VAT continuously improves the controller technology used in the VAT vacuum control valves to enable the addition of new features and to stay abreast of the latest IT standards. However, the outgoing IC1 components – integrated in all VAT vacuum valves – were approaching 80% capacity with all the functions loaded. It was time for a new IC generation.

In contrast, the new IC2 generation, developed in-house by VAT, runs the same tasks at only a 5% load. The extra computing capacity will enable new functions, including new filters, better compensation of delays, new >1 mbar capabilities and enhanced performance indicator functions.

Going from 16- to 32-bit

“The main focus of the shift to the IC2 controller generation was expansion of the computing capacity from a 16-bit to a 32-bit architecture,” explains Simon Näf, Product Manager for Vacuum Control Valves.

In addition to increased processing power, the shift to the IC2 technology also introduces:

  • Quicker processing, which enables faster actuation response times
  • More precise, scalable and responsive control
  • Increased sensor processing capabilities
  • Easier integration into current process control unit (PCU) technology
  • Improved signal and operation analytics

VAT offers continuous hard and software updates to allow customers to benefit immediately from the expanded controller features and capacity.

The ongoing shift to the new controller technology means IC2 components will be successively integrated into all VAT control valves by 2022. In any case, customers will still be able to order spare parts for IC1 models until 2028.

Maintaining previous performance levels

“We already have over 5,000 new IC2 controllers installed and running at customer sites around the world,” notes Simon Näf. “The most important issue for the customer is a seamless transition into the new technology that maintains the previous performance requirements.”

The first installation for the updated VAT pendulum control valve (series 65.3) was used for pressure control and isolation functions in a dry etch process for semiconductor production. The client was pleased that the performance of the IC2 controller remained identical to the previous generation. Over 200 of the updated pendulum control valves are already in use.

“The open/close motion of the valve can now be executed more quickly because of the change from an “open-loop” to a “closed-loop” motion control,” adds Simon Näf. “In addition to the enhanced speed, the closed-loop control uses only as much energy as is needed to execute the movement according to the selected movement profile specified by the customer’s production process. The open-loop simply used a full power mode.”

With the newest VAT control valves upgraded with the IC2 controller, VAT predicts that customers will take advantage of new technologies by linking with other smart VAT valve capabilities.

“When coupled with the “smart” capabilities of the newest VAT control valves, the enhanced computing power of the new IC2 components will further enable the advancement of “smart” applications,” adds Simon Näf.