The story of FM Industries traces back to the late 80s. Since the beginning, the company has always supported various High Technology Companies. It all began when James R. Miller, a manufacturing industry veteran and founder of FM Industries, began designing and supplying precision tooling to support disk drive manufacturers. Over the next several years, the company transitioned to developing components that are dedicated to capital equipment for the semiconductor industry. Fast forward to 2001; the company was acquired by the NGK Group, a 100-year-old ceramic company based in Nagoya, Japan. Now as an NGK subsidiary FM Industries further acquired the thermal spray coatings business from Praxair Surface Technologies, Inc., the largest U.S. industrial gas manufacturer, to strengthen its business foundations in ceramic products for semiconductor manufacturing equipment.
Today, FM Industries outshines as a renowned contract manufacturer of precision components and assemblies for the semiconductor equipment industry. It specializes in production manufacturing including machining, clean room assembly/bonding, anodizing, prototype services, and atmospheric thermal spray coating. The Director of Technology, of FM Industries David Hammerich, states, “Since the acquisition of coating business for Thermally Sprayed ceramic materials by NGK Group, we have dedicated an incredible amount of resources to research and development to reinforce our core technology.”
One of the significant challenges that FM Industries addresses in the semiconductor equipment space is related to component lifetime. Components are typically subjected to an incredibly stressful erosion/ionic bombardment environment. “Our biggest challenge was to come up with materials that can withstand fluorine gas attack, and resist high heat applications over aluminium substrates which don’t particularly like heat,” asserts Hammerich. To address these issues, FM Industries has developed coating technologies to stay adherent under the most adverse conditions of the chemical and thermal environments present in semiconductor manufacturing.
One of the most significant needs of the semiconductor space is a rapid response to the changing market, FM Industries has installed additional capacity and new equipment that not only can respond rapidly but also maintain the output flexibility. In addition to thermal spray coating, FMI has expanded the overall manufacturing footprint to a total of 7 facilities encompassing over 400,000 sq. ft. of manufacturing space during the past 5 years.
While FM Industries primarily supplies products to OEM semiconductor capital equipment manufacturers, the company is always looking for new opportunities to expand it’s technological footprint.
Since the acquisition of coating business for thermally sprayed ceramic materials by NGK group, we have dedicated an incredible amount of resources to research and development as it is our core technology
To that end, FMI’s coating technology has also experienced success in solar applications. To stay successful, FMI continually evolves it’s Technology Roadmap and meets with their respective customer base multiple times each year to ensure this roadmap is aligned to the needs of the customer
FM Industries first started coating semiconductor components around 2001 with it’s first generation Yttria coating. Over the past 18 years 3 additional generations of yttria coatings have been introduced along with several new patents regarding materials and technology. The first generation of fine particle Yttria introduced by the company directly competes with suspension spray without requiring the suspension for the fine particle material. Apart from this, the company was issued its latest patent in August 2019, which covers complex oxide formulations. This product allows the company to coat a high-temperature applications up to 300 degrees Celsius that was not possible previously.
Generally, clients have two fundamental problems with a metal coating, firstly aqueous cleaning, and secondly, thermal fluctuations. To overcome this, “We created a base layer coating, which is a layered architecture of materials. We use three different kinds of powder materials while spraying. This coating structure allows us to use materials that are much more chemically resistant. As a result of the architectural layering of the coating process, we were able to modify the coefficient of thermal expansion to be more closely related with the aluminium substrate that we were spraying,” adds Hammerich.
The future of the company looks very promising as it is developing erosion-resistant thin overlay coatings using innovative technology, which enabled them to increase the purity and density greater than 99 percent. In general, highly dense, thin films such as this are applied using an aerosol deposition, PVD, or CVD, as it’s costly. FM Industries is also investing in a new location, which is expected to be completed by the end of 2020. The site will consist of dedicated R&D space, laboratory space, and 100,000 sq.ft of manufacturing space. It will be a completely vertically integrated business including machining, anodizing, coating and cleaning with all facilities a customer requires within the semiconductor component manufacturing space. The savings in lead time and cost coupled with the technology differentiation FMI can offer makes them a compelling solution for any customer.