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Nor-Cal Products' Core Competencies

Although Nor-Cal Products is a premier source for over 6000 standard high and ultra-high vacuum system components, a significant portion of our business involves the design and fabrication of highly-configured custom chambers, weldments, assemblies and modified standards. We know that even the smallest component can be critical to the integrity of an application or vacuum system, therefore, we performance engineer quality into every component we manufacture. Our strong in-house capabilities support the quality of our components and services in a variety of areas. Please take the time to watch our corporate video and download our catalog, or capabilities brochure for a good look at what makes us your best partner for vacuum components and custom vacuum design. 

Nor-Cal Products Catalog in PDF format   

Nor-Cal Products Capabilities Brochure in PDF Format


Custom Design

ChamberNor-Cal Products' engineering staff designs custom components from customer specifications, sketches or drawings and oversees production with in-house tooling and equipment. Our customers benefit from the combined experience of our engineers, whose input during the design phase often results in cost savings during production and a superior product. We have complete prototype machining capabilities along with the ability to perform pressure, conductance and thermal characterization as well as software and electronic development and testing.

Some examples of products we have designed for customers include vacuum chambers with or without load locks, manipulators and frames; custom isolation valves; custom pressure control valves and controllers; application specific foreline traps; custom heaters; custom weldments and flanges; and subassemblies comprised of various proprietary and purchased components.

Custom Vacuum Chambers

Highly configured chamberWe have developed a reputation at national laboratories, universities and equipment manufacturers for being the premier vacuum chamber fabricator. The quality, appearance and performance of our chambers are unequaled. Nor-Cal Products has delivered one-off to production quantities of chambers for surface science, semiconductor, compound semiconductor, thin film deposition, and other high vacuum and ultra-high vacuum applications for decades. On request, Nor-Cal Products can assemble an entire one-off system including chamber, frame, pumps, gauges, valves, manipulators and other components to customer specifications. Our vacuum technicians can complete a thorough qualification of system performance, including time to base pressure and RGA scan, before the system is back filled with nitrogen and shipped to the customer.


Custom Weldments

Manifolds and WeldmentsBecause we manufacture tees, elbows and other weld fittings in-house, Nor-Cal Products can also fabricate exhaust weldments and other special assemblies for semiconductor equipment from a single piece of tubing by utilizing some or all of the techniques described below. Welds and other manufacturing steps are eliminated, improving cleanliness and fit while reducing cost. We have demonstrated as much as 30% savings to our customers using this technique.

Nor-Cal Products employs a computer numerically controlled (CNC) tube bender to form elbows and custom exhaust weldments. This enables us to quickly make multiple compound angle bends in a single piece of tubing, while holding .010 inch tolerance between bends. Alternate methods of fabrication require welding of several prefabricated parts, resulting in greater incidence of leaks and cumulative tolerance buildup. Using our method, several welds and other manufacturing steps are eliminated, improving cleanliness and fit, while reducing cost. Nor-Cal Products also has tooling for 3/4, 1, 1 1/2 and 2-inch tubing.  Custom or metric tubing diameters are available upon request.

Nor-Cal Products manufactures tees, crosses, valve bodies, ion pump bodies and custom exhaust weldments with ball pulled ports. A hydraulic press is used to pull a ball through a small opening in the tubing to create a smooth, crevice-free opening. The formed metal is then trimmed perpendicular to the centerline of the tube, allowing a straight tube to be welded to the port with a full penetration butt weld. Alternate methods of port fabrication require boring the hole, coping the end of the tube and welding from the outside. Our team can pull ports for ½ to 10 inch diameter tubing, while holding the true position of the port within .030 inch. Inert environment orbital welding is also available for repeatable and precise full penetration flange-to-tube welds. This automated process eliminates the variables associated with hand welding, such as rotation speed and the width of the heat affected zone (HAZ). Orbital welding can be performed on any length tube with diameters from 1/8 to 4 inches.

Intellisys® Downstream Pressure Control

Intellisys Downstream Pressure ControlIntellisys adaptive pressure controllers and throttle valves reduce time to pressure setpoint, while increasing tool throughput with over 1,000,000 control resolution steps and a 20 times valve speed increase. Intellisys throttling butterfly, pendulum, and gate valves feature closed-loop motor control with many optional functions and features. In addition, we offer a Universal Valve Drive, a motor drive product, that can be tailored to fit most other manufacturer's valves to greatly improve their pressure control performance at a reduced cost.

Adaptive pressure controllers are available for each type of valve or valve drive, and generally come in two styles. The stand-alone buried box controllers are ideal for applications where expanded communications or user interfaces are desired. For installations where space is of concern, the on-valve IQ-series controllers may be a preferred choice. Regardless of type, all Intellisys controllers are DSP powered and have many available host communications interfaces such as DeviceNet, Ethernet, EtherCAT, RS-232, RS-485, and Analog/TTL. Nor-Cal Products capacitance diaphragm gauges feature an ultra-stable ceramic diaphragm, advanced digital circuitry in all unheated and heated models, and are available in common ranges. Popular fittings and connectors are offered.

Engineering Services

As an indication of commitment to quality and customer satisfaction, Nor-Cal's engineering staff thoroughly reviews each custom vacuum component for manufacturability before the production process begins. This value engineering is provided at no cost to our customers in order to provide an appropriately toleranced, cost-effective product. Questions regarding design, specifications and testing are directed back to the customer for final approval.

For our customers who do not have drafting personnel available and require a complex assembly, we can provide complete CAD drawings for approval upon receipt of order. Nor-Cal's engineering department uses the latest versions of SolidWorks™ drafting and solid modeling software. Drawings may be e-mailed direct to our engineering department at ncsales@n-c.com. Acceptable file formats are IGES, SAT and STEP.

Materials Selection

CNC-Machine.jpgNor-Cal Products uses only the highest grade materials to manufacture vacuum components. Vapor pressure, permeability, and corrosion resistance are important considerations to taken into account during the material selection process. We start with select grade 304 stainless steel tubing, spheres or roll-ups to fabricate the vacuum component. If required, parts made of 304L, 316L or 316LN can be supplied. Normally our standard material is in the low carbon range for 304. Flanges and baseplates are made from 304 that has been specially treated to remove impurities inherent in 300 series steels. Our standard flange material is certified to meet ASTM A-240 and has less than 0.01% sulfur to prevent sulfur stringers. Grain size is 3 to 6 per ASTM E-112. Maximum inclusion size is 2.5 per ASTM E-45. As specials, 304L and 316L material can be supplied in roll-forged rings.


Todd.jpgMachining procedures are consistent with proper UHV practices. Machine coolant is sulfur free to reduce outgassing of the finished part. All Nor-Cal components are designed to minimize entrapments, which may cause virtual leaks under high vacuum conditions. State-of-the-art CNC machining equipment is available to produce parts with consistently high quality. BallPullPort-(3).jpgMost valve and trap body ports and weld fittings are die-formed using the pulled-port method. A ball is pulled through a smaller opening resulting in a crevice-free, smooth, tapered opening. This eliminates sharp inside corners that can entrap contaminants, and allows faster pumpdown and lower outgassing. GTAW fusion welding is used exclusively for a vacuum-tight metal bond. Purging with an inert gas reduces or eliminates oxygen entrainment and carbide precipitation, which also cause outgassing. Whenever possible, welds are made on the inside or are full penetration to eliminate entrapments and virtual leaks. Orbital welders are also available for precise weld penetration. Welding procedures are based on ASME Section IX with Weld Procedure Specifications on file. Individual welders are certified to Procedure Qualification Records by a third party lab. ​

Component Cleaning

All parts are first cleaned with a biodegradable detergent to remove machine lubricants. The stainless steel component is then passivated in a light acid solution to remove weld scale. Chemical cleaning is typically used for production parts such as valve bodies or "process critical" parts fabricated for semiconductor equipment manufacturers. Finally, all parts are washed and rinsed in >10 MOhm deionized water and dried with clean, dry air filtered to .05 micron. Cleaned parts are immediately packaged and sealed in clean room bags which meets or exceeds cleanliness requirements of IEST-STD CC 1246D Level 100. Special cleaning recipes can be provided to our customer's specifications.

Ultra-Clean Vacuum (UCV) Components

Nor-Cal Products is one of a small handful of companies in the world that can precisely measure outgassing rates of a wide range of atomic mass units (AMU’s) from 1-200 using a highly precise, state-of-the-art RGA test stand. New generation EUV photolithography tools are very sensitive to the presence of both water and hydrocarbons, and they demand consistent cleanliness levels which can only be measured through these non-conventional means.

Electropolishing / Surface Treatments

Electropolishing is by far the most desirable cleaning process for stainless steel vacuum components. This electrochemical process benefits the finished part in a number of ways simultaneously. Deburring, passivation and stress relieving are achieved while the machine produced surface roughness is eroded. Electropolishing attacks the microscopic "peaks" of the surface more rapidly than the "valleys", thereby maintaining critical dimensions while improving surface finishes. Normally .0003 to .0004 inch is removed to lower the micro-finish from 32 to 8 RMS. Electropolishing results in a 90% friction decrease over a similar microfinish achieved mechanically, while surface area is reduced by a similar amount. This is most important for vacuum chambers because it produces faster pumpdown and higher conductance. In addition to the improved mechanical properties of the surface, iron is removed electrochemically. This leaves the surface rich in chromium and nickel, which have extremely low vapor pressures. The result is the lowest outgassing rates possible from stainless steel. Our electropolish process is rated to UHP grade per SEMI F-19. Nor-Cal also offers tumbling and bead blasting of vacuum components in-house. Tumbling in ceramic media deburrs components, such as weld fittings, while providing a uniform finish. Glass shot cleans, hones, polishes and peens while removing scale. Some customers request bead blast on exterior surfaces with electropolish on the interior.

Cleanroom Assembly & Packaging

CleanroomNor-Cal Products is an ISO 9001:2015 certified company, that has also received SEMATECH SSQA Preferred Supplier status from two large semiconductor equipment manufacturers. Our Quality Management System also supports MIL-Q-9858 Quality Program Requirements and ANSI/ASQC C1 General Requirements for Quality Program. AssemblyOngoing efforts are made to control and improve manufacturing processes. Periodic defect analysis results in process improvements with narrower acceptable limits on subsequent production runs. Our calibration procedures meet MIL STD 45662A and our QA sampling plan meets MIL STD 105E. A coordinate measuring machine (CMM) is used for in-process and final mechanical inspections of vacuum chambers and other complex or close tolerance parts. CMM printouts of chamber final inspections can be furnished upon request.

Helium Leak Check

Every weld and vacuum assembly is leak checked with a He-leak detector to ensure a leak rate of 1x10-9 atm.cc/sec He, or less, conforming to ASTM E498. Our chamber qualification test bench can be used on components requiring lower leak rates. It was developed for customers who request residual gas analyzer (RGA) scans of their chambers after a 24 hour vacuum bake. The test bench contains vacuum pumps, gauges, RGA, quartz heaters, nitrogen back fill and a leak detector. Once water and other background are eliminated by the 150C bake out we can provide the customer with customized scans to detect the slightest contamination in the chamber. Whatever the sensitivity of our customer's application, we can guarantee that contaminants will be within acceptable limits.

Quality Assurance

Nor-Cal Products is an ISO 9001:2015 Certified company that has also received SSQA Preferred Supplier status from two large semiconductor equipment manufacturers. Our Quality Management System also supports MIL-Q-9858 and MIL-I45208 Quality Program Requirements and ANSI/ASQC C1 General Quality Program Requirements. Ongoing efforts are made to control and improve manufacturing processes. Periodic defect analysis results in process improvements with narrower acceptable limits on subsequent production runs. Our calibration procedures meet MIL-STD-45662A and our QA sampling plan meets MIL-STD-105E. A coordinate measuring machine (CMM) is used for in-process and final mechanical inspections of vacuum chambers and other complex or close tolerance parts. CMM printouts of chamber final inspections can be furnished upon request. Nor-Cal Products is ASME U Stamp Certified. Stamped components are fabricated to the latest edition of the ASME BPV Codes.  The ASME BPVC Certification Program conforms to the rules governing the design, fabrication, materials, assembly, and inspection of boiler and pressure vessel components during construction. ASME certification is recognized in the United States, Canada, and an estimated 100 countries around the world.

To receive more information about Nor-Cal Products design and manufacturing expertise, or to obtain a quote, please complete the online RFQ Request Form.

Thank you for your interest in Nor-Cal Products!