National Yang Ming Chiao Tung University

04/29/2024 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 04/28/2024 19:30

Becoming the Most Reliable Support for the Semiconductor Industry: NYCU’s Tech Aid Reduces Damage from Quakes in Technology Factories

Translated by Hsuchuan
Edited by Chance Lai

The powerful magnitude 7.2 earthquake on April 3 caused severe damage in Hualien and affected several tech plant buildings. However, some facilities quickly resumed operations, mainly due to the assistance provided by the Department of Civil Engineering and the Disaster Prevention and Water Environment Research Center (DPWE) at National Yang Ming Chiao Tung University (NYCU).

Since 2016, they have assisted semiconductor factories in developing and installing seismic-resistant devices for furnace pipes and warehouse systems. With years of promotion and implementation, these measures have demonstrated seismic resilience during this earthquake, effectively reducing damage and losses.

How Vibratory-Sensitive Process Equipment in Technology Factories Confront Earthquakes

Taiwan is in a seismic zone, rendering earthquakes an inevitable natural disaster. Consequently, seismic resilience becomes a critical issue for technology factories. The powerful magnitude 6.6 earthquake that struck Meinong, Kaohsiung, on February 6, 2016, severely impacted the high-tech industry in southern Taiwan, resulting in losses exceeding one hundred billion New Taiwan Dollars.

At that time, semiconductor factories commissioned the Department of Civil Engineering and the DPWE at NYCU to develop seismic-resistant technologies for vulnerable equipment, including vertical furnaces, automated warehousing systems, ceilings/floors, and carts/racks, which suffered significant damage during the earthquake. Through full-scale seismic simulation tests conducted in the Department's large-scale structural laboratory, the feasibility of these technologies was confirmed, gaining recognition from both tech plants and insurance companies and gradually being implemented throughout the facilities.

Professor Yen-Po Wang from the Department of Civil Engineering pointed out that many vibration-sensitive process equipment in tech plants are highly susceptible to damage during earthquakes. Among them, the protective measures for automated warehousing systems must be revised. The fully loaded wafer boxes on the racks can fall off when the earthquake intensity reaches a certain threshold.

"During the strong earthquake in 2016, the proportion of items falling was very high. It is estimated that sixty to seventy percent of the losses were due to items falling from the automated warehousing system."

However, installing energy dissipation and vibration control systems in automated warehousing systems can significantly reduce vibration responses, effectively preventing wafer boxes from falling off. This damping effect was fully validated during the earthquake on April 3rd.

In fact, after the earthquake in 2016, many manufacturers strengthened the seismic resilience of their factories. For example, the factory of Innolux Display Corp. is constructed with earthquake-resistant architecture, and once the shaking exceeds magnitude 3 to 4, the machines will automatically shut down. TSMC has also been gradually installing dampers. However, in addition to earthquake-resistant buildings, falling ceilings can also cause damage to equipment.

The Vulnerability and Seismic Improvement of Cleanroom Ceilings in Technology Factories

Professor Yen-Po Wang stated that wafer fabs rely on these enclosed systems for cleanliness. The ceilings of cleanrooms are part of a suspended system, swinging independently during earthquakes without synchronizing with the structural deformations of the building. This can lead to collisions and compressions around the perimeter, causing the displacement and deformation of the overhead crane rails and equipment. In severe cases, it may even collapse, contaminating the cleanroom. This not only delays the resumption of operations but also adds to the losses incurred due to operational interruptions.

In response to the seismic demands of cleanroom ceilings, the NYCU team assisted technology factories in installing energy dissipation and vibration control devices. They also completed seismic reinforcement projects for the cleanroom ceilings of a 12-inch wafer fab in the Hsinchu Science Park. These efforts demonstrated excellent seismic performance during the recent earthquake.

Looking back, the seismic damage patterns of technology factories in Taiwan have been remarkably similar over the years, and related vibration reduction technologies have matured and been rigorously tested by earthquakes. Professor Yen-Po Wang stated that given limited resources and time, it is possible to control significant sources of seismic damage and complement them with strategically planned industrial insurance coverage. This approach can significantly reduce the seismic risk of tech plants and enhance their seismic resilience.

The semiconductor industry has made Taiwan a globally renowned tech island. NYCU adapts to local conditions and tailors earthquake-resistant techniques according to different needs, aiming to improve seismic engineering in high-tech factories and become the most reliable support for safeguarding the Semiconductor industry.
In response to the seismic demands of cleanroom ceilings, the NYCU team assisted technology factories in installing energy dissipation and vibration control devices.