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HQ 962651

SEPTEMBER 21, 1999

CLA-2 RR:CR:GC 962651 JAS


TARIFF NO.: 8464.90.10, 8464.90.60

Port Director of Customs
200 Granby Street, Suite 839
Norfolk, VA 23510

RE: Protest 1401-98-100120; Automated Wet Processor

Dear Port Director:

This is our decision on Protest 1401-98-100120, filed against your classification under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS), of the wet bench, a device for processing semiconductors. The entries under protest were liquidated on September 18, 1998, and this protest timely filed on November 20, 1998. Protestant provided additional information in facsimile transmittals, dated June 18 and 25, 1998.


Wet benches or wet processors are automated machines or combinations of machines that dip semiconductor wafers in chemical baths for the purpose of etching, striping or cleaning. This protest involves four (4) machines or lines of the STEAG MicroTech Automatic Wet Processor, each of which is modular and includes multiple processing stations within the same housing.

Literature submitted with this protest identifies ten line configurations. The first six lines are for cleaning semiconductor wafers. Lines seven through nine are for etching. The tenth is for resist removal. The protested entries include three of these lines, plus a configuration not covered by the literature. The line imported on entry 322 0990624-0 was for prediffusion (RCA) cleaning (line 1 in the literature); the line imported on entry 322 0994424-1 was for buffered oxide etching (line 7 in the literature); the line imported on entry

322 0996424-9 was for nitride etching (line 8 in the literature); finally, the line imported on entry 322 0991424-4 was for stripping test wafers for reuse (not described in the literature).

The available information indicates that, strictly speaking, a cleaning line removes metallic oxides, greases, dust and other contaminants added to the wafers inadvertently during earlier processing steps, either by the equipment itself or by wafer handling. An etching line, on the other hand, removes films or portions of films that have been deliberately added to the wafers during processing. Stripping involves the removal of chemical photoresist remaining on the wafers after the etching process has been completed.

The entries were liquidated under a provision of heading 8464 for machines for wet developing or wet-stripping semiconductor wafers. The protestant maintains that the provision in heading 8464, machines for wet-etching semiconductor wafers, represents the correct classification.

The HTSUS provisions under consideration are as follows:

8464 Machines tools for working stone, ceramics, concrete, asbestos-cement or like mineral materials or for cold working class:

8464.90 Other:

8464.90.10 For scribing or scoring semiconductor wafers; for wet-etching semiconductor wafers

8464.90.60 For wet-developing or -stripping semiconductor wafers


Whether the four (4) lines constitute composite machines for tariff purposes; whether a principal function appropriate to heading 8464 can be determined.


Under General Rule of Interpretation (GRI) 1, Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS), goods are to be classified according to the terms of the headings and any relative section or chapter notes, and provided the headings or notes do not require otherwise, according to GRIs 2 through 6. GRI 6 authorizes comparisons between co-equal subheadings within the same heading, and permits the application of GRIs 1-5 at the subheading level, with appropriate substitution of terms.

Section XVI, Note 3, HTSUS, states in part that composite machines consisting of two or more machines fitted together to form a whole, and other machines adapted for the purpose of performing two or more complementary or alternative functions are to be classified as if consisting only of that component or as being that machine which performs the principal function. Principal function, in this context, is that function which exceeds each other single function of the component or machine. The machines under protest each contain pumps, hot chemical and cool-down tanks, temperature control apparatus, robotic transfer arms, and other components. Each of the lines under protest processes the semiconductor wafers in various steps that include dipping the wafers in one or more chemical baths, followed by one or more rinsing and drying operations. The available information provided by the protestant, together with the submitted literature, indicates that the prediffusion cleaning line performs a cleaning function, that is, removing contaminants inadvertently added to the wafers during earlier processing. During this cleaning, however, a small amount of the surface of each wafer is chemically etched or removed. The buffered oxide etching and nitride etching lines perform a more clearly identifiable etching function by removing films or portions of films deliberately added to the wafers during processing. The stripping line removes photoresist after the etching process is completed but does not involve etching.

In both the cleaning and etching operations, whether the greases, films, organic or metallic residues, or other contaminants are applied to the wafers during processing or deposited inadvertently, the function these lines perform involves removing varying amounts of the wafers’ surface area.

This is a wet-etching process for tariff purposes, which we find to be the lines’ principal function for purposes of Section XVI, Note 3, HTSUS, applied at the subheading level through GRI 6. As the name implies, the principal function of the line for stripping test wafers for reuse is stripping, which is a cleaning function that does not involve etching.


Under the authority of GRI 1, and Section XVI, Note 3, HTSUS, the four (4) lines under protest are provided for in heading 8464. As the principal function of the etching and cleaning lines has been found to involve a process of etching, they are classifiable in subheading 8464.90.10, HTSUS, as machine tools for wet-etching semiconductor wafers. The protest should be ALLOWED as to these lines. The line for stripping test wafers for reuse remains classified as liquidated, under subheading 8464.90.60, HTSUS, as machines for wet-developing or -stripping semiconductor wafers. The protest should be DENIED as to this line.

In accordance with Section 3A(11)(b) of Customs Directive 099 3550-065, dated August 4, 1993, Subject: Revised Protest Directive, you are to mail this decision, together with the Customs Form 19, to the protestant no later than 60 days from the date of this letter. Any reliquidation of the entry or entries in accordance with the decision must be accomplished prior to mailing the decision. Sixty days from the date of the decision the Office of Regulations and Rulings will make the decision available to Customs personnel, and to the public on the Customs Home Page on the World Wide Web at www.customs.gov, by means of the Freedom of Information Act, and other methods of public distribution.


John Durant, Director
Commercial Rulings Division

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