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HQ 964847

March 5, 2002



TARIFF NO.: 6909.12.00

Mr. John M. Peterson
Neville, Peterson & Williams
80 Broad Street, 34th Floor
New York, NY 10004

RE: Blank ceramic substrates.

Dear Mr. Peterson:

This is in response to your letter of December 27, 2000, submitted to the Director, National Commodity Specialist Division, New York, on behalf of Sumitomo Special Metals America, Inc. You requested the classification of two types of blank ceramic substrates under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS). Your letter was referred to this office for reply. Samples were submitted. In preparing this ruling, consideration was given to arguments you presented at a meeting held on March 6, 2002 at Customs Headquarters with you and your client.


The samples submitted, identified as “AlTic Wafers,” are blank ceramic substrates, of other than porcelain or china, in square or disk shapes. The substrates are composed of alumina (aluminum oxide) and titanium carbide. Small quantities of magnesium oxide are added in manufacturing certain models. Depending on their intended use, the wafers measure either 2 mm, plus or minus 10 micrometers, or 1.2 mm plus or minus 10 micrometers thick. The substrates are imported blank, without holes or lines that would dedicate them to any particular use. The alumina and titanium carbide are milled, mixed and dried separately. They are then combined, and milled and mixed again. The mixed material is pressed into wafer form by simultaneous application of extreme pressure and heat in a hot press. The number of magnetic heads yielded from each wafer varies according to the wafer’s dimensions and application.

The AlTic wafers have properties of electrical conductivity which suit them for use in the production of magnetic read/write heads for hard disk drives or magnetic tape drives. After importation the substrates are subject to additional processing. Additional alumina is deposited by sputtering to form an insulation layer. Then additional metal layers and/or alumina are vacuum sputtered, wet plated, or CVD processed. Microcircuitry is deposited via processes such as photolithography, which is the application of photoresist, exposure to light by a stepper, removal of surface materials by etching and removal of the photoresist layer. The resulting microassemblies are further processed into recording heads for use as components for magnetic disk drives or tape drives. The wafers are sold to laser houses blank. The laser house scores the wafers, scribes them and then sells them.

You contend that classification of the “AlTic Wafers” should be in subheading 8542.90, HTSUS, the provision for parts of electronic integrated circuits and microassemblies. In the alternative, you contend the wafers are classifiable in subheading 6909.12, HTSUS, the provision for ceramic wares for technical uses, having a hardness equivalent to 9 or more on the Mohs scale, rather than subheading 6914.90, HTSUS, the basket provision for other ceramic articles.

Samples were submitted to the Customs Laboratory for analysis. The laboratory report (#NO20011394S, dated March 6, 2002) states that the samples meet the requirements of a ceramic set forth in Chapter 69, Additional U.S. note 1, HTSUS, and that the hardness of the ceramics is equivalent to more than 9 on the Mohs scale.


Whether the blank ceramic substrates, as imported, constitute parts of electronic integrated circuits, classifiable in subheading 8542.90, HTSUS, ceramic wares for technical use, classifiable in subheading 6909.12, HTSUS, or whether they are other ceramic articles, other than porcelain or china, classifiable in subheading 6914.90, HTSUS.


Classification under the HTSUS is made in accordance with the General Rules of Interpretation (“GRIs”). GRI 1 provides that articles are to be classified by the terms of the headings and relative Section and Chapter Notes. For an article to be classified in a particular heading, the heading must describe the article, and not be excluded therefrom by any legal note. In the event that goods cannot be classified solely on the basis of GRI 1, and if the headings and legal notes do not otherwise require, the remaining GRIs may then be applied.

In understanding the language of the HTSUS, the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System Explanatory Notes (ENs) may be utilized. ENs, though not dispositive or legally binding, provide commentary on the scope of each heading of the HTSUS, and are the official interpretation of the Harmonized System at the international level. Customs believes the ENs should always be consulted. See T.D. 89-80, 54 Fed. Reg. 35127, 35128 (August 23, 1989).

The HTSUS provisions at issue are as follows:

Ceramic wares for laboratory, chemical or other technical uses; ceramic troughs, tubs and similar receptacles of a kind used in agriculture; ceramic pots, jars and similar articles of a kind used for the conveyance or packing of goods: Ceramic wares for laboratory, chemical or technical uses:

6909.12.00 Articles having a hardness equivalent to 9 or more on the Mohs scale

Other ceramic articles:



Electronic integrated circuits and microassemblies; parts therof:

8542.90.00 Parts

Additional U.S. Rule of Interpretation 1(c), HTSUS, states: “a provision for parts of an article covers products solely or principally used as a part of such articles but a provision for “parts” or “parts and accessories” shall not prevail over a specific provision for such part or accessory.”

First we examine your claim that the substrates are parts of the goods of heading 8542, HTSUS. Note 5(b) to Chapter 85, HTSUS, provides the requirements for “electronic integrated circuits and microassemblies” of heading 8542, HTSUS. As described in the Note, monolitihic integrated circuits, hybrid integrated circuits and microassemblies all are constructed of discrete components, which consist of indivisible circuit elements (e.g., diodes, transistors, resistors, capacitators and interconnections). None of these circuit elements is present on the substrates at issue. Thus, we cannot determine whether or not the ceramics will ever meet the requirements set forth in the Note.

An article may be classified as a part of another article when, in its imported condition, it has been so far advanced so as to be dedicated to and commercially fit for use with that article and incapable of being made into more than one article or class of articles. See Avin Industrial Products Co. v. United States, 72 Cust. Ct. 43, C.D. 4503, 376 F. Supp. 879, reh. denied, 72 Cust. Ct. 147, C.D. 4522 (1974). See also Haraeus-Amersil, Inc. v. United States, 640 F. Supp. 1331 (CIT 1986) (so advanced that nothing remained to be done except cut precious metal contact tape apart); EM Chemicals v. United States, 728 F. Supp. 723 (CIT 1989) (liquid crystal used in liquid crystal displays imported in advanced manufactured state such that the product as imported is ready to be a part of the LCD by being sandwiched between two ‘plates’), and Ludvig Svensson, Inc. v. United States, 62 F. Supp. 2d 1171 (CIT 1999), infra.

Whether an item made into multiple parts after importation is classifiable as part of other articles requires the determination of whether the article 1) is dedicated solely or principally for use in those articles and is without substantial other independent commercial uses and 2) if the item can be made into multiple parts, the item must identify and fix with certainty the individual parts to be made from them. See Baxter Healthcare Corp. of Puerto Rico v. United States, 182 F.3d 1333 (CAFC 1999) (hereinafter Baxter).

In Baxter, rolls of Oxyphan (used for making membrane oxygenators) failed the second part because the individual parts cannot be discerned from the roll. The roll nowhere marked or otherwise identified the individual parts to be made from it. But see Ludvig Svensson, 62 F. Supp. 2d 171 (C.I.T. 1999) (holding environmental screens at issue were in an advanced state of manufacture, i.e., no longer materials, because the special properties of the screens for used as greenhouse roofs are fixed and not altered by post-importation processing). You submit the instant substrates are used only in the manufacture of read/write heads, or “sliders,” for hard disk drives. However, without the post-importation processing, which includes deposition of additional layers of alumina and/or metals by sputtering and deposition of microcircuitry by the photolithography process described in the facts, the ceramic pieces, like the rolls of Oxyphan, cannot be distinguished at importation as parts of microassemblies. The identity of the substrates as parts of recording heads is not fixed with certainty because the substrates are blank; there are no circuit elements. Accordingly, the blank ceramic substrates are not classifiable under subheading 8542.90, HTSUS.

We next examine heading 6909 to determine if it describes the imported goods. At importation, the substrates at issue are clearly identifiable as ceramic articles. Relevant technical sources define a substrate as follows: “Base material upon which integrated circuits are built.” Alan Freedman’s The Computer Glossary, 8th edition. “The inactive supporting material used in a manufacturing process In tapes and disks, it is the material on which the magnetic particles are fused.” The Microsoft Press Computer Dictionary, 3d edition. “The underlying material on which a microelectronic device is built. Such material may be electrically active, such as silicon, or passive, such as alumina ceramic.” Intersil’s Lexicon on Semiconductor Terms http://rel.semi.harris.com/docs/ lexicon./S.html, visited on, March 8, 2002.

Heading 6909, HTSUS, covers in pertinent part, ceramic wares for ... technical uses. You have submitted to us that these substrates are manufactured by a highly technical process prior to importation such that they are ideal for use in read/write head manufacturing. Subheading 6909.12 provides for such articles with a hardness equivalent of 9 or more on the Mohs scale.

Subheading EN to subheading 6909.12 provides:

This subheading covers high-performance ceramic articles. These articles are composed of a crystalline ceramic matrix (e.g. of alumina, silicon carbide, zirconia, or nitrides of silicon, boron or aluminium, or of combinations thereof): whiskers or fibres of reinforcing material (e.g. of metal or graphite) may also be dispersed in the matrix to form a composite ceramic material.

These articles are characterized by a matrix which has a very low porosity and in which the grain size is very small; by high resistance to wear, corrosion, fatigue and thermal shock; by high-temperature strength; and by strength-to-weight ratios comparable to or better than those of steel.

They are often used in place of steel or other metal parts in mechanical applications requiring close dimensional tolerances (e.g. engine turbocharger rotors, rolling contact bearings and machine tools).

The Mohs scale mentioned in this subheading rates a material by its ability to scratch the surface of the material below it on the scale. Materials are rated from 1 (for talc) to 10 (for diamond). Most of the high-performance ceramic materials fall near the top of the scale. Silicon carbide and aluminium oxide, both of which are used in high-performance ceramics, fall at 9 or above on the Mohs scale.

The substrates fall within the purview of high-performance ceramics as they are composite ceramics composed in part of aluminum oxide, are machined to exacting dimensional tolerances for use in the computer industry, and have a hardness equivalent to more than 9 on the Mohs scale.

We are satisfied that these substrates meet the subheading EN description. Furthermore, according to U.S. Additional Rule of Interpretation 1(c), HTSUS, a specific provision prevails over a provision for parts. Even if these ceramic substrates were identifiable as parts of heading 8542, HTSUS, they are specifically provided for as ceramic wares for technical uses. The blank ceramic substrates are classified in subheading 6909.12.00, HTSUS.

Inasmuch as the subject goods are clearly classifiable under subheading 6909.12, HTSUS, it is not necessary to consider classification in the residual heading 6914, HTSUS.


Blank ceramic substrates known as “AlTic Wafers” are classified in subheading 6909.12.00, HTSUS, which provides for, “Ceramic wares for laboratory, chemical or other uses : Ceramic wares for laboratory, chemical, or other uses: Articles having a hardness equivalent to 9 or more on the Mohs scale.”


John Durant, Director
Commercial Rulings Division

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