Chipping in for safety

When a South Korean education center dedicated to semiconductor production experienced two severe explosions, they decided to replace their machines with an onsite nitrogen generator and a nitrogen supply compressor from Atlas Copco.

Semiconductors at the heart of modern day electronics

Chipping in for safety, semiconductor industry.
Semiconductors are at the heart of modern day electronics, and South Korea is at the heart of the semiconductor industry. The leading semiconductors producers located here are in constant need of highly skilled employees. For this purpose, the Korea University of Technology and Education in Cheonan has established a dedicated education center with top-notch equipment. At the Semiconductor Equipment Technology Education Center, roughly 10,000 students per year are trained in semiconductor and solar cell production. The center is rated as the best in the country in terms of know-how and facilities. As the trainings run all year round, it must have 24/7 access to compressed air and nitrogen. Reliability and stability is crucial.

Nitrogen plays a central role

When producing semiconductors, you need a stable supply of nitrogen. This is a very dangerous gas that can lead to asphyxiation. On top of this, it can cause explosions and the machines must not be contaminated.

“Many schools and small research institutes use liquid nitrogen as it means less investments. But liquefied nitrogen is risky to handle and we prefer having our own nitrogen generator onsite instead. We believe it’s also more cost-efficient,” says Cheolho Im, technical support team Manager at the Semiconductor Equipment Technology Education Center.

“We already had a nitrogen generator installed, but experienced two severe explosions in our lab. Fortunately there were no casualties, but significant machine parts had to be replaced. Needless to say, safety and reliability is a top priority and we decided to look for a new provider. While searching for other brands I found out that Atlas Copco not only provides air compressors but nitrogen generators as well. As we already had a very positive experience of their compressors, we felt reliability was guaranteed,” says Cheolho Im.

Installation of a nitrogen generator and a nitrogen supply compressor

Nitrogen compressor used in South Korea.

In December 2019, the center installed an Atlas Copco nitrogen generator and a nitrogen supply compressor. In conjunction with the Atlas Copco oil-free compressors already in use, the solution now provides nitrogen and compressed air to the semiconductor manufacturing equipment and ultra-clean production rooms.

“With the new machine setup, the pressure drop is now below 0.3 bar, and even small amounts of compressed air show almost perfect purity,” says Chief Researcher Seokil Yoon. “It’s essential that oil or dust is filtered out properly. If there is any contamination, the nitrogen generator and the connected pipeline and equipment could explode. And if the lines leading to the semiconductor machine are contaminated, all equipment must be replaced which is both costly and time-consuming. With our new solution, this is no longer a problem.”

“With our new solutions, I sometimes forget the machine is running. Thanks to its stability, I can rely on its performance and focus on other tasks. The nitrogen generator is also very compact and only about one third the size of the old one, which saves floor space,” says Cheolho Im.

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