimension that is greater than the longitudinal dimension of the wafer segment. For a wafer segment that is approximately 57.5 mm in length, the distance between a slot on adjustable sidewall 25 and the corresponding slot on sidewall 15 is approximately 58 mm, while the distance between facing ribs 52 is approximately 55 mm for a tray. For a longer wafer segment—of approximately 70 mm in length—the distance between opposing slots is approximately 70.5 mm in length, while the distance between facing ribs is approximately 67 mm. To protect the contents of each tray, the channel depth should exceed the depth of the wafer segments. An optional cover may be placed on tray 20 to secure components loaded for testing, rinsing, or any other processing step.

FIG. 3A illustrates one embodiment of sidewall 25. Tabs 40A, 40B are located at terminal ends of side wall 25. Tabs 40A and 40B permit side wall 25 to securely engage with recesses 22A, 22B or 24A, 24B in tray 20 of FIG. 2A. A cross section of tab 30 inserted into recess 22 is provided in FIG. 4A. It is apparent from FIG. 4A that the surface 40 of tab 30 is flush with the upper surface of frame 28 during use. FIG. 4A also illustrates the depth at which adjustable sidewall 25 is preferably placed to provide a suitable storage tray. It is, however, not essential for the tabs to extend horizontally from the upper surface of side wall 25 as shown in FIG. 3A. Tabs 40A/40B can instead extend horizontally from the lower surface of side wall 25 and be press fitted into the underside of a tray frame to form a channel with sidewall 15.

Both tabs 40A/40B and recesses 22A/22B, 24A/24B are not limited to the shapes shown in FIG. 3A. Any shape that would allow a tab to mate with a recess in a press fit would be suitable for practicing the present invention. For example, the tabs may be crown shaped as shown in FIG. 3B. The recess for crown-shaped tabs would have a crown-shaped opening as shown in FIG. 5 so that tabs 40A/40B mate to the recesses with a press fit. After engagement with the recess, adjustable sidewall 25 can optionally be secured to the tray frame with a hollow cover.

FIG. 4B illustrates a second embodiment for providing a universal storage tray. An indentation 54 is provided having rear corners with an acute angle on a first wall of the frame, and a similar indentation 55 is provided on an opposing wall. The rear corners have an acute angle to receive the terminal ends of the tabs shown in FIG. 3A. The channel is adjusted by moving side wall 25 to a desired position. For example, adjustable side wall 25 may be positioned to the extreme left of indentations 54 and 55 as shown in FIG. 4B to receive long bars from wafers, i.e. wafer segments substantially corresponding to the maximum channel length of the tray.

Accordingly, the removable sidewall of FIG. 3A would be suitable for use with the tray of FIG. 4B. Indentations 54 and 55 generally have a contour conforming to the outer periphery of the tabs. As with the tabs, the indentations are not limited to a specific shape. An example of an alternative indentation is shown in FIGS. 6 and 7. Sidewall 25 of FIG. 3B with crown-shaped tabs would be suitable for use with the trays shown in FIGS. 6 and 7.

The indentations 54, 55 of the present invention may be configured to have a serrated upper edge in end wall 35 as shown in FIG. 6 to locate the tab in more than two precise locations. Moreover, the indentations may have a numerical index 70 in accordance with FIG. 7, which identifies which recess corresponds to which channel length.

FIG. 7 illustrates an indentation with a plurality of marked spaces shown in 2.00 mm intervals. For example, placing the tabs of sidewall 25 into parallel spaces of opposing end walls marked with 58.2 mm will form a longitudinal channel that is 58.2 mm in length. It is understood that the indentation may have an interval spacing greater than or less than 2 mm. However, it is preferred that the indentation have equally spaced intervals.

FIG. 8 illustrates still another embodiment of the present invention. In FIG. 8, sidewall 25 is adjusted by sliding it along a groove 95. The grooves extend within the entire range of end walls 35. Accordingly, this embodiment enables sidewall 25 to be fully adjustable along the full range of the channel.

The adjustable sidewall 25 mates with the grooves through an alignment mechanism (not shown) on each terminal end. Non-limiting examples of suitable alignment mechanisms include a detent, a protrusion, a gear, a flange, or a roller. Grooves 95 are configured to complementarily mate with the alignment mechanism to thereby enable sidewall 25 to slide smoothly within end walls 35.

After sidewall 25 is positioned at its preferred location in grooves 95, one or more disk head strips 42, are then manually placed into the channels. After the disk heads are fully processed, sidewall 25 is adjusted to allow removal of the disk heads from tray 20 for packaging. The channels in tray 20 may then be adjusted for processing disk head segments having a different length by repositioning sidewall 25 to a new location.

It is contemplated that the trays of this invention will be moved single file along a surface where individual wafer segments are being processed. The trays remain at a specific processing station until each of the wafer segments has been processed. For example when the wafer segments of a specific tray are being tested, each wafer segment will be lifted from a channel by a test handler, individually tested, and then returned to the same channel.

Methods for securing the contents in the trays of the present invention will now be discussed. When sidewall 25 is placed in its desired position, a hollow cover may be provided to secure components within tray 20. The hollow cover is preferably thermoformed out of a clear polymeric material to form transparent covers. In a preferred embodiment, the hollow cover is manufactured from Stat-Tech™ M312, available from Noveon located in Cleveland, Ohio.

The type of cover used in accordance with the present invention will depend on whether the components are ready for shipping or not. FIG. 9A illustrates a process cover that would be appropriate for securing long bar components. Cover 80 is shown having the shape of a frame with an open window 82. Window 82 has peripheral edges 92 and 93. Edges 92 are superimposed on an upper portion of slots 50 when cover 80 is snapped onto tray 20. It is therefore understood that the complete top surface of slots 50 need not be concealed by peripheral edges 92. A process cover for short bar components would have a smaller window than the cover of FIG. 9A because slots 50 are closer together when short bar components are stored. FIG. 9B shows a process cover for short bar components. The window in FIG. 9B has peripheral edges 92 that can be superimposed over an upper portion of slots 50 in a similar manner as in FIG. 9A. Process covers with an open window 82 allow the components to be washed, inspected, tested and subject to various other processing steps.

All of the covers discussed herein are equipped with protrusions on at least two opposing walls. The protrusions 33 are preferably located on the interior of hollow cover 80. Detent 31 on tray 20 and protrusions 33 on cover 80 snap together to form a module that securely captures the components in place.

FIG. 10 illustrates another type of process cover suitable for securing wafer segments in short bar or long bar recesses. Cover 80 in FIG. 10 has rectangular gaps 88 and narrow slats 86 extending between end walls 35. The narrow slats 86 are located at periodic intervals of the cover, and serve to capture the components in place. Slats 86 preferably are superimposed over the slots of sidewalls 15 and 25 to prevent the wafer segments from exiting their channels. Rectangular gaps 88 are interspersed between the slats 86 to allow the tray contents to be sprayed or washed during processing. The rectangular gaps 88 should be as wide as possible to allow the largest possible surface area of the wafer segments to be exposed for processing.

The present invention is not restricted to using covers with a window. In fact, the cover could be made of a solid material that is transparent. FIG. 11 illustrates a stack of covered trays. In this embodiment, cover 80 is thermoformed from a clear material, such as Stat-Tech™ M312. The entire face of tray 20 is visible through cover 80, including numerical index 70. Of course, the trays of the present invention are stackable whether covered or uncovered.

FIG. 12 is a cross-sectional view of FIG. 11 along line A-A. Each cover 80 in the stack has beveled edges 87 that fit over the perimeter of each tray 20. Dust and other contaminants can not enter trays covered with solid cover 80. Consequently, such a cover would be ideal for shipping components to customers, manufacturers, and contractors.

When it is necessary to adjust the channel, cover 80 must be removed. Sidewall 25 is then moved to the desired stop point on the indentations or grooves, before being secured with a cover. Alternatively, the sidewall can be adjusted by extracting tabs 40A, 40B from recesses 22A, 22B or 24A, 24B and inserting sidewall 25 into another pair of recesses. Afterwards, an optional cover may be attached to the tray depending on how the tray will be used.

In each of the embodiments, the adjustable sidewall may be provided with an index or numerical scale to identify the number of channels occupied, the length of the items loaded in the tray, or to otherwise facilitate tracking of a specific component strip.

The examples described herein are solely representative of the present invention. It is understood that various modifications and substitutions may be made to the foregoing examples without departing from either the spirit or scope of the invention. In some instances certain features of the invention will be employed without other features depending on the particular situation encountered by the ordinary person skilled in the art. Moreover the trays are not restricted to dimensions that hold wafer segments of a maximum length of 70 mm. Accordingly, the invention can be applied to trays that form channels of a different dimension than those described herein. It is therefore the intent that the invention not be limited to the particular examples disclosed herein.