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Title:
CARRIER FOR A ROLLER TRANSPORT SYSTEM, ROLLER TRANSPORT SYSTEM AND VACUUM PROCESSING APPARATUS HAVING THE SAME
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2021/228389
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
According to an aspect of the present disclosure, a carrier (100) for being transported in a transport direction (X) on a roller transport track (200a, 200b) is provided. The carrier (100) includes a first roller contact surface (120a) configured for supporting the carrier (100) on at least one first roller (210a) of the roller transport track (200a), and a second roller contact surface (120b) configured for supporting the carrier (100) on at least one second roller (210b) of the roller transport track (200b), wherein the first contact roller surface (120a) and the second contact roller surface (120b) are separated in the transport direction (X) with a space therebetween. According to further aspects, a roller transport system and a vacuum processing apparatus are provided.

Inventors:
EHMANN CHRISTIAN WOLFGANG (DE)
HEIMEL OLIVER (DE)
Application Number:
PCT/EP2020/063375
Publication Date:
November 18, 2021
Filing Date:
May 13, 2020
Export Citation:
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Assignee:
APPLIED MATERIALS INC (US)
EHMANN CHRISTIAN WOLFGANG (DE)
HEIMEL OLIVER (DE)
International Classes:
C23C14/04; B65D19/00; B65G13/00; B65G54/02; C23C14/50; C23C14/56; C23C16/04; C23C16/458; C23C16/54; H01L21/677
Domestic Patent References:
WO2019081010A12019-05-02
WO2017050350A12017-03-30
Foreign References:
FR2757827A11998-07-03
US5667065A1997-09-16
US20170244070A12017-08-24
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
ZIMMERMANN & PARTNER PATENTANWÄLTE MBB (DE)
Download PDF:
Claims:
CLAIMS

1. A carrier (100) for being transported in a transport direction (X) on a roller transport track (200a, 200b), the carrier (100) comprising: a first roller contact surface (120a) configured for supporting the carrier (100) on at least one first roller (210a, 210b) of the roller transport track (200a, 200b); and a second roller contact surface (120b) configured for supporting the carrier (100) on at least one second roller (210a, 210b) of the roller transport track (200a, 200b), wherein the first roller contact surface (120a) and the second roller contact surface (120b) are separated in the transport direction (X) with a space therebetween.

2. The carrier (100) according to claim 1, wherein the first roller contact surface (120a) has a first length in the transport direction (X), and the second roller contact surface (120b) has a second length in the transport direction (X), wherein the length of the space is equal to or greater than half of the first length and/or half of the second length.

3. The carrier (100) according to claim 2, wherein the first length and the second length are greater than a length between neighboring rollers (210a, 210b) of the roller transport track (200a, 200b).

4. The carrier (100) according to any one of claims 1 to 3, wherein the first roller contact surface (120a) is arranged at a forward end of the carrier (100), the second roller contact surface (120b) is arranged at a rearward end of the carrier (100), and the space is arranged at the center of the carrier (100).

5. The carrier (100) according to any one of claims 1 to 4, wherein the first and second roller contact surfaces (120a, 120b) comprise a sloped surface on a forward end of the respective first and second roller contact surfaces (120a, 120b) and/or a sloped surface on a rearward end of the respective first and second roller contact surfaces (120a, 120b). 6. The carrier (100) according to any one of claims 1 to 5, wherein the first and second roller contact surfaces (120a, 120b) are attached to the carrier (100) with an elastic means (124).

7. The carrier (100) according to any one of claims 1 to 6, wherein the first and second roller contact surfaces (120a, 120b) are attached to the carrier (100) with a pivot (125) such that the first and second roller contact surfaces (120a, 120b) can rotate about an axis in the transverse direction (Z), wherein the transverse direction (Z) is perpendicular to the transport direction (X). 8. The carrier (100) according to any one of claims 1 to 7, wherein the first and second roller contact surfaces (120a, 120b) are flat contact surfaces for contacting a cylindrical roller, or convex contact surfaces for contacting a concave roller.

9. The carrier (100) according to any one of claims 1 to 8, wherein the carrier (100) is configured for being transported in a vertical or near-vertical orientation. 10. The carrier (100) according to any one of claims 1 to 9, wherein the carrier

(100) is configured for supporting a substrate (S) or a mask in a vacuum processing apparatus.

11. A roller transport system comprising: a roller transport track (200a, 200b) comprising a plurality of rollers (210a, 210b), and a carrier (100) according to any one of claims 1 to 10.

12. The roller transport system according to claim 11, wherein: the carrier (100) is oriented in a vertical or near-vertical orientation; the roller transport track (200a, 200b) is arranged at the bottom of the carrier (100); and the roller transport system further comprises an upper transport track (400) arranged at the top of the carrier (100) configured for maintaining the carrier (100) in the vertical or near-vertical orientation.

13. The roller transport system according to claim 12, wherein the upper transport track (400) comprises at least a magnetic guiding element (410) configured for contactlessly guiding the carrier (100) in a transverse direction (Z) or a plurality of rollers configured for guiding the carrier (100) in the transverse direction (Z), the transverse direction (Z) being normal to the transport direction (X).

14. A vacuum processing apparatus for depositing material onto a substrate (S), comprising at least one vacuum processing chamber and a roller transport system according to any one of claims 11 to 13 for transporting a carrier (100) according to any one of claims 1 to 10 into or out of the at least one vacuum processing chamber. 15. The vacuum processing apparatus according to claim 14, wherein the carrier

(100) is a substrate carrier configured for carrying the substrate (S), or wherein the carrier (100) is a mask carrier configured for carrying a mask.

Description:
CARRIER FOR A ROLLER TRANSPORT SYSTEM, ROLLER TRANSPORT SYSTEM AND VACUUM PROCESSING APPARATUS

HAVING THE SAME

TECHNICAL FIELD

[0001] Embodiments of the present disclosure relate to a carrier for being transported on a roller transport track, particularly for supporting a substrate or a mask in a vacuum processing apparatus. Further embodiments of the present disclosure relate to a vacuum processing apparatus having a roller transport track for transporting said carrier into and out of a vacuum processing chamber. More specifically, embodiments of the present disclosure relate to apparatuses and methods for transportation of carriers employable in processing systems for vertical substrate processing, e.g. material deposition on large area substrates for display production.

BACKGROUND

[0002] Techniques for layer deposition on a substrate include, for example, sputter deposition, physical vapor deposition (PVD), chemical vapor deposition (CVD) and thermal evaporation. Coated substrates may be used in several applications and in several technical fields. For instance, coated substrates may be used in the field of display devices. Display devices can be used in the manufacture of television screens, computer monitors, mobile phones, other hand-held devices, and the like for displaying information. Typically, displays are produced by coating a substrate with a stack of layers of different materials.

[0003] In order to deposit a layer stack, an in-line arrangement of processing modules can be used. An in-line processing system includes a plurality of subsequent processing modules, such as deposition modules and optionally further processing modules, e.g., cleaning modules and/or etching modules, wherein processing aspects are subsequently conducted in the processing modules such that a plurality of substrates can continuously or quasi-continuously be processed in the in-line processing system.

[0004] The substrate or mask may be carried by a carrier, i.e. a carrying device for carrying the substrate. The carrier is typically transported through a vacuum system using a transport system. The transport system may be configured for conveying the carrier having the substrate positioned thereon along one or more transport paths. For example, at least two transport paths can be provided next to each other in the vacuum system, e.g. a first transport path for transporting the carrier in a forward direction and a second transport path for transporting the carrier in a return direction opposite to the forward direction. Alternatively, a single transport path may be provided for transporting the carrier in either one of a forward direction and a return direction.

[0005] Obtaining an accurate and smooth transportation of the substrate carriers and/or mask carriers through a vacuum system is challenging. For instance, in a roller- based transport system, an even slightly mis-aligned roller may cause the carrier being transported to impact the mis-aligned roller and to cause uneven loading of the rollers. Increased load on specific rollers may cause increased particle generation which can deteriorate the manufacturing process. Accordingly, there is a demand for transportation of carriers in processing systems with reduced or minimized particle generation. Further, challenges are, for example, to provide robust carrier transport systems for high temperature vacuum environments at low costs.

[0006] Accordingly, there is a continuing demand for improved apparatuses and methods for transportation of carriers as well as for providing improved vacuum processing systems that overcome at least some problems of the state of the art.

SUMMARY

[0007] In light of the above, a carrier for being transported on a roller transport track, and a vacuum processing apparatus having a roller transport track for transporting said carrier into and out of a vacuum processing chamber are provided. Further aspects, advantages, and features are apparent from the dependent claims, the description, and the accompanying drawings.

[0008] According to an aspect of the present disclosure, a carrier for being transported in a transport direction on a roller transport track is provided. The carrier includes a first roller contact surface configured for supporting the carrier on at least one first roller of the roller transport track, and a second roller contact surface configured for supporting the carrier on at least one second roller of the roller transport track, wherein the first contact roller surface and the second contact roller surface are separated in the transport direction with a space therebetween.

[0009] According to a further aspect of the present disclosure, a roller transport system is provided. The roller transport system includes a roller transport track comprising a plurality of rollers and a carrier according to aspects of the present disclosure.

[0010] According to a yet further aspect of the present disclosure, a vacuum processing apparatus for depositing material onto a substrate is provided. The vacuum processing apparatus includes at least one vacuum processing chamber and a roller transport system according to aspects of the present disclosure for transporting a carrier according to aspects of the present disclosure into or out of the at least one vacuum processing chamber.

[0011] The aspects of the present disclosure provide a carrier for transporting on a roller transport track which reduces impact and load on a mis-aligned roller as the carrier is transported thereon. Further, the loading on the rollers is more evenly distributed across the rollers of the roller transport track. The reduced impact and load on the rollers reduce the amount of wear of the rollers and the roller contact surface of the carrier, which leads to reduced particle generation. Further, a carrier according to aspects of the present disclosure may be transported more smoothly and more efficiently on the roller transport track by reducing an induced carrier pitch angle caused by a mis-aligned roller. BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0012] 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 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:

FIG. 1 shows a schematic side view of a roller transport system having no misaligned rollers; FIGS. 2A-2B show schematic side views of a roller transport system according to the prior art having misaligned rollers;

FIGS. 3A-3B show schematic side views of a roller transport system according to embodiments described herein;

FIGS. 4A-4B show detail side views of a roller transport system having compliant roller contact surfaces according to embodiments described herein; and

FIG. 5 shows a schematic cross-sectional end view of a roller transport system according to embodiments described herein. DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF EMBODIMENTS

[0013] Reference will now be made in detail to the various embodiments, one or more examples of which are illustrated in each figure. 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.

[0014] Within the following description of the drawings, the same reference numbers refer to the same or to similar components. Generally, only the differences with respect to the individual embodiments are described. Unless specified otherwise, the description of a part or aspect in one embodiment can apply to a corresponding part or aspect in another embodiment as well.

[0015] Reference will first be made to FIG. 1 which shows a schematic side view of a roller transport system for transporting a carrier 100 typical of the prior art. The roller transport system includes at least one roller transport track 200a, 200b, wherein roller transport track 200a, 200b includes a plurality of rollers 210a, 210b.

[0016] In the present disclosure, carrier 100 is provided for supporting a planar object, typically a planar substrate or a planar mask. However, the present disclosure is not limited thereto, and carrier 100 may be configured for supporting other products or tooling typically used in a vacuum processing apparatus. Carrier 100 includes a carrier body 110 which constitutes the structure of carrier 100. Carrier body 110 may include a substrate surface upon which a substrate S may be supported. The substrate surface may include an electrostatic chuck configured for electrostatically holding substrate S to the substrate surface.

[0017] Roller transport track 200a, 200b is primarily provided to support a supported weight W of carrier 100, while also providing an efficient means for moving carrier 100 along a length of roller transport track 200a, 200b. Rollers 210a, 210b may include at least one bearing, for example, a rolling element bearing, a fluid bearing or a magnetic bearing, so that rollers 210a, 210b may rotate with low friction.

[0018] In the typical prior art, carrier 100 includes a single roller contact surface 120. Roller contact surface 120 extends along a lower surface of carrier body 110 and contacts rollers 210a, 210b of roller transport track 200a, 200b. Roller contact surface 120 typically extends along the entire length, or substantially the entire length, of carrier body 110, and contacts at least two rollers 210a, 210b of roller transport track 200a, 200b such that a supported weight W of carrier 100 is supported. Carrier 100 has a center of gravity CoG.

[0019] In the context of the present disclosure, reference will be made to a “supported weight W” of carrier 100. The supported weight W refers to the portion of weight of carrier 100 which is supported by rollers 210a, 210b, particularly roller transport track 200a, 200b. The supported weight W may correspond to the entire weight of carrier 100, i.e. the entire weight of carrier 100 is supported by the roller transport track 200a, 200b, or may correspond to a partial weight of carrier 100, i.e. only a portion of the entire weight of carrier 100 is supported by the roller transport track 200a, 200b. The latter case may correspond to the situation where other components of the roller transport system are configured for supporting a portion of the weight of carrier 100. In embodiments of the present disclosure, one or more magnetic guiding elements may be provided for contactlessly guiding carrier 100 in the transverse direction Z, and the attractive magnetic force applied by the one or more magnetic guiding elements may act in the vertical direction Y to compensate for and support at least a portion of the weight of carrier 100.

[0020] As exemplarily shown in FIG. 1, a first roller transport track 200a is provided on one side of a valve 300, and a second roller transport track 200b is provided on the other side of valve 300. Valve 300 may be provided between two neighboring vacuum processing chambers, for example, for transporting a carrier 100 from a first vacuum processing chamber to a second vacuum processing chamber. First vacuum processing chamber and first roller transport track 200a may be provided in a first processing module, while second vacuum processing chamber and second roller transport track 200b may be provided in a second processing module. The respective first and second modules may be arranged in a vacuum processing apparatus depending on the processing being carried out, such that carrier 100 may be transported through the vacuum processing apparatus.

[0021] In the context of the present disclosure, a number of directions are defined as follows. A first direction, corresponding to a transport direction X, is arranged in the substantially horizontal direction. Transport direction X is shown in FIG. 1 as being aligned horizontally in the figure. A second direction, corresponding to a vertical direction Y, is arranged in a direction substantially perpendicular to transport direction X, and is substantially aligned with the direction of the force of gravity. Vertical direction Y is shown in FIG. 1 as being aligned vertically in the figure. A third direction, corresponding to a transverse direction Z, is arranged in a direction substantially perpendicular to transport direction X and substantially perpendicular to vertical direction Y. Transverse direction Z would be shown in FIG. 1 as being normal to the figure. Further, in the present disclosure, any reference to a transport axis, a vertical axis or a transverse axis is to be understood as an axis extending in transport direction X, vertical direction Y or transverse direction Z, respectively.

[0022] Roller transport track 200a, 200b is configured for guiding or transporting carrier 100 in transport direction X. In the context of the present disclosure, transport direction X is defined as the direction in which carrier 100 is transported. In the figures, transport direction X is shown to be directed from left to right, in other words, carrier 100 is guided or transported from left to right. This transport direction X may be thought of as a forward transport direction, i.e. a one-way transport of carrier 100. Typically, a pair of roller transport tracks 200a, 200b may be provided, with each roller transport track 200a, 200b being configured for one-way transport of carrier 100 in opposite directions. However, the present disclosure is not limited thereto, and carrier 100 may be guided or transported in either a forward transport direction or a reverse transport direction, i.e. two-way transport of carrier 100. In this case, a single roller transport track 200a, 200b may be provided, with the single roller transport track 200a, 200b being configured for two-way transport of carrier 100.

[0023] Carrier 100 may have a forward end and a rearward end. In the context of the present disclosure, the forward end of carrier 100 is an end of carrier 100 which faces in transport direction X, i.e. the forward end of carrier 100 is at the front of carrier 100 when moving in the forward transport direction. Conversely, the rearward end of carrier 100 is an end of carrier 100 which faces opposite to transport direction X, i.e. the rearward end of carrier 100 is at the rear of carrier 100 when moving in the forward transport direction. However, as discussed above, carrier 100 may be transported in either a forward transport direction or a reverse transport direction. In the case of carrier 100 being transported in the reverse transport direction, the forward end of carrier 100 is at the rear of carrier 100 when moving in the reverse transport direction, i.e. the end of carrier 100 which faces opposite to transport direction X, and the rearward end is at the front of carrier 100 when moving in the reverse transport direction, i.e. the end of carrier 100 which faces in transport direction X.

[0024] The substrate S being carried on carrier 100 may be a large-area substrate for display manufacturing having a size of, e.g., several square meters. Alternatively, the substrate S may be a semiconductor wafer, or may include a plurality of wafers.

[0025] In particular, the substrate S may be a large-area substrate having a size of at least 1 m 2 . The size may be from about 1.375 m 2 (1.1 m x 1.25 m- GEN 5) to about 15 m 2 , more specifically from about 5 m 2 to about 9 m 2 or even up to 15 m 2 . For instance, a substrate can be GEN 7.5, which corresponds to a surface area of about 4.39 m 2 (1.95 m x 2.25 m), GEN 8.5, which corresponds to a surface area of about 5.7 m 2 (2.2 m x 2.5 m), or GEN 10, which corresponds to a surface area of about 9 m 2 (2.88 m x 3.13 m). Even larger generations such as GEN 11 and GEN 12 can be implemented.

[0026] The carrier 100 may have a dimension in a vertical direction Y of 1 m or more, particularly 2 m or more, or even 3 m or more. The carrier 100 may have a dimension in a longitudinal direction, which corresponds to the transport direction X, of 1 m or more, particularly 2 m or more, or even 3 m or more. The carrier 100 may have a size of 5 m 2 or more, particularly 9 m 2 or more, or even 15 m 2 or more.

[0027] Some embodiments described herein involve the notion of carrier 100 being transported in a “vertical or near-vertical orientation”. A vertical orientation of carrier 100 in the context of the present disclosure refers to carrier 100 being aligned to extend in a direction substantially parallel to the direction of the force of gravity, i.e. substantially parallel to vertical direction Y. A near-vertical orientation may be defined as an orientation which deviates from exact verticality (the latter being defined by the gravitational force) by an angle of up to 15 degrees. In a vertical or near- vertical orientation, carrier 100 may support a substrate in a vertically standing or near- vertically standing orientation.

[0028] However, the present disclosure is not limited only to carrier 100 being oriented in a vertical or near- vertical orientation. Alternatively, carrier 100 may be oriented in a horizontal or near-horizontal orientation, i.e. wherein carrier 100 is aligned to extend in a direction substantially parallel to transverse direction Z. In a horizontal or near-horizontal orientation, carrier 100 may support a substrate in a horizontally laying or near-horizontally laying orientation.

[0029] In the context of the present disclosure, carrier 100 is configured for supporting a substrate, however the present disclosure is not limited thereto. Alternatively, carrier 100 may be configured for supporting a mask. According to some embodiments, which may be combined with other embodiments described herein, carrier 100 may be configured for supporting a substrate or a mask in a vacuum processing apparatus.

[0030] Carrier 100 is shown in FIG. 1 to be in a transitional movement across valve 300 in transport direction X, being transported from a first roller transport track 200a to a second roller transport track 200b. The situation shown in FIG. 1 is considered to be the optimal situation in which all of rollers 210a, 210b are perfectly aligned along transport direction X. The respective upper surfaces of all of rollers 210a, 210b are aligned so as to be at the same vertical height. The optimal situation further includes that roller contact surface 120 is perfectly flat along transport direction X. Carrier 100 is shown to be exemplarily supported by five rollers 210a of first roller transport track 200a, and due to the optimal alignment of each of the five rollers 210a supporting carrier 100 and the optimal flatness of roller contact surface 120, it follows that roller contact surface 120 contacts each of the five rollers 210a. Further, due to the optimal alignment of first roller transport track 200a and second roller transport track 200b and the optimal flatness of roller contact surface 120, carrier 100, which is about to contact roller 210b of second roller transport track 200b, will be efficiently transported across valve 300 and onto second roller track 200b. [0031] As a result of this optimal situation, reaction loads R are distributed across each of the respective rollers 210a, 210b which contact roller contact surface 120. Typically, no transport components may be positioned within valve 300, and carrier 100 may be cantilevered across valve 300. It follows that, as carrier 100 is transported across valve 300, a higher reaction load R is provided by the final roller 210a of first roller track 200a. However, no single roller is subjected to an excessive loading, as the supported weight W of carrier 100 is sufficiently distributed across each of the respective rollers 210a.

[0032] However, the optimal situation as exemplarily shown in FIG. 1 is challenging to achieve in practice due to a variety of factors. For example, wear of rollers 210a, 210b or roller contact surface 120, manufacturing variability of rollers 210a, 210b or roller contact surface 120, non-circularity of one or more rollers 210a, 210b, or improper alignment of rollers 210a, 210b during installation or maintenance may cause a misalignment of at least one roller 210a, 210b.

[0033] Further, maintaining optimal alignment between modules of a vacuum processing apparatus may also be challenging, which may lead to first roller transport track 200a and second roller transport track 200b to be misaligned with respect to each other. Further challenges arise when expansion and contraction of neighboring modules occurs due to changes in temperature or vacuum pressure of vacuum processing chambers, potentially leading to a variable misalignment of first roller transport track 200a with respect to second roller transport track 200b.

[0034] Even if the challenges related to maintaining optimal alignment of rollers 210a, 210b could be overcome, thermal issues relating to the carrier 100 may also arise. Additional challenges are faced with respect to the flatness of roller contact surface 120, which is challenging to maintain across the entire length of carrier 100 when subjected to variable thermal conditions. Thermal expansion or contraction of carrier body 110 or roller contact surface 120 may cause roller contact surface 120 to warp, compromising the optimal flatness of roller contact surface 120 which allows for optimal contact between roller contact surface 120 and rollers 210a, 210b. [0035] Reference will now be made to FIG. 2A, which shows a carrier 100 being transported by a roller transport system having misaligned modules. Particularly, the roller transport system includes a first roller transport track 200a in a first module and a second roller transport track 200b in a second module, wherein the first module and the second module are misaligned such that first roller transport track 200a is offset by a vertical distance D from second roller transport track 200b.

[0036] Note that the amount of misalignment as exemplarily shown in the figures may be exaggerated for illustrative purposes. The amount of misalignment may be such that vertical distance D is substantially smaller than illustrated in the figures. The amount of misalignment may be, for example, up to a vertical distance D of 0.5 mm, particularly up to a vertical distance of 1.0 mm, more particularly up to a vertical distance of 2.0 mm.

[0037] When carrier 100 is transported across valve 300 from first roller transport track 200a to second roller transport track 200b, the misalignment between the respective first and second roller transport tracks 200a, 200b causes roller contact surface 120 to now contact only two rollers 210a, 210b.

[0038] A number of disadvantageous effects occur in this situation. Firstly, the supported weight W of carrier 100 is no longer distributed across a large number of rollers, but is rather distributed over only two rollers. Such an increased loading on rollers 210a, 210b may lead to increased wear, which may further exacerbate the problem with continued operation, and may generate particles inside the vacuum processing apparatus. Secondly, carrier 100 is subjected to a pitching movement about the transverse axis, in which the entire carrier 100 pitches at a pitch angle a with respect to transport direction X. Such a pitching movement reduces the efficiency and stability of transporting carrier 100. Thirdly, roller contact surface 120 may impact the first misaligned roller 210b, further increasing wear of roller 210b, potentially causing damage to roller 210b or carrier 100, and potentially causing substrate S to move on carrier 100 or become dislodged. [0039] Further, as the position of the center of gravity CoG of carrier 100 approaches the first misaligned roller 210b in the transport direction X, i.e. as the distance a increases and the distance b decreases, the reaction load Ra provided by roller 210a contacting roller contact surface 120 decreases and the reaction load Rb provided by first misaligned roller 210b contacting roller contact surface 120 increases. Particularly, the reaction load Rb increases and the reaction load Ra decreases to a point where, when the center of gravity CoG of carrier 100 is above the first misaligned roller 210b, i.e. the distance b is zero, the supported weight W of carrier 100 is supported by a single roller. When the center of gravity CoG of carrier 100 moves past the first misaligned roller 210b, carrier 100 will then be subjected to another pitching movement about the transverse axis until roller contact surface 120 contacts another roller 210b of second roller transport track 200b.

[0040] A similar situation is shown in FIG. 2B, which shows a single roller 210a being misaligned with respect to the rollers 210a of a roller transport track 200a. The single roller 210a is offset by a vertical distance D from the plurality of rollers 210a. This misalignment causes the same disadvantageous effects as described above for a misalignment between modules as discussed above in view of FIG. 2A. As carrier 100 is transported in transport direction X along roller transport track 200a, the reaction load Rb provided by the misaligned roller 210a increases and the reaction load Ra provided by one other roller 210a decreases due to the distance a increasing and the distance b decreasing, respectively. At the point where the center of gravity CoG of carrier 100 is above the misaligned roller 210a, i.e. when distance b is equal to zero, the supported weight W of carrier 100 is borne by the misaligned roller 210a. Further, the carrier 100 is subjected to a pitching movement about the transverse axis at pitch angle a with respect to transport direction X. When the center of gravity CoG of carrier 100 moves past the misaligned roller 210a, carrier 100 will then be subjected to another pitching movement about the transverse axis until roller contact surface 120 contacts another roller 210a of roller transport track 200a.

[0041] Solutions to the problems described above are provided by the embodiments described in the present disclosure. Particularly, the embodiments of the present disclosure reduce the susceptibility of high loadings on the rollers 210a, 210b of roller transport track 200a, 200b, reducing wear of the rollers 210a, 210b and reducing particle generation in the vacuum processing apparatus. Further, the embodiments of the present disclosure provide for more stable and more efficient transport of carrier 100 due to reduced susceptibility to pitching movements.

[0042] Reference will now be made to FIGS. 3A and 3B, which show a carrier 100 and a roller transport system according to embodiments of the present disclosure. Carrier 100 is provided for being transported in a transport direction X on a roller transport track, the carrier including a first roller contact surface 120a for supporting the carrier 100 on at least one first roller 210a, 210b of the roller transport track 200a, 200b, and a second roller contact surface 120b configured for supporting the carrier 100 on at least one second roller 210a, 210b of the roller transport track 200a, 200b, wherein the first roller contact surface 120a and the second roller contact surface 120b are separated in the transport direction X with a space therebetween.

[0043] The two situations shown in FIGS. 3 A and 3B are the same situations as exemplarily shown in FIGS. 2A and 2B, respectively. That is, FIG. 3 A exemplarily shows the situation in which two neighboring modules are misaligned, such that first roller transport track 200a is offset by a vertical distance D from second roller transport track 200b. Further, FIG. 3B exemplarily shows the situation in which one roller 210a of roller transport track 200a is misaligned, such that the misaligned roller 210a is offset by vertical distance D from the plurality of rollers 210a of roller transport track 200a.

[0044] According to embodiments of the present disclosure, roller contact surface 120 of the prior art has been replaced with a first roller contact surface 120a and a second roller contact surface 120b, such that the first and second roller contact surfaces 120a, 120b are spaced apart from each other in the transport direction X. In the figures, first and second roller contact surfaces 120a, 120b are shown as two separate components, however the present disclosure is not limited thereto. For example, first and second roller contact surfaces 120a, 120b may be two surfaces of the same component, wherein the component is formed with a recess between first and second roller contact surfaces 120a, 120b.

[0045] By providing first roller contact surface 120a and second roller contact surface 120b with a space therebetween, carrier 100 is supported at all times by at least two rollers 210a, 210b of roller transport track 200a, 200b. The space provided between roller contact surfaces 120a, 120b has the effect of limiting the portion of supported weight W of carrier 100 which is borne by each respective roller 210a, 210b in contact with each of first and second roller contact surfaces 120a, 120b. In other words, by providing a space between first and second roller contact surfaces 120a, 120b, the distance b does not reach zero.

[0046] Further, by providing first roller contact surface 120a and second roller contact surface 120b, the respective roller contact surfaces 120a, 120b are shorter and less susceptible to warping due to variable thermal conditions.

[0047] Distance a is defined as the distance between the center of gravity CoG of carrier 100 and the point at which roller contact surface 120a contacts roller 210a. Similarly, distance b is defined as the distance between the center of gravity CoG of carrier 100 and the point at which roller contact surface 120b contacts roller 210b. Reaction loads Ra, Rb provided by rollers 210a, 210b is proportional to distance a and distance b, respectively. Distances a and b are aimed to be maximized so that the supported weight W borne by rollers 210a, 210b in contact with roller contact surfaces 120a, 120b is as close to equally distributed as practical.

[0048] Further, by maximizing distances a and b, and for a given vertical distance D, the pitch angle b at which carrier 100 pitches is minimized. By minimizing the pitch angle b, and by maintaining contact with at least two rollers 210a, 210b, the pitch movement caused by the misalignment between first and second roller transport track 200a, 200b is minimized, leading to improvements in stability and efficiency of transport of carrier 100. [0049] By comparing FIGS. 2A and 3 A, the advantages afforded by embodiments of the present disclosure can be clearly recognized. Particularly, by providing a space between first and second roller contact surfaces 120a, 120b, the roller 210b of second roller transport track 200b which is in contact with second roller contact surface 120b is different. In FIG. 2A, the first roller 210b of second roller transport track 200b is in contact with roller contact surface 120, while in FIG. 3 A, the first roller 210b is located in the space between first and second roller contact surfaces 120a, 120b. Instead, the second roller 210b of second roller transport track 200b is in contact with second roller contact surface 120b. As a result, the supported weight W of carrier 100 is more evenly distributed between the two rollers 210a, 210b in contact with first and second roller contact surfaces 120a, 120b, and the pitch angle b of carrier 100 is reduced. Particularly advantageous is that, as carrier 100 is transported through valve 300 and past the misalignment between first and second roller transport tracks 200a, 200b, at no point is all of supported weight W of carrier 100 borne by a single roller.

[0050] Similar advantages can be achieved in the situation in which a single roller is misaligned. FIG. 3B refers to the same situation in FIG. 2A discussed above, in which a single roller 210a is misaligned such that the misaligned roller 210a is offset by a vertical distance D from the plurality of rollers 210a. By providing a space between first roller contact surface 120a and second roller contact surface 120b, distance b does not decrease to zero, and the supported weight W of carrier 100 to be borne by the misaligned roller 210a is reduced. Further, the pitch angle b at which carrier 100 pitches is also reduced. The advantageous effects discussed above for the situation in FIG. 3A, in which two modules may be misaligned, are also realized in the situation in FIG. 3B.

[0051] According to some embodiments, which may be combined with other embodiments described herein, first roller contact surface 120a has a first length in transport direction X, and second roller contact surface 120b has a second length in transport direction X, wherein the length of the space is equal to or greater than half the first length or half the second length. [0052] The length of the space may be equal to or greater than half the first length and half the second length. Particularly, the length of the space may be equal to or greater than one fifth of the length of carrier 100. More particularly, the length of the space, the first length and the second length are selected so as to ensure that distance a is always greater than half the first length and that distance b is always greater than half the second length.

[0053] As mentioned above, carrier 100 may have a length in transport direction X of 1 m or more, particularly 2 m or more, more particularly 3 m or more, depending on the size of substrate being processed. The first length and/or the second length may be up to 2/5 of the length of carrier 100, particularly up to 1/4 of the length of carrier 100. First and/or second roller contact surfaces 120a, 120b may have a length in transport direction X of up to 1,200 mm, particularly up to 600 mm, more particularly up to 250 mm.

[0054] According to some embodiments, which may be combined with other embodiments described herein, the first length and the second length are greater than a length between neighboring rollers 210a, 210b of roller transport track 200a, 200b. The term “distance between neighboring rollers” refers to the distance between a center axis of a first roller and a center axis of a second roller adjacent to the first roller. In other words, the first and second roller contact surfaces 120a, 120b are sufficiently long as to span at least the distance between two adjacent rollers. As carrier 100 is transported, the respective first and second roller contact surfaces 120a, 120b contact a second roller 210a, 210b before breaking contact with the adjacent first roller 210a, 210b. This ensures that carrier 100 may roll between rollers without getting stuck between adjacent rollers.

[0055] Optionally, the first length and the second length are at least double the length between neighboring rollers 210a, 210b of roller transport track 200a, 200b. In other words, the first and second roller contact surfaces 120a, 120b are sufficiently long as to span at least the distance between three adjacent rollers. As carrier 100 is transported, the respective first and second roller contact surfaces 120a, 120b are configured to contact at least two adjacent rollers at all times, allowing for the supported weight W of carrier 100 to be distributed among more rollers 210a, 210b, reducing the loading on each single roller 210a, 210b.

[0056] According to some embodiments, which may be combined with other embodiments described herein, first roller contact surface 120a is arranged at a forward end of carrier 100, second roller contact 120b is arranged at a rearward end of carrier 100, and the space is arranged at the center of carrier 100. Particularly, the space is arranged at the center of carrier 100 in the transport direction X.

[0057] Optionally, first roller contact surface 120a may be arranged such that a first end of first roller contact surface 120a is equal to or less than 100 mm, particularly equal to or less than 50 mm, more particularly equal to or less than 20 mm from the forward end of carrier 100. A second end, opposite to the first end, of first roller contact surface 120a is the end at which the space is provided. Similarly, second roller contact surface 120b may be arranged such that a second end of second roller contact surface 120b is equal to or less than 100 mm, particularly equal to or less than 50 mm, more particularly equal to or less than 20 mm from the rearward end of carrier 100. A first end, opposite to the second end, of second roller contact surface 120b is the end at which the space is provided. For both first and second roller contact surfaces 120a, 120b, the respective first end may be referred to as a forward end, while the respective second end may be referred to as a rearward end, when carrier 100 is transported in transport direction X.

[0058] According to some embodiments, which may be combined with other embodiments described herein, first and second roller contact surfaces 120a, 120b comprise a sloped surface on a forward end of the respective first and second roller contact surfaces 120a, 120b and/or a sloped surface on a rearward end of the respective first and second roller contact surfaces 120a, 120b. In other words, first and second roller contact surfaces 120a, 120b may be provided with chamfers at respective forward ends, at respective rearward ends, or at both respective forward and rearward ends. The sloped surface may have a dimension in the vertical direction Y of at least 0.5 mm, particularly at least 1 mm, more particularly at least 2 mm. The sloped surface may have a dimension in the transport direction X of at least 20 mm, more particularly at least 50 mm. By providing a sloped surface at the respective forward and/or rearward ends of first and second roller contact surfaces 120a, 120b, contact established with a roller 210a, 210b may be smoothed on lead-in, and breaking of contact may be smoothed on lead-out. Such a sloped surface allows for carrier 100 to more smoothly roll over a misaligned roller 210a, 210b, reducing the impact loading on a misaligned roller 210a, 210b, and reducing the change of impact damage to carrier 100 or substrate S.

[0059] According to embodiments of the present disclosure, the supported weight W of carrier 100 may be even more evenly distributed by adding compliance to first and second roller contact surfaces 120a, 120b such that more rollers 210a, 210b are contacted by first and second roller contact surfaces 120a, 120b when a misaligned roller is encountered.

[0060] According to some embodiments, which may be combined with other embodiments described herein, first and second roller surface may be attached to carrier 100 with an elastic means 124, as exemplarily shown in FIG. 4A. Note that FIG. 4A shows only a detail view of first roller contact surface 120a, however the same arrangement may be equally applicable to second roller contact surface 120b.

[0061 ] Elastic means 124 may be provided such that first and second roller contact surfaces 120a, 120b may deflect in the vertical direction Y so as to provide enough compliance for each to contact more than one roller 210a, 210b. For example, first and second roller contact surfaces 120a, 120b may be attached to carrier 100 with a spring, a rubber bushing or a flexible member so that at least two rollers 210a, 210b are in contact with first and second roller contact surfaces 120a, 120b when a misaligned roller is encountered. By allowing for at least two rollers 210a, 210b to be contacted, the supported weight W of carrier 100 is distributed across multiple rollers, even further reducing roller loads.

[0062] Elastic means 124 has the additional advantageous effect of providing a suspension effect to the transport of carrier 100. Elastic means 124 may provide a smoother, more efficient transport of carrier 100 by absorbing impacts and vibrations. Elastic means 124 may be further enhanced with the addition of a damping means for more optimal control of impacts and vibrations.

[0063] According to some embodiments, which may be combined with other embodiments described herein, first and second roller contact surfaces 120a, 120b may be attached to carrier 100 with a pivot 125 such that first and second roller contact surfaces 120a, 120b may rotate about an axis in the transverse direction Z, as exemplarily shown in FIG. 4B. Note that FIG. 4B shows only a detail view of first roller contact surface 120a, however the same arrangement may be equally applicable to second roller contact surface 120b.

[0064] Pivot 125 allows for the rotation of first and second roller contact surfaces 120a, 120b so that more than one roller 210a, 210b may contact first and/or second roller contact surface 120a, 120b. Pivot 125 is exemplarily shown as being located approximately at a midpoint along the length of first and second roller contact surface 120a, 120b, respectively, however the present disclosure is not limited thereto, and pivot 125 may be located at a forward end or a rearward end of first and second roller contact surface 120a, 120b. By each contacting at least two rollers 210a, 210b, each respective first and second roller contact surface 120a, 120b may distribute the supported weight W of carrier 100 between multiple rollers 210a, 210b, even further reducing roller loads.

[0065] Pivot 125 may be configured to provide a limited angle of rotation of first and second roller contact surfaces 120a, 120b. For example, bump stops may be provided to limit the rotation of first and second roller contact surfaces 120a, 120b so that even in the case where only one roller is contacted, first and second roller contact surfaces 120a, 120b will still be capable of supporting the supported weight W of carrier 100. Due to the large size of carrier 100 as compared to vertical distance D of a misaligned roller 210a, 210b, the angle of rotation may be small. Pivot 125 may be configured to limit the angle of rotation of first and second roller contact surfaces 120a, 120b to at most 3 degrees, particularly at most 1 degree, more particularly at most 0.5 degrees. [0066] Further, the two embodiments shown in FIGS. 4A and 4B may be combined, wherein first and second roller contact surfaces 120a, 120b are attached to carrier 100 with a pivot 125, and are further provided with an elastic means 124. For example, first and second roller contact surfaces 120a, 120b may be attached to carrier 100 with a pivot 125 at a rearward end of each respective first and second roller contact surfaces 120a, 120b, while an elastic element 124 may be provided at a forward end of each respective first and second roller contact surfaces 120a, 120b.

[0067] Reference will now be made to FIG. 5, which shows a cross-sectional front view of the roller transport system and carrier 100 for a vacuum processing apparatus according to embodiments described herein. The roller transport system is provided with a roller transport track 200 according to embodiments described herein, and a carrier 100 for being transported by roller transport system in transport direction X. According to some embodiments, which may be combined with other embodiments described herein, roller transport track 200 may be arranged at the bottom of carrier 100, and carrier 100 may be oriented in a vertical or near-vertical orientation.

[0068] As described in the embodiments above, carrier 100 is provided with first and second roller contact surfaces 120a, 120b configured to contact a plurality of rollers 210 of roller transport track 200. According to some embodiments, which may be combined with other embodiments described herein, first and second roller contact surfaces 120a, 120b may be flat contact surfaces for contacting a cylindrical roller. A cylindrical roller offers low friction, low wear and low cost. However, additional means for guiding the carrier 100 in the transverse direction Z may be implemented.

[0069] Alternatively, first and second roller contact surfaces 120a, 120b may be convex contact surfaces for contacting a concave roller. For example, first and second roller contact surfaces 120a, 120b may be rods having a circular cross-section, wherein the arc- shaped contact surface is configured for contacting a similarly- shaped concave roller. Such a roller arrangement allows for guidance of the carrier 100 in transverse direction Z in addition to support in vertical direction Y, however such rollers may have higher friction and higher wear as compared to flat contact surfaces with cylindrical rollers. Alternatively, first and second roller contact surfaces 120a, 120b may be V-shaped contact surfaces for contacting a V-grooved roller.

[0070] According to some embodiments, which may be combined with other embodiments described herein, the roller transport system may further include an upper guiding track 400 arranged at the top of carrier 100 configured for maintaining carrier 100 in the vertical or near-vertical orientation. According to further embodiments, the upper guiding track 400 exemplarily shown in FIG. 5 includes at least a magnetic guiding element 410, and carrier 100 may further include at least a magnetic guided element 130. The polarity of magnetic guiding element 410 is arranged opposite to the polarity of magnetic guided element 130 such that magnetic attractive forces contactlessly guide carrier 100 in transverse direction Z. Magnetic contactless guidance of carrier 100 is advantageous in vacuum processing apparatus as the generation of particles is avoided.

[0071] Alternatively, upper guiding track 400 may include a plurality of rollers configured for guiding carrier 100 in transverse direction Z. The plurality of rollers may be arranged to rotate about an axis parallel to vertical direction Y and to contact at least a side surface of carrier 100. The plurality of rollers may be provided on one side of carrier 100 or on both sides of carrier 100.

[0072] The roller transport system may further include a lower guiding track 600 arranged at the bottom of carrier 100. Similar to upper guiding track 400, lower guiding track 600 may be configured for guiding carrier 100 in transverse direction Z, particularly in the case where the plurality of rollers 210 are cylindrical rollers. Lower guiding track 600 may include at least a magnetic guiding element 610, and carrier 100 may further include at least a magnetic guided element 140. The polarity of magnetic guiding element 610 is arranged opposite to the polarity of magnetic guided element 140 such that magnetic attractive forces contactlessly guide carrier 100 in transverse direction Z.

[0073] Due to the magnetic attractive forces being applied to carrier 100, upper guiding track 400 and/or lower guiding track 600 may be further configured for supporting at least a portion of the weight of carrier 100. While the primary function of upper and lower guiding track 400, 600 is to provide guidance in the transverse direction Z, the magnetic forces may be used to offset some of the weight of carrier 100 so that the supported weight W of carrier 100 being borne by the roller transport track 200 may be even further reduced, leading to a further reduction in roller loads and roller wear.

[0074] The roller transportation system may further include a driving means 500. As exemplarily shown in FIG. 5, driving means 500 may include a linear motor having at least one electrical coil 510, and carrier 100 may include at least a magnetic drive element 150. The at least one electrical coil 510 is configured to induce a magnetic force in magnetic drive element 150 such that carrier 100 is driven along the roller transport system in transport direction X. The embodiment exemplarily shown in FIG. 5 has driving means 500 arranged at a bottom end of carrier 100. However, driving means 500 may alternatively be arranged at a top end of carrier 100. Similar to the magnetic, contactless guiding means of upper and lower guiding tracks 400, 600, a contactless, magnetic driving means 500 is advantageous in a vacuum processing apparatus as the generation of particles is avoided.

[0075] Alternatively, the roller transport system may include a plurality of driven rollers configured to rotate and drive carrier 100 along the roller transport system by contacting a surface of carrier 100. For example, some of the plurality of rollers 210 may be driven rollers.

[0076] According to some embodiments, a carrier transport system for transporting a carrier 100 within a vacuum chamber is provided. The carrier transport system includes a track assembly extending in a transport direction X, the track assembly comprising a first passive magnetic unit provided at a first vertical coordinate and extending in the transport direction X, a second passive magnetic unit provided at a second vertical coordinate and extending in the transport direction X, wherein the first passive magnetic unit and the second passive magnetic unit are configured to counteract the weight of the carrier; and a roller transport track 200 provided at a third vertical coordinate and comprising a plurality of rollers 210 configured to support a partial weight of the carrier 100, wherein a first vertical distance between the first vertical coordinate and the second vertical coordinate is larger than a second distance between the second vertical coordinate and the third vertical coordinate. According to some embodiments, further features, details, embodiments, and implementations of the present disclosure, may be combined with the above embodiment of a carrier transport system.

[0077] Additionally or alternatively, according to some embodiments, a carrier 100 for a substrate S to be processed in an apparatus for vacuum processing of the substrate S is provided. The carrier 100 includes a first passive magnetic unit provided at a first vertical carrier coordinate and; a second passive magnetic unit provided at a second vertical carrier coordinate; and a third passive magnetic unit provided at a third vertical carrier coordinate, wherein a first vertical carrier distance between the first vertical carrier coordinate and the second vertical carrier coordinate is larger than a second carrier distance between the second vertical carrier coordinate and the third vertical carrier coordinate. According to some embodiments, further features, details, embodiments, and implementations of the present disclosure, may be combined with the above embodiment of a carrier 100.

[0078] During processing of a substrate S, the carrier 100 may be heated. Accordingly, the carrier undergoes thermal expansion. Particularly for substrates S oriented in a vertical or near-vertical orientation, wherein the substrates S may have a vertical extension of 1 m or above or even up to several meters, i.e. large area substrates, the thermal expansion can be significant. Accordingly, it is beneficial if the second passive magnetic unit, i.e. the passive magnetic unit below the first passive magnetic unit at the top of the carrier 100, counteracts a majority of the weight of the carrier 100. The amount of thermal expansion at the position of the second passive magnetic unit is less as compared to the amount of thermal expansion adjacent to the first passive magnetic unit. Accordingly, the supporting forces of the passive magnetic units are less impacted by thermal expansion at the position of the second passive magnetic unit. [0079] According to an aspect of the present disclosure, a vacuum processing apparatus for depositing material onto a substrate is provided. The vacuum processing apparatus includes at least one vacuum processing chamber and a roller transport system according to embodiments described herein for transporting a carrier according to embodiments described herein. The roller transport system is configured for transporting carrier into or out of the at least one vacuum processing chamber.

[0080] Vacuum processing apparatus may further include a processing device. In particular, typically the processing device is arranged in the at least one vacuum processing chamber and the processing device may be selected from the group consisting of a deposition source, an evaporation source, and a sputter source.

[0081] The term “vacuum” can be understood in the sense of a technical vacuum having a vacuum pressure of less than, for example, 10 mbar. Typically, the pressure in the at least one vacuum processing 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. The pressure in the at least one vacuum processing chamber may be considered to be either the partial pressure of the evaporated material within the at least one vacuum processing 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 at least one vacuum processing chamber). The total pressure in the at least one vacuum processing 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 at least one vacuum processing chamber (such as a processing gas or the like). Accordingly, the at least one vacuum processing chamber can be a “vacuum deposition chamber”, i.e. a vacuum processing chamber configured for vacuum deposition.

[0082] For transporting carrier 100 into and out of the at least one vacuum processing chamber, the vacuum processing apparatus may further include at least one valve 300. Valve 300 may include, for example, a sealable sliding door configured for isolating the environment inside one vacuum processing chamber from the environment of an adjacent vacuum processing chamber. Valve 300 may be included in a load lock chamber configured for loading carrier 100 and/or substrate S into the vacuum processing apparatus from an atmospheric environment which is different to an environment in the at least one vacuum processing chamber.

[0083] The vacuum processing chamber may include at least one roller transport system according to embodiments described herein. The at least one roller transport system may be configured for operating in two directions, i.e. a two-way transport of carrier 100 in both a forward transport direction and a reverse transport direction. Alternatively, a second roller transport system may be provided, wherein the first roller transport system is configured for operating in one direction, and the other roller transport system is configured for operating in the other direction.

[0084] 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.

[0085] 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.