UD, Rodel engineers test new way to polish precision parts
Vol. 17, No. 13Dec. 4, 1997

UD, Rodel engineers test new way to polish precision parts

Evaluating a versatile technology for polishing and "lapping" or honing high-precision parts will be the first order of business for UD's new Center for Nanomachined Surfaces (CNS).

Rodel Inc. of Newark, a major supplier of surface finishing products, recently licensed a "rapidly renewable lap" (RRL) technology, invented at the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Gaithersburg, Md., according to the company's director, Bill Jensen. Under the licensing agreement, Rodel will make the RRL technology available to UD's research center, established Aug. 12 this year with a $2.88 million grant from Del. Gov. Thomas R. Carper and the Delaware Economic Development Office. he said.

Supporting a statewide effort to bring computer-chip makers to Delaware, researchers from UD, Rodel, NIST and six other organizations are studying various new ways to polish photomasks-the intricately stenciled quartz plates used to print ever finer and more complex circuit patterns on computer chips, reported UD's Daniel W. van der Weide, electrical and computer engineering, who heads up the CNS.

The RRL technology consists of a porous ceramic form, which imparts its shape and texture onto a vacuum-applied, thin film that carries abrasive particles, van der Weide explained. The ceramic substrate, overlying thin film and abrasive can then be tailored to a particular task or workpiece, such as a photomask, silicon wafer or magnetic disk.

In tests, the system removed material from the surface of glass, silicon, copper and other sample pieces at significantly better-than-average rates, while reliably achieving high-quality surfaces, said Chris Evans, a NIST precision engineer who led the development effort and who worked closely with Rodel engineer David Roderick, a key technical contributor.

Compared to current lapping and polishing techniques, the potential advantages of RRL include the new technology's flexibility and adaptability, Evans added. Unlike conventional tools, he said, the same system can be used to perform a variety of finishing jobs.

For more information on the CNS, go to the World Wide Web at http://nanosurf.ece.udel.edu/

-Mark Bello and Ginger Pinholster