PhD Position Particle Free Contactless Wafer Handling, WP3

  • WO
  • Tijdelijk
Delft University of Technology (TU Delft)


The fast and accurate handling, transportation, and positioning of thin, sensitive substrates, such as Si-wafers, solar cells, and flat panel display glass panels are all core operations in production and manufacturing systems in high-tech industry, and substrate handling systems can be found everywhere in this industry.

Every mechanical contact between system components in relative movement increases the risk of wear of these components and the release of wear particles in the system, and every mechanical contact between handling system and substrate increases the risk of contamination, damage, or even breakage of said substrate, all of which need to be avoided. And yet, in current substrate handling systems found in industry mechanical contact is prevalent, with the unavoidable resulting contamination of the substrates that are being handled. In this research project in collaboration with our industrial partner, VDL-ETG, an important OEM supplier in the world-leading Dutch high-tech industry, we will develop new concepts for future handling systems for Si-wafers. This system will handle Si-wafers without mechanical contact when possible, and when unavoidable, make sure that the mechanical contact is without damage or contamination.

In this project three research directions are explored, that can be summarized as (1) the development of a contactless wafer gripper, (2) the study of materials and meta-materials that are safe in mechanical contact, and (3) the study of compliant mechanisms and machine components with reduced risk of wear particle generation. As such, the project is performed in three closely connected yet clearly distinguishable parallel work-packages, each populated with a PhD student:

- WP1: see vacancy TUD04404
- WP2: see vacancy TUD04405
- WP3: Design methods for compliant mechanisms and operating principles for reduced particle generation.

While the program aims to develop a contactless wafer handling system, contact may be needed or preferred in certain instances, such as in a wafer take-over station or in the air-lock door mechanism. In those cases, we propose to consider the concept of Compliant Mechanisms (CM). Compliant mechanisms move due to deformation of slender segments rather than by discrete joints.

Since CM’s therefore are essentially monolithic in nature, several advantages emerge, including that there is no friction or backlash, and that no assembly or lubrication is needed. Key advantages for the present program are the fact that no sliding occurs which limits the risk of particle generation and that lubricants with their risk of outgassing are avoided.

Challenges are the limited range of motion and the fact that kinematics and dynamics (or kinetics in quasistatic cases) cannot be studied separately which complicates the design. Also, due to the distributed deflection the centers of rotation of compliant joints are not stationary (often referred to as parasitic motion), and typically (unless static balancing techniques are employed) force and energy are needed to overcome the elastic behavior. CM’s and methods for their design have been widely studied in the last couple of decades, but understanding how to design CM’s that provide distributed contact such as in surface contacts, seals or doors is still underdeveloped.

Therefore in summary, in this WP we will generate mechanical understanding and bio-inspired design methods for the following principles: non-sliding contact-aided compliant mechanisms exploiting parasitic motion for the design of seals; wrapping compliant mechanisms in which external loads deflect the mechanism to a predesigned shape that matches the surface of the target geometry; metamaterial mechanical filters to transmit desired (normal) loads while other (transverse) loads are not transmitted.


  • MSc university degree in physics, mechanical engineering, mathematics or a related area.
  • Background in mechanical and system design, mechatronics,
  • Strong interest in theoretical and practical aspects of mechanical design, modelling and manufacturing.
  • Team player with strong communication skills.

Doing a PhD at TU Delft requires English proficiency at a certain level to ensure that the candidate is able to communicate and interact well, participate in English-taught Doctoral Education courses, and write scientific articles and a final thesis. For more details please check the Graduate Schools Admission Requirements.


Delft University of Technology is built on strong foundations. As creators of the world-famous Dutch waterworks and pioneers in biotech, TU Delft is a top international university combining science, engineering and design. It delivers world class results in education, research and innovation to address challenges in the areas of energy, climate, mobility, health and digital society. For generations, our engineers have proven to be entrepreneurial problem-solvers, both in business and in a social context.

At TU Delft we embrace diversity as one of our core values and we actively engage to be a university where you feel at home and can flourish. We value different perspectives and qualities. We believe this makes our work more innovative, the TU Delft community more vibrant and the world more just. Together, we imagine, invent and create solutions using technology to have a positive impact on a global scale. That is why we invite you to apply. Your application will receive fair consideration.

Challenge. Change. Impact!


Doctoral candidates will be offered a 4-year period of employment in principle, but in the form of 2 employment contracts. An initial 1,5 year contract with an official go/no go progress assessment within 15 months. Followed by an additional contract for the remaining 2,5 years assuming everything goes well and performance requirements are met.

Salary and benefits are in accordance with the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities, increasing from € 2770 per month in the first year to € 3539 in the fourth year. As a PhD candidate you will be enrolled in the TU Delft Graduate School. The TU Delft Graduate School provides an inspiring research environment with an excellent team of supervisors, academic staff and a mentor. The Doctoral Education Programme is aimed at developing your transferable, discipline-related and research skills.

The TU Delft offers a customisable compensation package, discounts on health insurance and sport memberships, and a monthly work costs contribution. Flexible work schedules can be arranged.

For international applicants, TU Delft has the Coming to Delft Service. This service provides information for new international employees to help you prepare the relocation and to settle in the Netherlands. The Coming to Delft Service offers a Dual Career Programme for partners and they organise events to expand your (social) network.

Meer informatie

For more information about this vacancy, please contact Dr. Ron van Ostayen,