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Precise positioning system for UV exposure masks

A high-precision positioning system for use in a dry nitrogen atmosphere or vacuum has now been developed by Steinmeyer Mechatronik GmbH in cooperation with August Steinmeyer GmbH & Co. KG. The mask system is ideally suited for use in standard as well as high-resolution UV lithography and enables very fine XY theta alignment of exposure masks with up to 0.03 µrad. Miniature ball screws from Albstadt are used in it, which meet particularly high requirements for uniformity of preload and running quality in the application.

 The three linear axes of the positioning system are parallel-kinematic in design: two vertical axes in the X direction and one transverse in the Y direction. The two vertical axes generate a vertical stroke when moving simultaneously and a rotation when moving in opposite directions. This enables high-precision linear and rotational positioning of the masks down to the sub-micrometer range.

Ball screw meets high requirements

Ground miniature ball screws with a spindle diameter of 12 mm from August Steinmeyer are used in this very precise positioning system. These are equipped with a flanged single nut with 4-point contact, single-gear reversing and optional ceramic balls. The high geometric quality and surface finish of the backlash-free preloaded components ensure ideal synchronization in the application and enable the smallest positioning increments. The assemblies undergo application-oriented series testing prior to delivery. The service life has been proven in dry nitrogen atmosphere and vacuum.

Use in a dry nitrogen atmosphere or vacuum requires the selection of special materials and lubricants. Hardenable stainless steel is therefore used in the ball screw. In addition, to minimize scattered radiation, all structural parts of the mask system are provided with an anodized coating optimized for UV absorption. The ultraviolet light application also prohibits hydrocarbons for the components and assemblies of the three-axis mask system. Therefore, a fluorine compound-based lubricant is used that is chemically and physically very stable, shows no degradation under ultraviolet radiation and has an extremely low outgassing rate. It has been specially developed by the user for this application and adapted for use in preloaded ball screws.

Optimal for service and maintenance

For maintenance, the exposure masks can be moved laterally out of the optical axis into service positions. If necessary, a magnetically preloaded quick-change mechanism ensures that the mask can be replaced quickly and easily in just a few steps. Maintenance of the motors and end-position sensors, which are designed as interchangeable modules, is just as uncomplicated.

For low-effort integration into the control system of the machine under series production conditions, the specified band of the no-load torque must be precisely set by means of the preload during assembly of the ball screw. This is a prerequisite for stable tuning of the control system and reduces downtimes in the event of maintenance, since the PID parameters do not have to be found again in the event of replacement. The stability of the running characteristics over the service life achieved in this way also increases operational reliability, since the motor control always runs in the optimally tuned range, which in turn is the prerequisite for achieving very small positioning increments below micrometers.

The positioning system is available in several travels to suit different mask sizes and can also be customized to suit applications. Clean room or vacuum versions are available as options. Application examples can be found in semiconductor imagesetters, but also in the inspection of masks.

News Operation & Maintenance Processing Technologies

Stabilization of plastic exhaust systems during implementation



According to the exhaust specialist ATEC from Neu Wulmstorf, the Vario roof flange can be mounted on all roofs with high fitting accuracy. The selection is based on the roof pitch and the required nominal size. In addition, the flange is suitable for temperature classes T200 and T250 – and ATEC has had this certified with a general design approval.

The new product combines two components: first, the flange itself, which provides a stable connection between the roof elevation and the roof structure, and second, the optional seal, a self-adhesive vapor retarder. The company provides two versions: for roof pitches between 0° and 30°, and from 30° to 60°, each in eight nominal sizes between DN60/100 and DN250/315. It is also compatible with plastic and metal exhaust systems up to a nominal operating temperature of ≤ 250 °C.

The flange consists of a stainless steel clamp to which two retaining lugs/articulated brackets are welded at the factory. This is accompanied by a cover plate measuring 450 x 450 mm and 0.5 mm thick. With the help of malleable perforated strips, the exhaust pipe together with the Vario roof flange is screwed into place. This allows the Vario to be used flexibly both in new buildings and in existing properties.


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News Operation & Maintenance Processing Technologies

Modern user interface impresses international jury



SIG’s new intuitive Human Machine Interface (HMI) “SIG CRUISER” has been awarded the prestigious iF DESIGN AWARD 2022 in Gold – one of the most important design awards in the world. This part of SIG’s next-generation filling technology enables customers to easily control their entire production process. The user interface is designed to make the operator’s job much easier, while reducing the need for training and prior experience.

The award has been presented annually since 1954 by the iF Industrie Forum Design for outstanding achievements in product design. The company impressed the 132-member jury, which is made up of independent design experts from around the world, and won the award in the “User Interface (UI)” category. Out of nearly 11,000 entries, SIG CRUISER was awarded gold as one of 73 outstanding design achievements.

The judges made the following statement, “With a user-centric approach and sound development methodology, SIG CRUISER provides consistency from the store floor to the top floor, ensuring quick response times and convenience for both the operator and the service team. The user interface is exceptionally simple and user-friendly in terms of operations, layout and graphics, allowing a single operator to control the entire line.”

Today’s competitive environment requires companies to increase production and margins and optimize available equipment. To get the most out of filling lines, it is critical to reduce the risk of downtime and to interconnect, automate and monitor lines for maximum efficiency. The new user interface makes it possible to control the entire filling line. It displays KPIs in an intuitive way.

“This prestigious global design award is the result of the good cooperation between SIG and our partner, HMI Project GmbH. We are very proud that SIG CRUISER stood out from thousands of submissions and convinced the 132-member jury to award an iF DESIGN AWARD in Gold.”

– Stefan Mergel, Senior Product Manager Equipment

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Innovative insights into emergence and classification into subtypes



One of the deadliest tumor types is pancreatic cancer . The disease is often only discovered in locally advanced or metastasized tumor stages, when surgical intervention comes too late. Researchers led by Dr. Ivonne Regel of LMU Klinikum in Munich have now gained important new insights into the causes of tumor development. They have also succeeded in defining different tumor subtypes based on differences in their metabolic programs. Funded by the Wilhelm Sander Foundation, they are thus making a significant contribution to early detection and to individualized medicine in order to improve the chances of recovery for pancreatic cancer patients.

Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma, also known as pancreatic cancer, is a relatively rare but particularly malignant disease. It represents the fourth leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the European Union, and only about 10 percent of patients survive the first five years after diagnosis. This is due to aggressive growth and late diagnosis of the tumor. Pancreatic cancer often manifests itself only after other organs have already been affected and metastases are present. To improve the chance of cure for pancreatic cancer patients, it is of great urgency to find new biomarkers for early detection. Another essential step is to identify tumor-specific signaling pathways that cause aggressive disease progression in order to identify new targets for therapeutic approaches.

TLR3/IRF3/IRF7 signaling pathway critical for pancreatic cancer development

Pancreatic cancer development is a dynamic process involving tissue damage and inflammatory response in the pancreas. When pancreatitis occurs, the organ has a self-healing mechanism. Normal pancreatic cells can divide to replace damaged tissue. Molecules released during inflammatory and tissue-damaging processes are recognized by cell receptors, relaying signals that promote cell survival and division.

However, in pancreatic cells, this can contribute to cell degeneration and promote the development of pancreatic cancer. Researchers led by Dr. Ivonne Regel were able to show for the first time that the signaling pathway plays an important role in inflammatory responses not only in immune cells, but is also active in pancreatic cells of precursor lesions and tumor cells. This activation of the signaling pathway has an important function in pancreatic cancer development. Genetically-altered mice lacking a functional signaling pathway are unable to develop pancreatic carcinomas (see Figure). Similarly, it was genetically knocked out in pancreatic tumor cells using CRISPR/Cas9 gene scissors. These genetically modified tumor cells exhibited significantly less aggressive behavior in cell culture experiments and also showed greatly reduced metastasis in animal models.

“For the first time, we were able to demonstrate that an active signaling pathway in pancreatic cells contributes to the development of pancreatic cancer and also supports the formation of metastases.”

– Ivonne Regel

Dr. Regel’s team has made another exciting discovery: In pancreatic tumor cells, the signaling pathway surprisingly does not regulate known target genes; instead, evidence was found for epigenetic modifications. These are regulatory modifications to DNA and packaging proteins (histones) that influence the activity of genes. Thus, the current research results indicate that activation of the signaling pathway in tumor cells leads to high levels of transcription of specific tumor-promoting genes.

These genes primarily regulate tumor cell metabolism. This is particularly important because metabolites of tumor cells can be found in the blood of patients and can be used as biomarkers. “My team and I have succeeded in identifying different subtypes of pancreatic cancer from the blood of cancer patients based on differences in their metabolic programs” said Dr. Regel. “In further studies, we now want to find out to what extent the development of pancreatic cancer subtypes is regulated by the signaling pathway.”


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