Semiconductor Device Manufacturers
Chips - also known as semiconductor devices - are integrated circuits we all use for every electronic device or subsystem. Semiconductor device fabrication is a multi-step sequence of photolithographic and chemical processing steps during which electronic circuits are gradually created on a wafer typically made of ultra-pure silicon, but sometimes different compound semiconductors are used for very specialize applications. The entire manufacturing process takes many weeks and is performed in highly specialized facilities referred to as fabs.
The cost of building and setting up a semiconductor fabrication facility ("fab") is expensive, estimated about $1 billion for a new fab, and over $3 billion for one of today's most advanced semiconductor fabs.
The central part of a fab is the clean room, an area where the environment is controlled to eliminate all dust, since even a single speck can ruin a microcircuit, which has features much smaller than dust. The clean room must also be dampened against vibration and the fab needs to maintain a very narrow range of temperature and humidity. Controlling temperature and humidity is critical for minimizing static electricity.
Wafers are thin (~0.75mm) and typically round, and the most advanced fabs today develop chips on 300mm wafers, about the size of a dinner plate. While these wafers may not look that expensive, their value, when eventually turned into integrated circuits, represent over $30,000 each and can be worth as much as a $1 million, if not more. Because of the value of these wafers, semiconductor fabs need to make sure they are getting as many working die from each wafer and processing as many wafers as possible in order to minimize costs. The drive to connect each of these very expensive machines to the fab's host computer system (also known as a Manufacturing Execution System or MES) in order to monitor the manufacturing processes is the reason SEMI initiated, and continues to foster, the development of these connectivity standards.
The success Cimetrix has achieved has come from our work to develop software solutions that support equipment suppliers' ability to connect their systems to the fab MES.
The equipment to manufacture semiconductor devices (chips) is contained in the semiconductor fab clean room. All of the equipment - including photolithography steppers, etching, cleaning, doping, and dicing equipment - is large, extremely precise, and very expensive. Prices for the most common pieces of equipment for the processing of 300mm wafers range from $700,000 to upwards of $4,000,000 each with a few pieces of equipment reaching as high as $50,000,000 each (e.g. steppers). A typical fab will have several hundred equipment units, each of which has to perform to exacting detail 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Equipment companies need to respond to the connectivity needs of the fabs. The equipment interface to the host system MES has to comply with the industry standard required by the fab (SECS/GEM, GEM 300, EDA/Interface A), and it has pass acceptance tests by the fab.Cimetrix support equipment suppliers by providing the software development kits, engineering services, support, and SEMI standards training to accelerate the development and test acceptance process.
For more information about how Cimetrix products support the semiconductor industry, visit the Cimetrix Connectivty products page.
For more information about SEMI standards and the semiconductor industry, visit our Semiconductor Industry web page.