The Silicon Review
Materials science refers to the ability to alter and/or use a certain material's properties to achieve a certain objective. Innovative product designs generally rely on equally innovative components and raw materials. Specialty materials are well-known for making products better and process more reliable. Companies working in the specialty materials development field will primarily focus on science and engineering aspects of the material to significantly improve the material's property for its intended application. Experienced engineers and scientists with diverse knowledge are working tirelessly in this segment to provide customized solutions to meet clients' requirements.
There are various companies specializing in developing and producing specialty materials, but one that stands out from the rest is Applied Seals N.A. Inc. (ASNA). The company's mission was always to be the leader in its field.
ASNA's goal is to focus on design as well as material selection in solving the complex problems of this Industry. As seals fall into the same category as pumps, valves, and other 'hardware,' very little attention has been drawn to the astounding and often surprising issues and yield loss associated with these parts. It is unimaginable that there are no (until the first SEMI Specification for seals – SEMI F51- developed with ASNA forging ahead and paving the way) Semiconductor Standard for most of the hardware. Critical seals that come with Gate valves, Slit valves, Pumps, and Abatement systems are so important for safety today that have been a 'secondary' if not the invisible part of the industry focus. That must change if yields will be attainable in the ever- decreasing nano-meter worlds of technology today. ASNA offers a portfolio of specialty materials to meet the most sophisticated industries' stringent requirements. The company was founded in 2009, and it is based in Fremont, California.
In conversation with Dalia Vernikovsky, President and CEO of ASNA
Q. Tell us about the development of ASNA product line.
All our products are focused on the main principal- providing optimal solutions for the industry's application-specific issues as the complexity of the processes continues to grow. Not only process but also temperature has combined to make elastomer selections an integral part of successful product lines. The problem too often and continuing to hamper true progress is the lack of education in this area. The focus of 'just replace the material' is still prevalent. That in itself is one of our core missions- the more educated our audience, the more aware they are as to the importance of the 'right seal, the right design, and the optimal solution' being one and the same, which will make a huge difference in the success of that seal design. Yet This industry has not understood that seals were NOT originally developed for the Semiconductor industry nor the vast majority of parameters to choose from (when choosing a seal has nothing to do with the outcome of seal success. Our goal is to offer ones that will indeed solve the problem with an emphasis on parameters and data that make the optimal outcome possible.
Q. Tell us in brief about your SmartSeals PRISM OneKit® and Clamp with QuikVU® windows.
Once again, the basis of all our innovations is application-specific and optimal solutions driven. What PRISM OneKit® and QuikVU® offer is exactly that. PRISM takes away any chance that the seal will be twisted, contaminated, or compromised when the initial product is made. Today, the 'standard' approach is to buy common NW, KF, or ISO fittings, throw away the cheap inner seal material, and replace with the expensive FFKM's chosen for their chemical compatibility. In so doing, stretching and twisting these sensitive materials (made of a PTFE family-related elastomers cannot stretch more than 3%) will immediately compromise that seal. In addition, the outer ring of PRISM is anodized for color coding as a way to discern which material is in the fitting versus another safely. However, one step further for ultimate success was the development of our PRISM Clamp with QuikVU, which has viewports facing all directions and a very small footprint that completes both the safety aspect and great convenience for technicians to see PRISM color coding even with clamps in place. More importantly, this clamp has a spring-loaded torque indicator built into the design as most technicians will over-torque a material not made to be resilient but to be chemical resistant. This, in a nutshell, is the issue with all Perfluoroelastomers (FFKM's) as lack of knowledge on their differences (lack of resiliency versus the common seal used today) and thus, the importance of education and awareness of those differences and the immediate resolution we offer to address them. And lastly, thanks to the spring-loaded mechanism, vibration looseness will never ever become a headache.
Q. What are the use cases for the Bonded Gate Technology?
The case of Bonded Gates is clearly made using bonded technology to eliminate many of the common issues brought on with seals and the new FFKM family of seals that lack resiliency, especially in dynamic applications. As FFKM's are already less resilient made with a base that is very different from the common seals (E.g., an FKM is commonly known as Viton®), bonding helps eliminate the stresses on the seals from that important perspective, along with the risk of human error when installing a traditional seal. Thus, bonding will focus the seal more towards the process's seal compatibility versus its physical properties. However, indeed, as much as can be done to eliminate the particles generated in critical seals such as the all-important slit-valve, the very fact that these materials are not as resilient and are made with more linear molecular structures will ultimately create issues if the dynamic movement is not taken into consideration. Again, the complexity of these parameters is extremely important in the success of the seal. We are proud to offer many variations of these seals to be able to support this area.
Q. How do you source the right talents to maintain the quality of your services?
That is a great question. I would have to say I am fortunate to have a great team of talented folks that believe in our mission and are willing to work towards our common goal. Competing against giants in the industry takes a certain mindset that both challenges the 'norm' and the complacency of those giants, and recognizes the importance of holding to the principals that guide us. It is not an 'easy road' since value-add, a collaborative spirit, pushing education and training, as part of our solution (including FA's and FEA's that help 'prove' that solution) that take determination and tenacity in all aspects of our team. I appreciate all those that work with me towards making ASNA the company to emulate as we forge ahead in offering the innovation as well as the partnership to grow with our customers at every level.
Q. What values are most important to you as a leader?
This is without question, one of the most important aspects of who I am and why I do this- defining myself as a good leader is an integral part of the pride I feel in myself and our reputation: absolute qualities inherent with leadership- passion, ethics, dedication, tenacity, fairness, confidence to do the right thing and appreciation of those that help me 'look good' every day- those are things I aspire to reflect in what I do and how I do it. The more important element is to have the belief in ASNA and myself from the team surrounding me who entrust their daily work life, and themselves, to succeed and proudly attain the benefits of success, and with the positive reputation we have earned. Our team defines 'me' and helps me do better every single day, and learn from amazing opportunities to lead them.
Q. Do you have any new services ready to be launched?
We have continued to expand our sub-fab offerings and make sure we are in the customer mindset; the sub-fab is one of those 'last considered' parts of the production line that is becoming more and more important as new processes, higher temperatures, and demand for improved yields are now in the spotlight. We have also focused on technologies that are not only focused on the material but the many design aspects surrounding the material for its ultimate optimization. We also have an improved version of our ACE® Design Guide that takes into account various temperatures as well as varying glands and groove designs, etc. We are very proud of our focus on education and easy-to-access guides for installation, failure modes, and videos to help customers understand sealing technologies and the importance of a 'trained eye.' In lieu of the lack of access to one-on-one meetings, we saw this area as an important aspect of our offerings- as important as a product portfolio that can only be a guide in the quest for sealing optimization. We are also ready for live engineering chats when that is required, and a part of our strong commitment to engineering solutions rather than just a material change. Our reputation hinges on making sure our customers know what we offer? Why we offer it? And can qualify the data in our engineered solutions that can make the difference to testing opportunities.
Meet the leader behind the success of ASNA
Dalia Vernikovsky is the President and CEO of ASNA. Dalia Vernikovsky has more than 20 years in business development, product development and sales for capital equipment and critical materials for the semiconductor industry. She is successful in developing a $90-million market share for high-performance o-rings with major OEMs and end users. She established a timely solution on material improvements for original equipment and spares incumbent. Prior to joining Applied Seals North America, Inc. (ASNA) she served as vice president for Brooks Automation, where she headed up global operations with Intel and major OEMs. Dalia continues to strive for excellence of ALL major components and a commitment to help reach the lower nodes that require such commitment to succeed. Dalia is a Black Belt in Martial Arts and volunteers to help animals in shelters be socialized and placed with military veterans, nursing homes and people in need of service animals.