Tiny Vacuum Chamber Arm to Help with Homemade Semiconductors

[Nixie] wants to make semiconductors at home, and that requires some unusual tools. Chief among them is a vacuum chamber to perform thin-film deposition, and true to the hacker credo his is homemade, and will soon be equipped with a tiny manipulator arm with magnetically coupled mechanical controls.

If [Nixie]’s setup looks familiar, it might be because we featured his plasma experiments a few days ago. He was a little cagey then about his goal, but he’s come clean with his desire to make his own FETs (a project that is his 2018 Hackaday Prize entry). Doing so will require not only creating stable plasmas, but also the ability to move substrates around inside the vacuum chamber. Taking inspiration from the slender and maneuverable instruments surgeons use for laparoscopic procedures, [Nixie] is working on a miniature arm that will work inside his vacuum chamber. The video below is a 3D-printed proof-of-concept model in action, and shows how the arm’s segments will be controlled by cables. What’s really interesting is that the control cables will not penetrate the vacuum chamber — they’ll be moved right through the glass wall using magnets.

We’re keen to see chips from [Nixie]’s home fab lab, but it looks like there will be a lot of cool hacks between here and there. We’ll be watching closely.

13 thoughts on “Tiny Vacuum Chamber Arm to Help with Homemade Semiconductors

  1. This wild! I love the scale of this, and especially the magnetic coupling to get through the glass.

    I’m unlikely to ever take on semiconductor fab at home, but it would be a fascinating challenge to build a pair of these an use them for building something inside a bottle (like a ship, etc).

  2. what kind of printer did you use?
    I would like to make such a micromanipulator some day, but I always start doubting between printed plastic, or pieces of nitinol foil, cut in the right shapes and then miniature-spotwelded together…

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