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Title:
LOCK VALVE FOR VACUUM SEALING, VACUUM CHAMBER AND VACUUM PROCESSING SYSTEM
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2019/101318
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
A lock valve (100) for vacuum sealing is described. The lock valve (100) includes a base structure (110) having a valve opening (111), a shutter (140) for closing the valve opening (111), and a sealing (160). The sealing includes a sealing base (161) connected to the base structure (110) and a sealing top (162) for providing a sealing contact with the shutter (140). The sealing base (161) has a higher stiffness than the sealing top (162).

Inventors:
LINDENBERG, Ralph (Borngasse 8, Büdingen - Rinderbügen, 63654, DE)
KEMMERER, Martin (Am Welschenfeld 3, Mömbris, 63776, DE)
RAJU, Brijesh (No. 145, 560076, IN)
Application Number:
EP2017/080234
Publication Date:
May 31, 2019
Filing Date:
November 23, 2017
Export Citation:
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Assignee:
APPLIED MATERIALS, INC. (3050 Bowers Avenue, Santa Clara, California, 95054, US)
LINDENBERG, Ralph (Borngasse 8, Büdingen - Rinderbügen, 63654, DE)
KEMMERER, Martin (Am Welschenfeld 3, Mömbris, 63776, DE)
RAJU, Brijesh (No. 145, 560076, IN)
International Classes:
F16K51/02; C23C14/56; F16J15/06; F16J15/10; F16J15/12; F16K1/46
Foreign References:
JP2016180495A2016-10-13
EP1716268A12006-11-02
US20060283041A12006-12-21
DE102006033966A12007-04-26
JP3051050B22000-06-12
US6202983B12001-03-20
DE9413091U11995-12-14
EP0060620A11982-09-22
US20110233438A12011-09-29
US20050274459A12005-12-15
US4345739A1982-08-24
Other References:
None
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
ZIMMERMANN & PARTNER PATENTANWÄLTE MBB (Josephspitalstr. 15, München, 80331, DE)
Download PDF:
Claims:
CLAIMS

1. A lock valve (100) for vacuum sealing, comprising:

- a base structure (110) having a valve opening (111),

- a shutter (140) for closing the valve opening (111), and

- a sealing (160) comprising a sealing base (161) connected to the base structure (110) and a sealing top (162) for providing a sealing contact with the shutter (140), the sealing base (161) having a higher stiffness than the sealing top (162).

2. The lock valve (100) according to claim 1, the sealing (160) comprising a stiffness gradient, the stiffness decreasing from the sealing base (161) to the sealing top (162).

3. The lock valve (100) according to claim 1 or 2, the sealing (160) comprising a fixture (163) for fixing the sealing (160) to the base structure (110).

4. The lock valve (100) according to any of claims 1 to 3, the base structure (HO) comprising a reception (113), the sealing base (161) being arranged in the reception (113).

5. The lock valve (100) according to any of claims 1 to 4, the sealing (160) being an integral one-piece element.

6. The lock valve (100) according to any of claims 1 to 4, the sealing top (162) being a separate element which is connected to the sealing base (161).

7. The lock valve (100) according to any of claims 1 to 6, the sealing top (162) being made of a different material than the sealing base (161).

8. The lock valve (100) according to any of claims 1 to 7, the sealing (160) comprising a functional element (165) embedded in the sealing (160).

9 The lock valve (100) according to claim 8, the functional element (165) being embedded in the sealing base (161) and being configured for enhancing the stiffness of the sealing base (161).

10. The lock valve (100) according to claim 8 or 9, the functional element (165) being selected from the group consisting of: a spring, a U-shaped sheet metal, a S-shaped sheet metal, a V-shaped sheet metal, or any combination thereof.

11. The lock valve (100) according to any of claims 1 to 10, the sealing base (161) having a different material structure than the sealing top (162).

12. The lock valve (100) according to any of claims 1 to 11, the sealing top (162) being flexible and compressible.

13. A lock valve (100) for vacuum sealing, comprising:

- a housing (170) having a first aperture (171) and a second aperture (172), and

- a lock valve inlay (175) being arranged in the housing , the lock valve inlay comprising:

- a base structure (110) having a valve opening (111), the valve opening (111) being configured for transferring a large area substrate through the valve opening (111);

- a shutter (140) for closing the valve opening (111); and - a sealing (160) provided around the valve opening, the sealing (160) comprising a sealing base (161) connected to the base structure (110) and a sealing top (162) for providing a sealing contact with the shutter (140), the sealing base (161) having a higher stiffness than the sealing top (162).

14. A vacuum chamber (200) having at least one lock valve (100) for vacuum sealing, the at least one lock valve comprising: a base structure (110) having a valve opening (111); a shutter (140) for closing the valve opening (111); and a sealing (160), the sealing comprising a sealing base (161) connected to the base structure (110) and a sealing top (162) for providing a sealing contact with the shutter (140), the sealing base (161) having a higher stiffness than the sealing top (162).

15. A vacuum processing system (300) for processing a substrate, comprising a vacuum processing chamber (310) being adapted for processing the substrate; and at least one load lock chamber (320) being configured for transferring the substrate from atmospheric conditions to vacuum conditions, the load lock chamber comprising at least one lock valve (100) for vacuum sealing comprising: a base structure (110) having a valve opening (111); a shutter (140) for closing the valve opening (111); and a sealing (160); the sealing comprising a sealing base (161) connected to the base structure (110) and a sealing top (162) for providing a sealing contact with the shutter (140), the sealing base (161) having a higher stiffness than the sealing top (162).

Description:
LOCK VALVE FOR VACUUM SEALING, VACUUM CHAMBER AND VACUUM PROCESSING SYSTEM

TECHNICAL FIELD

[0001] Embodiments of the present disclosure relate to lock valves for vacuum sealing. In particular, the present disclosure relates to lock valves for vacuum sealing of a vacuum chamber of a vacuum processing system. Further, the present disclosure relates to vacuum chambers with a lock valve for transferring a substrate from atmospheric conditions to vacuum conditions. Additionally, the present disclosure relates to vacuum processing systems for processing substrates, particularly inline vacuum processing systems for processing large area substrates.

BACKGROUND

[0002] Substrates are often coated, for example, in vacuum processing systems or vacuum coating plants, under high-vacuum conditions, at pressures within the range of 5*l0 4 hPa to 0.5 hPa. In order to increase the plant productivity and to avoid the situation of having to evacuate the entire installation for each substrate and, especially, the high-vacuum section, load and unload locks (or entrance and exit chambers) are used for the substrates.

[0003] In order to improve the material flux rate and increase the productivity in modem in-line coating plants, separate load and unload lock chambers are used. A simple so-called 3-chamber coating unit consists of a load lock, in which the substrate is pumped from atmospheric pressure to an adequate transition pressure of, for example, between r=1*10 hPa to p= 1.0 hPa, of a sequential vacuum coating section (one or more process chambers) and an unload lock, in which, by venting, said substrate is again adjusted to the atmospheric pressure level. In some systems, the load lock and the unload lock are provided by the same load lock chamber.

[0004] The task of load and unload lock chambers is to evacuate to a sufficient and low enough transition pressure to the process range and to vent as quickly as possible to atmospheric pressure again. After the substrate is unloaded from the load lock chamber, the load lock chamber is evacuated again.

[0005] At the same time, the wish for less contamination during a vacuum process has increased in the last few years. For instance, when producing displays, the acceptance of contamination with particles has decreased and the standard of quality, and also the quality expected by the customer, has increased. Contamination may, for example, occur due to mechanical stress acting on lock valve components caused by the pressure change during evacuation of vacuum chambers.

[0006] Accordingly, there is a continuous demand for providing improved lock valves for vacuum sealing, vacuum chambers and vacuum processing systems with which at least some of the problems in the art can be overcome.

SUMMARY

[0007] In light of the above, a lock valve for vacuum sealing, a vacuum chamber having at least one lock valve for vacuum sealing, and a vacuum processing system for processing a substrate according to the independent claims are provided.

[0008] According to an aspect of the present disclosure, a lock valve for vacuum sealing is provided. The lock valve includes a base structure having a valve opening, a shutter for closing the valve opening, and a sealing. The sealing includes a sealing base connected to the base structure. Further, the sealing includes a sealing top for providing a sealing contact with the shutter. The sealing base has a higher stiffness than the sealing top. [0009] According to a further aspect of the present disclosure, a lock valve for vacuum sealing is provided. The lock valve includes a housing having a first aperture and a second aperture and a lock valve inlay. The lock valve inlay is arranged in the housing. Further, the lock valve inlay includes a base structure having a valve opening. The valve opening is configured for transferring a large area substrate through the valve opening. Additionally, the lock valve inlay includes a shutter for closing the valve opening. Further, the lock valve inlay includes a sealing provided around the valve opening. The sealing includes a sealing base connected to the base structure. Further, the sealing includes a sealing top for providing a sealing contact with the shutter. The sealing base has a higher stiffness than the sealing top.

[0010] According to a further aspect of the present disclosure, a vacuum chamber having at least one lock valve for vacuum sealing is provided. The at least one lock valve includes a base structure having a valve opening, a shutter for closing the valve opening, and a sealing. The sealing includes a sealing base connected to the base structure. Further, the sealing includes a sealing top for providing a sealing contact with the shutter. The sealing base has a higher stiffness than the sealing top.

[0011] According to a further aspect of the present disclosure, a vacuum processing system for processing a substrate is provided. The vacuum processing system includes a vacuum processing chamber being adapted for processing the substrate. Further, the vacuum processing system includes at least one load lock chamber being configured for transferring the substrate from atmospheric conditions to vacuum conditions. The load lock chamber includes at least one lock valve for vacuum sealing. The at least one lock valve includes a base structure having a valve opening, a shutter for closing the valve opening, and a sealing. The sealing includes a sealing base connected to the base structure. Further, the sealing includes a sealing top for providing a sealing contact with the shutter. The sealing base has a higher stiffness than the sealing top. [0012] Further aspects, advantages and features of the present disclosure are apparent from the description and the accompanying drawings.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0013] So that the manner in which the above recited features of the present disclosure can be understood in detail, a more particular description of the present disclosure, briefly summarized above, may be had by reference to embodiments. The accompanying drawings relate to embodiments of the disclosure and are described in the following:

[0014] FIG. 1 is a schematic sectional view of a lock valve according to embodiments described herein, the lock valve being shown in a closed state;

[0015] FIG. 2 is a schematic sectional view of a lock valve according to embodiments described herein, the lock valve being shown in an open state;

[0016] FIGS. 3 A to 3F are schematic views of various possible implementations of a sealing for a lock valve according to embodiments described herein;

[0017] FIG. 4 is a schematic sectional view of a lock valve according to further embodiments described herein;

[0018] FIG. 5 is a schematic sectional view of a vacuum chamber having at least one lock valve for vacuum sealing according to embodiments described herein; and

[0019] FIG. 6 is a schematic view of a vacuum processing system according to embodiments described herein. DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF EMBODIMENTS

[0020] Reference will now be made in detail to the various embodiments, one or more examples of which are illustrated in the figures. Each example is provided by way of explanation and is not meant as a limitation. For example, features illustrated or described as part of one embodiment can be used on or in conjunction with any other embodiment to yield yet a further embodiment. It is intended that the present disclosure includes such modifications and variations.

[0021] Within the following description of the drawings, the same reference numbers refer to the same or to similar components. In the present disclosure, only the differences with respect to the individual embodiments are described. Unless specified otherwise, the description of a part or aspect in one embodiment applies to a corresponding part or aspect in another embodiment as well.

[0022] Before various embodiments of the present disclosure are described in more detail, some aspects with respect to some terms and expressions used herein are explained.

[0023] In the present disclosure, a“lock valve” can be understood as a valve configured for locking a valve opening. In particular, a lock valve can be understood as a valve configured for providing a vacuum sealing, e.g. between atmospheric conditions and vacuum conditions. For instance, the lock valve can be provided in a wall of a vacuum chamber for providing a vacuum sealing from an atmospheric environment and vacuum conditions provided inside the vacuum chamber. In other words, a lock valve can be understood as a vacuum sealable valve, which may be configured as a valve selected from the group consisting of a gate valve, a slit valve, and a slot valve.

[0024] In the present disclosure, a“base structure” of the lock valve can be understood as a structure which is configured for supporting components or parts of the lock valve. For instance, the base structure can be a lock valve inlay provided in a housing of the lock valve. Alternatively, the base structure can be part of a housing of the lock valve. In particular, the base structure may be a substantially flat element, e.g. a plate-like lock valve inlay, a wall of a housing of the lock valve or a wall of a vacuum chamber. Typically, the base structure includes the valve opening which can be opened and closed by the lock valve.

[0025] In the present disclosure, a“valve opening” of the lock valve can be understood as an opening which can be opened and closed by the lock valve. Accordingly, the valve opening can be a lock aperture. In particular, the valve opening or lock aperture can be an elongated opening or elongated aperture provided in the base structure of the lock valve. For instance, the valve opening can be a rectangular opening. More specifically, the valve opening may have a length Ll which is at least double the width W of the valve opening. Typically, the dimensions of the valve opening are selected such that a substrate as described herein can be transferred through the valve opening.

[0026] In the present disclosure, a“shutter” can be understood as an element of the lock valve which is configured for closing the valve opening. Accordingly the dimensions of the shutter are selected such that the valve opening can be completely closed by the shutter.

[0027] In the present disclosure, a“sealing” can be understood as a sealing element configured for providing a sealed interface between two elements, e.g. between the base structure and the shutter as described herein. In particular, the sealing as described herein can be configured for providing a vacuum sealing. More specifically, the sealing as described herein can be understood as a sealing configured for providing an airtight sealing of a valve opening or valve aperture as described herein. Typically, the sealing as described herein includes a sealing base and a sealing top. The“sealing base” can be understood as a portion of the sealing which is connected or attached to the base structure as described herein. In particular, the sealing base may be connected or attached to the base structure such that the sealing base is fixed to the base structure. More specifically, the sealing base can be connected or attached to the base structure such that the sealing base is not movable relative to the base structure. The“sealing top” can be understood as a portion of the sealing which is configured to form a sealed contact with a shutter (e.g. via a sealing contact element as exemplarily described with reference to FIG. 3A) when the shutter closes the valve opening as described herein. In particular, the sealing top can be connected to the sealing base.

[0028] With exemplary reference to FIG. 1, a lock valve 100 for vacuum sealing according to the present disclosure is described. According to embodiments which can be combined with other embodiments described herein, the lock valve 100 includes a base structure 110 having a valve opening 111, a shutter 140 for closing the valve opening 111, and a sealing 160. The sealing includes a sealing base 161 connected to the base structure 110. Further, the sealing includes a sealing top 162 for providing a sealing contact with the shutter 140. The sealing base 161 has a higher stiffness than the sealing top 162. In particular, the sealing base 161 can be configured for providing a higher stiffness than the sealing top 162. In other words, the stiffness k base of the sealing base 161 can be higher than the stiffness k top of the sealing top 162, i.e. k base > k top.

[0029] Accordingly, embodiments of the present disclosure beneficially provide for a lock valve with which wear of the sealing can substantially be reduced or even eliminated. Thus, embodiments of the present disclosure have the advantage that particle generation due to wear of the sealing can substantially be reduced or even eliminated. In particular, providing a sealing having a sealing base with a higher stiffness than the sealing top beneficially provides for a sealing which is supportive at the sealing base and flexible at the sealing top. Accordingly, the sealing as described herein is beneficially configured such that metal-to-metal contact, e.g. between the base structure and the shutter, can be avoided while at the same time friction at the interface between the sealing top and the shutter can substantially be reduced or even eliminated. More specifically, providing a flexible sealing top as described herein may be beneficial because the sealing top can follow a relative movement of adjacent parts, e.g. a contacting shutter, without changing the contact area between sealing and sealing surface of the shutter.

[0030] According to embodiments, which can be combined with any other embodiments described herein, the structure and/or the material and/or the geometry of the sealing base 161 may be selected such that the sealing base 161 includes a higher stiffness than the sealing top 162. Accordingly, the structure and/or the material and/or the geometry of the sealing top 162 may be selected such that the sealing top 162 includes a stiffness k top which is less than a stiffness k base of the sealing base 161. For example, the sealing base 161 may have a higher elastic modulus than the sealing top 162. In other words, the elastic modulus E base of the sealing base 161 can be higher than the elastic modulus E t0p of the sealing top 162, i.e. E base > E top.

[0031] It is to be noted that stiffness k is to be understood as a measure of the resistance offered by a body to deformation. In particular, stiffness is defined as k = F/d, where F is the force on the body and d is the displacement produced by the force, particularly in the direction of the force.

[0032] According to some embodiments, which can be combined with any other embodiments described herein, the sealing 160 includes a stiffness gradient. In particular, the material of the sealing can be configured for providing a stiffness which decreases from the sealing base 161 to the sealing top 162. For instance, the structure and/or the material composition and/or the geometry of the sealing 160 may be selected such that the stiffness gradually decreases from the sealing base 161 to the sealing top 162. For example, the sealing 160 may be configured to have an elastic modulus which decreases from the sealing base 161 to the sealing top 162.

[0033] Additionally or alternatively, the structure of the sealing 160, e.g. a porosity of the sealing material, may change from the sealing base 161 to the sealing top 162 such that the stiffness k top of the sealing top is less than the stiffness k base of the sealing base 161. For example, the porosity of the sealing top 162 may be higher than the porosity of the sealing base 161. In particular, the porosity of the sealing 160 may gradually increase from the sealing base 161 to the sealing top. For instance, the porosity can be provided by a foam structure and/or a comb-like structure.

[0034] Providing a lock valve with a sealing including a stiffness gradient has the advantage that particle generation due to wear of the sealing can substantially be reduced or even eliminated. In particular, by providing a sealing including a stiffness gradient as described herein, a sealing with a supportive sealing base and a flexible sealing top can be obtained. Accordingly, the sealing as described herein is beneficially configured such that metal-to-metal contact, e.g. between the base structure and the shutter, can be avoided while at the same time friction at the interface between the sealing top and the shutter can substantially be reduced or even eliminated.

[0035] In the following, with exemplary reference to FIGS. 1 and 2, further details of the lock valve 100 according to embodiments of the present disclosure are described. FIG. 1 shows a schematic sectional view of the lock valve in a closed state and FIG. 2 shows a schematic sectional view of the lock valve in an open state. In particular, as can be seen from FIGS. 1 and 2, according to embodiments which can be combined with any other embodiments described herein, the lock valve 100 typically includes a mechanism 120 for opening and closing the valve opening 111. The mechanism 120 for opening and closing the valve opening includes a flap mechanism 121 and a locking mechanism 122.

[0036] In particular, as exemplarily shown in FIG. 2, the flap mechanism 121 can be provided on a first side 111A of the valve opening 111 and the locking mechanism 122 can be provided on an opposite second side 111B of the valve opening 111. As exemplarily shown in FIGS. 1 and 2, the flap mechanism 121 and the locking mechanism 122 are typically connected to the base structure 110. The flap mechanism 121 typically includes the shutter 140 for closing the valve opening 111. The locking mechanism 122 includes a latch 150 for securing the shutter 140 in the closed position of the lock valve, as exemplarily shown in FIG. 1. In particular, the latch 150 may be provided with an engaging element 151 which is configured to engage with an at least partially complementary contour 143 formed on the shutter 140 in order to secure the shutter in the closed position. As exemplarily shown in FIG. 2, the shutter 140 can be mounted to a lever shaft 123. The lever shaft 123 can be rotatable around a rotation axis. The latch 150 can be mounted to a locking shaft 124, which is typically rotatable around a rotation axis, as exemplarily shown in FIG. 2.

[0037] In the present disclosure, a“mechanism for opening and closing the valve opening” can be understood as a mechanism which is configured for opening and closing the valve opening or valve aperture. In particular, the mechanism for opening and closing the valve opening can be understood as a mechanism which is configured for providing an airtight sealing of the valve opening or valve aperture. The“mechanism for opening and closing the valve opening” may also be referred to as“opening/closing-mechanism” herein.

[0038] In FIGS. 1 to 5, coordinate systems including a first direction 101, a second direction 102, and a third direction 103 are shown. For instance, the first direction 101 can be an x-direction, the second direction 102 can be a y- direction, and the third direction 103 can be a z-direction. In particular, the first direction 101 can be a horizontal direction and the second direction 102 can be a vertical direction. More specifically, the first direction 101 may be parallel to a main surface of the base structure 110 to which the sealing 160 is connected. The third direction 103 may be perpendicular to the first direction, i.e. perpendicular to the main surface of the base structure 110 to which the sealing 160 is connected.

[0039] According to embodiments, which can be combined with any other embodiments described herein, the valve opening 111 is a longitudinal valve opening having a length Ll extending in the second direction 102 and a width W extending in the first direction 101. For instance, the length Ll of the valve opening can be selected from a range having a lower limit of Ll = 1.0 m, particularly a lower limit of Ll = 1.5 m, more particularly a lower limit of Ll = 2.0 m and an upper limit of Ll = 2.5 m, particularly an upper limit of Ll = 3.5 m, more particularly an upper limit of Ll = 4.0 m, more particularly an upper limit of Ll = 4.5 m. The width W of the valve opening can be selected from a range having a lower limit of W = 5 cm, particularly a lower limit of W = 7 cm, more particularly a lower limit of W = 9 cm and an upper limit of W = 16 cm, particularly an upper limit of W = 25 cm, more particularly an upper limit of W = 50 cm. Typically, the selected width of the valve opening extends over the selected length of the valve opening.

[0040] According to embodiments which can be combined with any other embodiments described herein, the valve opening 111 is configured for transferring a substrate as described herein, particularly a large area substrate, through the valve opening 111.

[0041] In the present disclosure, the term“substrate” or“large area substrate” as used herein shall particularly embrace inflexible substrates, e.g., glass plates and metal plates. However, the present disclosure is not limited thereto, and the term“substrate” can also embrace flexible substrates such as a web or a foil. According to some embodiments, the substrate can be made of any material suitable for material deposition. For instance, the substrate can be made of a material selected from the group consisting of glass (for instance soda-lime glass, borosilicate glass etc.), metal, polymer, ceramic, compound materials, carbon fiber materials, mica or any other material or combination of materials which can be coated by a deposition process.

[0042] According to embodiments, which can be combined with any other embodiments described herein, a“large area substrate” as described herein can have a size of at least 0.01 m , specifically at least 0.1 m , and more specifically at least 0.5 m . For instance, a large area substrate or carrier can be GEN 4.5, which corresponds to about 0.67 m 2 substrates (0.73 x 0.92m), GEN 5, which corresponds to about 1.4 m 2 substrates (1.1 m x 1.3 m), GEN 7.5, which corresponds to about 4.29 m 2 substrates (1.95 m x 2.2 m), GEN 8.5, which corresponds to about 5.7m 2 substrates (2.2 m x 2.5 m), or even GEN 10, which corresponds to about 8.7 m 2 substrates (2.85 m x 3.05 m). Even larger generations such as GEN 11 and GEN 12 and corresponding substrate areas can similarly be implemented. Accordingly, the substrate can be selected from the group consisting of GEN 1, GEN 2, GEN 3, GEN 3.5, GEN 4, GEN 4.5, GEN 5, GEN 6, GEN 7, GEN 7.5, GEN 8, GEN 8.5, GEN 10, GEN 11, and GEN 12. In particular, the substrate can be selected from the group consisting of GEN 4.5, GEN 5, GEN 7.5, GEN 8.5, GEN 10, GEN 11, and GEN 12, or larger generation substrates. Further, the substrate thickness can be from 0.1 to 1.8 mm, particularly about 0.9 mm or below, such as 0.7 mm or 0.5.

[0043] With exemplary reference to FIGS. 3 A to 3F, further embodiments of the sealing of the lock valve according to the present disclosure are described.

[0044] With exemplary reference to FIG. 3A, according to some embodiments which can be combined with any other embodiments described herein, the base structure 110 includes a reception 113. In particular, the reception is provided around the valve opening. As exemplarily shown in FIG. 3 A, typically, the sealing base 161 is arranged in the reception 113. For instance, the sealing base 161 can be press fitted or jammed into the reception.

[0045] According to some embodiments, which can be combined with any other embodiments described herein, the sealing 160 can be an integral one- piece element. Alternatively, the sealing top 162 may be a separate element which is connected to the sealing base 161. For instance, the sealing top 162 can be made of a different material than the sealing base 161. In particular, the sealing top may include a material having a lower elastic modulus than the sealing base. Accordingly, the sealing top can be flexible and compressible. Typically, the sealing top and/or the sealing base are made of polymeric material. [0046] The arrow F in FIGS. 3 A to 3F indicates the force acting on the sealing when the lock valve is closed, i.e. when the shutter is in a closed position as exemplarily shown in FIG. 1. Accordingly, the arrow F indicates the compression force of the shutter on the sealing when the lock valve is closed.

[0047] The arrow A 3 in FIGS. 3 A to 3F indicates the supportive feature of the sealing. In particular, the arrow A 3 indicates a stiffness of the sealing provided in the third direction 103. Typically, the stiffness of the sealing provided in the third direction is provided by the sealing base. In particular, the stiffness of the sealing 160 provided in the third direction 103 is selected such that a contact of the shutter 140 with the base structure 110 is avoided. Accordingly, in the case that the shutter and the base structure are made of metallic material, beneficially a metal-to-metal contact is avoided such that particle generation can be substantially reduced or even eliminated.

[0048] The arrow Ai in FIGS. 3A to 3F indicates a flexible feature of the sealing. In particular, the arrow Ai indicates a flexibility of the sealing provided in the first direction 101. Typically, the flexibility of the sealing provided in the first direction is provided by the sealing top having a lower stiffness than the sealing base. Accordingly, friction between the sealing and the shutter can substantially be reduced or even eliminated, since the flexible feature of the sealing allows for a transversal movement of the sealing. In other words, the sealing is configured such that the sealing contact with the shutter follows a movement of the shutter relative to the base structure, such that friction at the sealing contact with the shutter can substantially be reduced or even eliminated. Accordingly, instead of friction mainly bulk material deformation of the sealing occurs.

[0049] According to some embodiments, which can be combined with any other embodiments described herein, the sealing top 162 may include a sealing contact element 164, as exemplarily shown in FIG. 3 A. In particular, the sealing contact element 164 may have a lower stiffness than of the sealing top 162. For example, compared to the sealing top 162, the sealing contact element 164 may be soft. Typically, the sealing contact element 164 is flexible and compressible. More specifically, the elastic modulus of the sealing contact element 164 may be lower than the elastic modulus the sealing top 162. Typically, the sealing contact element 164 of the sealing top 162 provides the sealing contact with the shutter when the lock valve is closed. In particular, the sealing contact element 164 can be configured to provide a line contact with the shutter when the lock valve is closed. Providing a sealing contact element 164 as described herein can be beneficial for compensating or equalizing vacuum chamber tolerances (e.g. manufacturing tolerances, imperfect flatness, etc.) and/or providing an airtight seal at relatively low compression force.

[0050] With exemplary reference to FIG. 3B, according to some embodiments, which can be combined with any other embodiments described herein, the sealing 160 includes a fixture 163 for fixing the sealing 160 to the base structure 110. For instance, the fixture 163 can be configured for fixing the sealing base 161 to the base structure 110. For example, the fixture 163 can be fixed to the base structure by fixing elements, e.g. screws, clamps, pins or other fixation elements.

[0051] Accordingly, compared to conventional sealings, e.g. O-Rings, a separate sealing fixture is provided. In particular, providing a separate sealing fixture for fixing the sealing base to the base structure can be beneficial for reducing or even eliminating friction at the interface between the sealing and the base structure. Accordingly, a movement of the sealing base relative to the base structure can be avoided. As exemplarily shown in FIG. 3B, the sealing 160 can be fixed to a top surface of the base structure 110. Alternatively, the sealing 160 can be fixed to the base structure 110, by fixing the sealing via the fixture 163 in a reception 113, as exemplarily shown in FIG. 3C.

[0052] With exemplary reference to FIG. 3D, according to some embodiments which can be combined with any other embodiments described herein, the sealing top 162 may be configured such that the cross-section of the sealing top 162 reduces in the third direction 103, i.e. in the direction towards the sealing contact or sealing interface. As an example, FIG. 3D shows an embodiment in which the sealing top 162 has a drop-like shape. The drop-like sealing top 162 has a base connected to the sealing base 161 and a tip for providing the sealing contact with the shutter.

[0053] In FIG. 3E, an exemplary embodiment is shown in which the sealing base 161 and the sealing top 162 are provided as an integral one-piece element. Further, according to some embodiments which can be combined with any other embodiments described herein, the sealing contact element 164 may be connected to the sealing top 162. Further, as exemplarily shown in FIG. 3E, in an uncompressed state, i.e. when the lock valve is open, a gap 166 may be provided between the fixture 163 and the sealing top 162. In particular, the dimension of the gap 166 may be selected such that upon compression, i.e. upon applying a compression force by the shutter, as exemplarily indicated by arrow F, the sealing top can laterally expand (e.g. in a first direction 101), particularly such that upon compression the sealing top 162 does not press against the fixture 163 in the first direction 101.

[0054] According to some embodiments, which can be combined with any other embodiments described herein, a further gap 167 may be provided between the fixture 163 and the sealing base 161. In particular, the dimension of the further gap 167 may be selected such that upon compression, i.e. upon applying a compression force by the shutter, as exemplarily indicated by arrow F, the sealing base can laterally expand (e.g. in a first direction 101), particularly such that upon compression the sealing base 161 does not press against the fixture 163 in the first direction 101.

[0055] According to some embodiments, which can be combined with any other embodiments described herein, the sealing 160 may include a functional element 165 embedded in the sealing 160, as exemplarily shown in FIG. 3F. In particular, the functional element 165 can be embedded in the sealing base 161. Further, typically the functional element 165 is configured for enhancing the stiffness of the sealing base 161. For instance, the functional element 165 may be selected from the group consisting of: a spring, a U-shaped sheet metal, an S-shaped sheet metal, a V-shaped sheet metal, or any combination thereof.

[0056] According to some embodiments, which can be combined with any other embodiments described herein (not explicitly shown in the figures), the sealing base includes a different material structure than the sealing top. For instance, the porosity of the sealing top may be higher than the porosity of the sealing base. Accordingly, by providing the sealing top with a higher porosity than the sealing base, the sealing top can be provided being more flexible and compressible than the sealing base.

[0057] It is to be understood that the features of the sealing as described with respect to the individual embodiments shown in FIGS. 3 A to 3F may be combined with each other. In other words, features described with respect to an exemplary embodiment shown in one of FIGS. 3 A to 3F are not limited to that specific exemplary embodiment, but can be combined with one or more features described with reference to the other embodiments of the sealing described herein.

[0058] With exemplary reference to FIG. 4, according to embodiments which can be combined with any other embodiments described herein, the lock valve 100 for vacuum sealing includes a housing 170 having a first aperture 171 and a second aperture 172. For instance, the first aperture 171 may be provided in a first wall of the housing and the second aperture 172 may be provided in a second wall of the housing opposite the first wall of the housing. For example, as exemplarily shown in FIG. 5, the dimensions of the second aperture 172 may be larger than the dimensions of the first aperture 171. Further, the lock valve 100 can include a lock valve inlay 175 which is arranged in the housing 170. For example, the lock valve inlay 175 may be attached to an interior surface 173 of a wall of the housing. The lock valve inlay 175 can include a base structure 110 having a longitudinal valve opening having a length Ll in a second direction 102. Typically, the valve opening 111 is configured and arranged to be congruent with the first aperture 171 provided in the housing 170. Alternatively, the dimensions of the first aperture 171 may be larger than the dimensions of the valve opening 111 and smaller than the dimensions of the base structure 110 attached to the interior surface of the wall of the housing. Accordingly, as exemplarily shown in FIG. 4, the first aperture 171 can be closed by the shutter 140 to provide an airtight sealing.

[0059] Additionally, the lock valve inlay may include a mechanism 120 for opening and closing the valve opening 111. As exemplarily described with reference to FIGS. 1 and 2, the mechanism 120 for opening and closing the valve opening includes a flap mechanism 121 and a locking mechanism 122. The flap mechanism 121 can be provided on one side of the valve opening 111 and the locking mechanism 122 can be provided on the opposite side of the valve opening 111. The flap mechanism 121 and the locking mechanism 122 are typically connected to the base structure 110.

[0060] Further, as exemplarily shown in FIG. 4, the lock valve includes a base structure 110 having a valve opening 111, a shutter 140 for closing the valve opening 111, and a sealing 160. As described in more detail with reference to FIGS.l to 3F the sealing includes a sealing base connected to the base structure. Further the sealing includes a sealing top for providing a sealing contact with the shutter. The sealing base has a higher stiffness than the sealing top.

[0061] With exemplary reference to FIG. 5, a vacuum chamber 200 according to embodiments of the present disclosure is described. The vacuum chamber 200 includes at least one lock valve 100. For example, the vacuum chamber can include a first lock valve 100 A and a second lock valve 100B. More specifically, the first lock valve 100 A can be provided in a wall of the vacuum chamber and the second lock valve 100B can be provided in an opposite wall of the vacuum chamber as exemplarily shown in FIG. 5. For example, the at least one lock valve 100 can be a lock valve according to embodiments described herein, e.g. with reference to FIGS. 1 to 4. In particular, the at least one lock valve 100 of the vacuum chamber 200 includes a base structure 110 having a valve opening 111, a shutter 140 for closing the valve opening 111, and a sealing 160. The sealing 160 includes a sealing base 161 connected to the base structure 110. Further, the sealing 160 includes a sealing top 162 for providing a sealing contact with the shutter 140. The sealing base 161 has a higher stiffness than the sealing top 162. With exemplary reference to FIGS. 3 A to 3F, various embodiments of the sealing 160 are described which can be employed in a lock valve for a vacuum chamber 200 as described herein.

[0062] In the present disclosure, a“vacuum chamber” can be understood as a chamber in which a technical vacuum is provided, for instance a technical vacuum having a vacuum pressure of less than, for example, 10 mbar. Typically, the pressure in a vacuum chamber as described herein may be between 10 -5 mbar and about 10 -8 mbar, more typically between 10 -5 mbar and 10 7 mbar, and even more typically between about 10 6 mbar and about 10 7 mbar. According to some embodiments, the pressure in the vacuum chamber may be considered to be either a partial pressure of an evaporated material within the vacuum chamber or the total pressure (which may approximately be the same when only the evaporated material is present as a component to be deposited in the vacuum chamber). In some embodiments, the total pressure in the vacuum chamber may range from about 10 4 mbar to about 10 7 mbar, especially in the case that a second component besides the evaporated material is present in the vacuum chamber (such as a gas or the like).

[0063] Accordingly, it is to be understood that a vacuum chamber as described herein can be evacuable to vacuum, and may include respective equipment, such as vacuum suction outlets, vacuum pumping outlets or vacuum ports which may be connectable to vacuum pumps. Further, the vacuum chamber according to embodiments described herein may have a substrate transport system for transporting the substrate within the vacuum chamber and/or to a further vacuum chamber (e.g. a vacuum processing chamber). In some embodiments, the vacuum chamber may include a carrier for carrying the substrate within and/or through the vacuum chamber.

[0064] For instance, the vacuum chamber 200 can be a load lock chamber. A “load lock chamber” may be understood as a chamber for a vacuum processing system, e.g. as described with reference to FIG. 6. For instance, the load lock chamber may provide a transition chamber from atmospheric conditions to low pressure or vacuum. For instance, the load lock chamber according to embodiments described herein may have a substrate inlet for receiving a substrate being delivered in atmospheric conditions, and a substrate outlet, which is adapted for being connected to a vacuum chamber, such as a processing chamber or an intermediate chamber. Typically, the load lock chamber may have a vacuum sealable valve at the substrate inlet and at the substrate outlet. In particular, the vacuum sealable valve at the substrate inlet and at the substrate outlet may be a lock valve according to embodiments described herein.

[0065] With exemplary reference to FIG. 6, a vacuum processing system 300 for processing a substrate according to embodiments of the present disclosure is described. In particular, FIG. 6 shows a schematic top view of the vacuum processing system. As exemplarily shown in FIG. 6, the vacuum processing system 300 includes a vacuum processing chamber 310 being adapted for processing the substrate. Further, the vacuum processing system 300 includes at least one load lock chamber 320 being configured for transferring the substrate from atmospheric conditions to vacuum conditions. The load lock chamber includes at least one lock valve 100 for vacuum sealing. As exemplarily described with reference to FIGS. 1 to 4, the at least one lock valve 100 includes a base structure 110 having a valve opening 111, a shutter 140 for closing the valve opening 111, and a sealing 160. The sealing 160 includes a sealing base 161 connected to the base structure 110. Further, the sealing 160 includes a sealing top 162 for providing a sealing contact with the shutter 140. The sealing base 161 has a higher stiffness than the sealing top 162. With exemplary reference to FIGS. 3 A to 3F, various embodiments of the sealing 160 are described which can be employed in a lock valve for the vacuum processing system 300 as described herein. Accordingly, the at least one lock valve 100 employed in the vacuum processing system can be a lock valve 100 as described with reference to FIGS. 1 to 4.

[0066] Accordingly, beneficially a vacuum processing system can be provided in which particle generation due to wear of the sealing can be substantially reduced or even eliminated. Thus, embodiments of the vacuum processing system have the advantage that improved and high quality processing results can be achieved.

[0067] As exemplarily shown in FIG. 6, the vacuum processing system 300 may include a first vacuum processing arrangement 301 and a second vacuum processing arrangement 302. The first vacuum processing arrangement 301 includes a first load lock chamber 320A and a first vacuum processing chamber 310A. Accordingly, the second vacuum processing arrangement 302 may include a second load lock chamber 320B and a second vacuum processing chamber 310B. Further, as exemplarily shown in FIG. 6, the first load lock chamber 320A and the second load lock chamber 320B can include lock valves 100 according to embodiments described. For instance, the lock valves 100 can be provided for a connection to an adjacent substrate loading module 350 for loading a substrate into the processing vacuum processing system.

[0068] According to embodiments which can be combined with any other embodiments described herein, the first vacuum processing chamber 310A and the second vacuum processing chamber 310B can provide deposition regions having one or more deposition sources or deposition source arrays, which are indicated by reference numerals 333 and 334. Further, as exemplarily shown in FIG. 6, a further vacuum chamber (321, 322) may be provided between the respective load lock chamber (320A, 320B) and the respective vacuum processing chamber (310A, 310B) of the first vacuum processing arrangement 301 and the second vacuum processing arrangement 302. Such a configuration may be beneficial for generating a first vacuum with a first vacuum pressure in the respective load lock chambers (320A, 320B) and for generating a second vacuum with a second vacuum pressure in the further vacuum chambers (321, 322). Accordingly, the vacuum pressure can be decreased in two separate steps. As exemplarily shown in FIG. 6, the further vacuum chambers (321, 322) can include lock valves 100 according to embodiments described herein for connecting the further vacuum chambers to the load lock chambers and the vacuum processing chambers.

[0069] According to some embodiments, which can be combined with other embodiments described herein, the vacuum processing system can be configured for stationary layer deposition on the substrate. Alternatively, the processing apparatus can be configured for dynamic layer deposition on the substrate, as exemplarily shown in FIG. 6. A dynamic deposition process, e.g. a sputter deposition process, can be understood as a deposition process in which the substrate is moved through the deposition area along the transport direction while the sputter deposition process is conducted. In other words, the substrate is not stationary during the sputter deposition process.

[0070] Accordingly, the vacuum processing system can be configured for dynamic processing, particularly dynamic deposition, having an in-line processing arrangement. An “in-line processing arrangement” can be understood as an arrangement of two or more vacuum chambers arranged in line. More specifically, an “in-line processing arrangement” as described herein can be configured for deposition of one or more layers on a vertical substrate. For instance, the one or more layers can be deposited in a stationary deposition process or a dynamic deposition process. The deposition process can be a PVD-process, e.g. sputter process, or a CVD process. An in-line processing arrangement, particularly configured for dynamic layer deposition, provides for a uniform processing of the substrate, for example, a large area substrate such as a rectangular glass plate. The processing tools, such as the one or more deposition sources, extend mainly in one direction (e.g., the vertical direction) and the substrate is moved in a second, different direction (e.g., a first transport direction 1 or a second transport direction , which can be horizontal directions as exemplarily shown in FIG. 6). Accordingly, on both sides of the respective vacuum processing chamber (310A, 31 OB), adjacent further vacuum chambers (321, 325 and 322, 326) may be provided.

[0071] Accordingly, in view of the above, it is to be understood that the embodiments as described herein provide for an improved lock valve for vacuum sealing, an improved vacuum chamber and an improved vacuum processing system with which at least some of the problems in the art can be overcome. In particular, embodiments as described herein provide for a lock valve with which wear of the sealing can substantially be reduced or even eliminated, such that particle generation can substantially be reduced or even eliminated. More specifically, as described above, the sealing of the lock valve is beneficially configured to include a functional defragmentation, e.g. having a first sealing portion being optimized with respect to fixation, a second sealing portion being optimized with respect to supportive properties, a third sealing portion being optimized with respect to flexibility, and a fourth sealing portion being optimized with respect to compressibility for providing the sealing contact.

[0072] Accordingly, by employing a lock valve according to embodiments described herein in a vacuum chamber or a vacuum processing system, an improved vacuum chamber and an improved vacuum processing system can be provided, with which improved and high quality processing results can be achieved.

[0073] While the foregoing is directed to embodiments of the disclosure, other and further embodiments of the disclosure may be devised without departing from the basic scope thereof, and the scope thereof is determined by the claims that follow. [0074] In particular, this written description uses examples to disclose the disclosure, including the best mode, and also to enable any person skilled in the art to practice the described subject-matter, including making and using any devices or systems and performing any incorporated methods. While various specific embodiments have been disclosed in the foregoing, mutually non exclusive features of the embodiments described above may be combined with each other. The patentable scope is defined by the claims, and other examples are intended to be within the scope of the claims if the claims have structural elements that do not differ from the literal language of the claims, or if the claims include equivalent structural elements with insubstantial differences from the literal language of the claims.