Linton Crystal Technologies has been manufacturing silicon ingot growers for nearly 50 years, with the newest CZ process crystal grower introduced in 2019. There are many 20- to 30-year-old Linton machines still in the marketplace and integral to customers’ operations. To continue to support these customers, the company sources the right replacement part or retrofit for any Linton, Kayex, or Hamco crystal-growing furnace, even for parts that are no longer available. Now, the company offers customers an online form to help expedite this very customized process.
After operating for more than a decade, many original furnace parts would have been replaced. Many times, modifications are made to the grower by the end-user, or the part has been changed over the years so it’s not an exact match to the original. To determine the best solution, Linton’s parts department looks at each need on a case-by-case basis.
“When asked to find a replacement part or retrofit, we always begin with a basic set of questions to make sure we know exactly what the relevant part is and for which machine,” explains Gary Goyette, technical support engineer for Linton. “Usually, we ask the customer to email us and attach various photos that help identify the part and any past modifications. With the new form, they can simply type in some basic information and upload all the necessary photos in one place.”
The information from the form, https://www.lintoncrystal.com/parts, is then directed to Goyette and Doug Hand, parts manager, who will work with the customer to determine the best option for their company’s budget and needs. The result is likely to be one of three options:
- Linton can provide the customer with a direct replacement for the part and will send a spare.
- The team will identify a drop-in replacement for the part. It may not be exactly the same part, but it does have the same form, fit and function so will work with the customer’s grower. Sometimes the drop-in offers a slight improvement over the original.
- Linton will find a part that will meet the customer’s needs, but some form of modification to the system will be necessary to make it work with the grower. This could be something as simple as changing out the mounting bracket because the screw holes for the new part are in a different place from those of the original part.
When none of these solutions is viable, the team works with the customer to find a more tailored solution. “We put ourselves in our customer’s shoes to try to figure out what’s best for their budget and business model,” says Goyette.
The parts team, in cooperation with Linton’s engineers, will help the customer identify a change that essentially keeps the system as similar to its current state as possible. This may mean changing the configuration of the machine slightly to fit the available replacement part. “This is often the solution chosen by customers who have qualified the product from that machine. They cannot make changes to the grower because the ingots it produces meet one of their customers’ exacting standards,” explains Goyette.
The other tailored solution is to come up with a retrofit that somehow improves the capability of the equipment in addition to performing the part’s original purpose. This could include something that offers more energy efficiency or growing process improvements.
“We work alongside engineering to make sure the solution we give the customer will fit and work with their actual equipment,” says Goyette. “This is obviously critical. Other manufacturers may offer the recommended substitute for unavailable parts, but these are not always one-to-one matches and may or may not function properly in that grower.”
Additionally, many parts incorporate technology from patents LCT holds and they are the sole providers of those parts.
Once a solution is agreed-upon, Linton’s optional Remote Technical Support product works to complement the experience level of the customer’s technical team as needed.
“For us, keeping our older machines running efficiently is as important as developing new technology. Both help us achieve our goal of helping customers achieve quality crystals,” says Goyette.
To request replacement parts or retrofits, customers can simply fill out the form on Linton’s website, https://www.lintoncrystal.com/parts, including uploads of requested photographs. Goyette or Hand will then be in touch to begin to find the right part or solution.