The Making of the WB5000 Wafer Breaker
A Conversation with the Artist — our own Elizabeth Urquia — Behind the Machine Tool
Before you started on the WB5000, you made some “swag” for the show that involved broken wafers (the coasters). Can you tell me a little bit about your thought process and how you came upon the design?
This was fun, lol, but it was a multi-layered process to creating the design.
We had an end goal, so I worked backwards using a standard business approach. I analyzed it, externally and internally, to achieve our purpose.
Externally: How can we continually “keep AESG in the forefront of the customer’s mind? How does AESG remain unforgettable?” Make something inexpensive to market AESG, stand out, sustainable- something of no resale value-yet is consistently, visible. Long story short, a coaster was the answer.
Internally: This is where the magic happens and like any magic, that is a secret! But if you look at the coaster, I am sure it may answer any questions you have, except one.
The one question I am asked is: Why does it look like it’s not finished? That’s because it isn’t: The coaster is meant to engage the person, to get them to look beyond the surface, to form their own opinion about what they see.
Because in semiconductor capex, one of the most painful experiences to endure is a tool that goes down while processing wafers. Leaving you yielding a massive loss of time, work in process, and raw goods. Your tool can break down at any part of the process. Breaking wafers is anathema to capex.
Which is what happens to our customers’ finished goods (wafers) if they choose not to utilize AESG for their needs in the semi-conductor industry.
Given the scope of making the coasters, most folks would have chosen the easy path and only made one version. Yet you made several and this turned out to be a huge deal at the show as folks would sort through each one you made to find the one they liked best. Thank goodness you choose to innovate instead of standardizing: but why did you take the hard path when the easy one was so open?
I’m just different. I love uniqueness. I love to apply that in any capacity, even if it may not seem like the easiest. This was also part of my internal process in making the coasters. To the ones who searched obsessively for the “right” coaster; you’re exactly who I made the coaster for, and I want to be your friend haha.
Is it fair to say you’ve never made a piece of capital equipment?
I am an artist naturally, so I cannot say that I have never made a piece of capital equipment, but I can say to include outside factors/people: it was by far the most intricate piece I have done to date.
Is it fair to say you were never given a drawing package of the entire WB5000 assembly?
Definitely- not hahaha. The drawing was a combination of brainstorming concepts on a yellow legal pad that would become tangible. Which was changed every week.
Wow, just wow. So how did you attack building the WB5000 from scratch without any pictures, drawings, or prior art to fall back on?
I had the result in my head: I built a movie of the end state that I could look at, examine, and analyze. From this I created the starting point, and thus glean enough information to make it happen.
I approached it by lots of failure. Seriously. Trying to make a dream tangible is difficult. To think you got it right and then it was not what they or you were expecting. Starting over. Breaking things. Lots of failure.
But I did a lot of research, YouTube, I asked questions, made countless measurements. And I never gave up.
Usually, folks that are artistic aren’t known for their discipline. The artwork you generated was fantastic and you built the WB5000 on time and on schedule. All while working full time. How do you stitch together these often-conflicting strengths – creativity and discipline — to make the WB5000?
You make it look real pretty haha. As an artistic person this is my struggle, daily.
I think because we are all gifted in a different way to process information, our brain’s like to frolic moment it doesn’t have to. Thus I need to enforce some discipline on my artistic mind to tether it a bit, keep it from frolicking.
I am naturally a night owl, which is where my creativity is best achieved. So at the end of the “normal” work day, when I wanted to relax, I could depend on an amazing support system that kept me accountable. Loved ones, voices in my head, my own drive and ambition.
I am also taking a different approach to discipline, so I believe that is the primary reason I was so successful.
Can you tell us a little about a struggle or two you had during the process?
I can give you THOUSANDS, but I won’t! As a collaborative project, there were speed walls (not bumps. Walls) at every step, but I gained insight I never would have thought of.
I know that is cliché but as a veteran, this was the first major project I’ve accomplished with civilians. I would have to say the struggle(s) I laughed at the hardest were measuring and cutting wood; making pairs of said wood but opposite of each other. You know that saying “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” I swear I would measure 7x, write it down, say it out loud, mark it, color it in (insanity ck), cut it and it’s short.
My desire to make my artistic vision as perfect a reality as possible really helped me grow a lot. Yes, I had some frustrations – my zeal for quality driving me to measure seven times and cut once – but I pulled a vision out of my head and made it real.
The WB5000 was extremely well received at the show. What aspects of the WB5000 are you particularly proud of?
The WB5000 was no easy feat, therefore I’m proud of it all. What remains imprinted is Joy.
Things only went well for the WB5000 at Semicon West.
As a machine tool exhibit the folks walking the floor have some strong opinions about machine tools, how they are made, and of course how reliable they are. In semiconductor capital equipment, a couple of metrics bounced around are uptime and availability: that when a tool is scheduled for production, it is always up, and if not scheduled, then it must be available to be scheduled.
The WB5000 worked flawlessly, allowed us to service it (adding wafers to the target), and never went down. The tool made it across the country without any quality blemishes and returned back to our facility in equally superb quality.
At the end of the show, when everyone was packing up, we had lots of folks come by and complement us on just how well the WB5000 worked for the entire show. Thank you Elizabeth for taking a concept and making it a machine tool reality.