Industry News, Trends and Technology, and Standards Updates

Alan Weber: Vice President, New Product Innovations

Alan Weber is currently the Vice President, New Product Innovations for Cimetrix Incorporated. Previously he served on the Board of Directors for eight years before joining the company as a full-time employee in 2011. Alan has been a part of the semiconductor and manufacturing automation industries for over 40 years. He holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Electrical Engineering from Rice University.
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Semiconductor Backend Processes: Tracking Process Execution

Posted by Alan Weber: Vice President, New Product Innovations on Sep 30, 2020 11:45:00 AM

Background

semi-e157-pic1

Previous blog posting in this series have discussed the rationale for using SEMI’s GEM, GEM 300, and related automation standards in semiconductor backend factories, and pointed out that the specific adaptations required for the various backend equipment types are one of the focus areas for the SEMI Advanced Backend Factory Integration (ABFI) Task Force. In this posting, I will deal specifically with the benefits that can be realized by using the E157 Process Module Tracking standard in a backend factory context.

Since none of the backend material transformations are implemented in what front end experts would consider a “process chamber,” this may seem like an unlikely fit. Moreover, the velocity of backend processes seems contrary with the typical front end recipe execution paradigm. Finally, the lack of distinct substrate locations for some of the processes makes it difficult to know precisely when the process begins and ends for the affected material in some cases.

Regardless of these challenges, the requirements for single device traceability that include knowing the exact process conditions that a device was exposed to at every moment in its manufacturing life cycle (including the backend) argue for use of this standard wherever possible.Since none of the backend material transformations are implemented in what front end experts would consider a “process chamber,” this may seem like an unlikely fit. Moreover, the velocity of backend processes seems contrary with the typical front end recipe execution paradigm. Finally, the lack of distinct substrate locations for some of the processes makes it difficult to know precisely when the process begins and ends for the affected material.

SEMI E157 – Process Module Tracking

The purpose of SEMI E157 is “to define a standard equipment capability to report process-related data to the factory system… the activities of a processing location (i.e., process module) that are related to the execution of a recipe.” The standard further states that “the collection of process data during recipe execution is important to today’s semiconductor factories to support various applications that help optimize equipment processes, finished product quality, yield, and overall factory performance.”

These requirements are now every bit as important for backend factories as they are for the front end, so it is useful to understand how E157 can be effectively applied.

First of all, the E157 Module Process State Model is fairly simple, having only 4 states (three of which are “base states” with no sub-states) and 7 state transition events, shown in the diagram below.

E157-pic1This model represents the state of that portion (or portions) of a unit of equipment that executes a recipe to transform whatever material is present in that part of the equipment. In front end equipment, the chambers are relatively distinct, and usually process a small number of substrates (often one) at a time. By contrast, backend processes cover a broad spectrum of material types, from single wafers to strips (or lead frames) of multiple die to individual packages. The material flow characteristics also vary, from discrete (i.e., single workpieces) to batch to continuous. Moreover, the production rates and material volumes for these processes range from perhaps 90 wafers per hour to thousands of packages per hour… With these challenges, it is no wonder that the pace of automation for these facilities has lagged that of the front end.

How is the E157 Standard Used?

From the equipment’s perspective, every time the process module changes state according to the model above, the equipment sends the corresponding state transition event to the factory host computer. This is done using the SECS-II S6, F11 Event Report message with an event name exactly prescribed by the E157 standard.

The event report should also include whatever “context information” from the equipment that the factory applications need to analyze the equipment’s performance and behavior. For some backend processes, this might be lot ID, process job ID, recipe name, control settings, and current parameter values for important process variables. For others, it might be cumulative usage counts for fixtures with limited lifetimes, current levels of consumables used in the process, or configuration parameters for equipment with a range of setup possibilities. To further complicate matters, some of this information is common across most processes, some of it is process-specific, but some of it may actually be vendor-specific. It all depends on how the factory operates.

Finally, when used in conjunction with event timing information from other required standards (e.g., E90 Substrate Management), E157 data can help identify potential productivity issues, say, when there is an unexpected delay between material arrival (from E90) and recipe start (E157).

How Might E157 be Adapted for Backend Equipment?

As noted above, some equipment types process a stream of material continuously. In these situations, for a given lot, multiple substrates may be processed at the same time in a continuous flow (say, on a conveyor through an oven) until the lot is complete. For these types of equipment, E157 cannot be directly applied because it is chamber oriented, and you don’t get much useful information if you use the entire lot as the execution starting and completing events.

However, if you apply the same state model to the material (substrate, strip/lead frame, carrier, etc.) being processed rather than the equipment component, the collection events defined by E157 can be implemented when a unit of that material changes state. Specifically, the equipment can report the same collection events (ExecutionStarted, StepStarted, StepCompleted, ExecutionCompleted, StepFailed and ExecutionFailed) when execution on a substrate changes state, including when a step is started and completed. The meaning of a “step” would still be interpreted and designed by the equipment supplier. Associating these E157 collection events with a new “substrateID” data variable rather than a chamber enables the factory user to track the material state for each substrate going through the equipment.

Which Backend Equipment Types Should Implement E157?

Even though backend metrology, inspection, and test equipment may run recipes to perform their tasks, since no material transformation takes place, the state transition events and related context are far less important than the measurement and inspection results that these equipment types generate.
For the rest of the backend processes, the relative priorities for implementing E157 are the following:

High – die attach, wire bonding, dicing/sawing/singulation

Medium – backside grinding, polishing, plating, annealing molding, trim and form

Low – wafer mounting, die glue curing, deflashing, laser marking, tie bar cut, baking, burn-in

One category of equipment we have not mentioned is custom assembly equipment that can vary greatly by the end product form factor. The use of E157 in this equipment will depend entirely on the process complexity and sources of variability that must be tracked. However, it is safe to assume that for all but the simplest of processes, E157 will likely play a useful role.

Conclusion

E157 is a prime example of an exceptionally simple and well-written standard built on top of GEM technology that is easy to implement and provides a lot of end user value. The SEMI ABFI task force is now evaluating the specific adaptation of E157 for various backend equipment types and welcomes your contribution to that process.

Topics: Industry Highlights, Semiconductor Industry, Smart Manufacturing/Industry 4.0, GEM300

Are you now required to work from home? Don’t let it cripple your EDA-related activities!

Posted by Alan Weber: Vice President, New Product Innovations on Mar 25, 2020 1:15:00 PM

WFHEDA1The COVID-19 pandemic is impacting businesses worldwide, and in many regions, working from home is now mandatory or at least strongly encouraged.

While this doesn’t pose a major disruption for many types of jobs, it can be problematic for people working with the automation features of advanced manufacturing equipment. The network connections to production equipment are normally part of a secure factory system infrastructure, which makes them almost impossible to reach from outside the company’s intranet. Luckily, for those responsible for testing and characterizing the SEMI EDA (Equipment Data Acquisition, also known as Interface A) interfaces on new 300mm equipment, this should only be a minor inconvenience. And why is that?

The choice of internet technologies (Web Services, SOAP/XML) as the foundation for the EDA standards makes it easy to connect to a piece of equipment over the internet as long as the user’s client computer can “reach” the connection URLs of the equipment (and vice versa). What this probably means in practice is setting up a VPN (Virtual Private Network) connection from your client computer (say, the laptop you normally use) to the company’s network. This is something that road warriors and remote employees must often do as a matter of course to access internal file systems, in-house applications, and other private information.

Once this is done, you can connect to the various service URLs for that equipment by including the remote computer name in the session connection strings. Note that you may have to modify the firewall settings of your client machine so the E134 NewData messages can find their way back to you. This is necessary because these are NOT request/reply messages like many of the EDA services; rather, they are initiated from the equipment, so your application has to be listening for them on the Consumer URL. This address is passed to the equipment when the connection session is first defined and established.

Using the Cimetrix ECCE Plus client product as an example, here is how I would set up a remote (from home!) session with an EDA-enabled 300mm equipment simulator running in our office on a machine named “edasimulator.” The first screenshot shows the choice of connections defined for my instance of the ECCE Plus; note that last one in the list that is highlighted.WFHEDA2png

Clicking on the “Edit Session Definition” button and then the “More >” checkbox yields the screen below. You can see that the equipment IP address is “edasimulator” (the remote computer name referenced above) and each of the Freeze II service URLs (E132 Location, E125 Location, and E134 Location) for the session are defined on that machine.WFHEDA3

Note that the client ID (From/Client Name), which is “MyHomeTestClient,” must also be defined in the equipment’s Access Control List (ACL). For me to be effective, this client must have sufficient privileges for the kinds of work I need to do, which may include using existing DCPs (Data Collection Plans), creating additional DCPs, viewing interface configuration parameters (e.g., Max Sessions) and ACL entries, browsing the metadata model, and looking at the SOAP logs. Results of some of these tasks using the ECCE Plus are shown below.WFHEDA4WFHEDA5pngWFHEDA6WFHEDA7png

This may sound like a lot of trouble, but with a little help from your company’s IT support team, you can follow the “shelter in place” guidelines and STILL work effectively on your EDA-related tasks. And when the current crisis has passed, you’ll know how to be even more effective when you’re on the road!

We hope the posting is useful for you, and most importantly, that you and your loved ones stay safe and calm.

Topics: Industry Highlights, EDA/Interface A, Customer Support, Partners, Doing Business with Cimetrix

Advanced Process Control Conference XXXI:  Retrospective and New Standards News

Posted by Alan Weber: Vice President, New Product Innovations on Nov 11, 2019 9:15:00 AM

APC2019-1The 31st annual APC Conference is now in the history books, and the diversity of topics, presenters, and local distractions made it well worth the visit to San Antonio! This year’s agenda featured half-day tutorials on the basics of APC and cyber-security, keynotes from chip makers and leading suppliers on automotive industry requirements, smart equipment, and smart manufacturing, and a series of packed technical sessions covering sensors and equipment control, fault detection and feedforward/feedback control, advanced analytics, and standards.

One of the presentations in the standards session provided detailed information about the new SEMI SMT-ELS (Surface Mount Technology Equipment Link Standards) M2M (machine-to-machine) communications standard. Alan Weber made the presentation titled “SEMI Standards to Support APC for Post-Fab Operations” to an interested audience, which triggered a number of discussions about the automation roadmap for the semiconductor assembly and test segment. This was especially relevant, since some of the leaders of the newly formed SEMI Advanced Backend Factory Integration Task Force (ABFI TF) were also present.

APC2019pic2The SMT-ELS standard has come a long way in a short time, and the ambitious, integrated demonstration created by 4 major SMT suppliers (Fuji, Juki, Panasonic, Yamaha) that was exhibited in June (Japan) and August (China) will again be shown in productronica (Munich, 13-15 November). The basic functions of SMT-ELS (officially designated at SEMI A1, A1.1, and A2) appear in the figure below.

APC2019pic3Cimetrix will likewise demonstrate this new standard at productronica, showing not only an equipment-level implementation of the M2M features but also the host-based configuration process and a plug-in for doing protocol validation tests.

Smart Manufacturing was a common theme this year, with an entire session dedicated to this global initiative. The Factory Integration section of the IRDS (International Roadmap for Devices and Systems) will be reorganized around the tenets of Smart Manufacturing, and a two-volume multi-industry book on this body of technology is scheduled for publication early next year. Another of Alan Weber’s presentations was dedicated to this topic, as he wrote the chapter chronicling the semiconductor industry’s development and use of these technologies.

APC2019pic4If you would like any further information, you can speak with a Cimetrix expert, or you can stop by our booth at productronica this week (Hall A3 booth 451). 

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Topics: Industry Highlights, Doing Business with Cimetrix, Events, Smart Manufacturing/Industry 4.0

Advanced Process Control Conference XXXI: Preview and Invitation

Posted by Alan Weber: Vice President, New Product Innovations on Oct 10, 2019 11:00:00 AM

The 31st annual APC Conference is coming up later this month (October 28-31), and will be held at the Embassy Suites Riverwalk in the scenic and historic setting of San Antonio, Texas.

sanantonioThis conference is one of the longest-running events specific to the semiconductor manufacturing industry, and always features speakers and topics that are germane to the industry’s leading practitioners of equipment/factory data collection, analysis, optimization, and control.  This year’s agenda promises more of the same – click here for a closer look at the details.

Specifically, as the automotive industry’s use of semiconductors continues to grow in anticipation of self-driving cars and their supporting infrastructure, the first keynote address from Steve Frezon of NXP Semiconductors (“Automotive Semiconductor ZERO DEFECT Enablement”) highlights the challenges that automotive customers place on the wafer fabs. A second keynote by Dr. Ben Rathsack of Tokyo Electron America (“SMART Tools: Intelligent Controls in Semiconductor Manufacturing”) focuses on the implications of the global Smart Manufacturing initiative for equipment suppliers, which has been a consistent theme of the conference under a variety of monikers since its earliest days.

The rest of the Technical Sessions Agenda includes presentations, posters, and exhibits across the semiconductor value chain: sensor and subsystem providers, software suppliers, equipment manufacturers, universities, standards organizations, and semiconductor IDMs and foundries. Given the importance of equipment connectivity and control across the product and technology spectrum of these companies, Cimetrix will participate directly as it has for many years. Alan Weber, VP of New Product Innovations, will present a summary of a chapter (“Semiconductor Smart Manufacturing: An Evolving Nexus of Business Drivers, Technologies, and Standards”) in a soon-to-be-published 2-volume book on Smart Manufacturing. He will also present material jointly developed 1) with SK hynix on customer-driven automation requirements development, and 2) with SEMI Japan, Applied Materials, and others on new standards for flow shop style manufacturing, such as semiconductor back end and PCB assembly.

Central Texas can be a beautiful place to be in late October, so mark your calendars today and plan to join us in San Antonio!

Topics: Doing Business with Cimetrix, Events, Smart Manufacturing/Industry 4.0

EDA Best Practices Series: Specifying and Measuring Performance and Data Quality

Posted by Alan Weber: Vice President, New Product Innovations on Aug 1, 2019 12:14:00 PM

The old adage “You get what you pay for” doesn’t fully apply to equipment automation interfaces… more accurately, you get what you require, and then what you pay for!

This is especially true when considering the range of capability that may be provided with an equipment supplier’s implementation of the EDA (Equipment Data Acquisition, also known as Interface A) standards. Not only is it possible to be fully compliant with the standard while delivering an equipment metadata model that contains very little useful information, the standards themselves are also silent on the topics of Performance and Data Quality.  So you must take extra care to state these requirements and expectations in your purchase specifications if you expect the resulting interface to support the demands of your factory’s data analysis and control applications. Moreover, to the extent these requirements can be tested, you should describe the test methods and tools that you will use in the acceptance process to minimize the chance of ugly surprises when the equipment is delivered.

We have covered the importance of and process for creating robust purchase specifications in a previous posting. This post will focus specifically on aspects of Performance and Data Quality within that context.

Scope of Performance and Data Quality Requirements

From a scope standpoint, Performance and Data Quality requirements are found in a number of sections in an automation specification. The list below is just a starting point suitable for any advanced wafer fab – your needs may extend and exceed these significantly.

Here are some sample requirements that pertain to the computing platform for the EDA interface software:

  • The interface computer should have the capability of a 4-core Intel i5 or i7 or better, with processing speed of 2+ GHz, 8 GB of RAM, and 500 GB of persistent storage with at least 50% available at all times.
  • The equipment must monitor key performance parameters of the EDA computing platform such as CPU utilization (%), memory utilization (GB, %), disk utilization (GB, %) and access rate, etc. using system utilities such as Perfmon (for Windows systems) and store this history either in a log file or in some part of the equipment metadata model.
  • The network interface card must support 1 GB per second (or faster) communications.

In the area of equipment model content, the following requirements are directly related to interface performance and data quality:

  • The equipment should make the EDA computing platform performance parameters available as parameters of an E120 logical element that represents the EDA interface software itself.
  • The supplier must provide a written description of the update rates, recommended sampling intervals, normal operating ranges and behaviors, and high/low/rate-of-change limits for all key process parameters. These will be used to design data quality filters in the data path between the equipment and the consuming applications/users.
  • Equipment parameters provided through the EDA interface must exhibit a number of data quality characteristics, including, but not limited to: an internal sampling/update rate sufficient to represent the underlying signal accurately; timing of trace reports that is consistent with the sampling interval within +/- 1.0%; values in adjacent trace reports must contain then-current values at the specified sampling interval; and rejection of obvious outliers.

Advanced users of the EDA standards are now raising their expectations for the equipment to provide self-monitoring and diagnosis capability in the form of built-in data collection plans (DCPs), as expressed in some of the following requirements:

  • The supplier must provide built-in DCPs to support common equipment performance monitoring, diagnostic, and maintenance processes that are well known to the supplier. Documentation for these DCPs must define their purpose, activation conditions, interface bandwidth consumed, and the types of analysis the collected data enables.
  • The supplier must describe the operating conditions that can lead to a PerformanceWarning situation for the EDA interface.
  • The supplier must describe the algorithms used to deactivate DCPs under PerformanceWarning conditions. These might include LIFO (i.e., the last DCP activated is the first to be deactivated), decreasing order of bandwidth consumed or “size” (in terms of total # of parameters and # of trace/event requests), etc.

Because of the power and complexity of the DCP structure defined in the EDA standards, it is not sufficient to specify the raw communications performance requirement as a small number of isolated criteria, such as total bandwidth (in parameters per second) or minimum sampling interval. Rather, since the EDA interface must support a variety of data collection client demands for a wide range of production equipment, these requirements should be expressed as combinations of sampling interval, # parameters per DCP, # of simultaneously active DCPs, group size, buffering interval, response time for ad hoc “one-shot” DCPs, maximum latency of event generation after the related equipment condition occurred, consistency of timestamps in trace reports with the specified sampling interval, and perhaps others.

Moreover, some equipment types may have more stringent performance requirements than others, depending on the criticality of timely data for the consuming applications… so there may be process-specific performance requirements as well.

Measurement and Testing

Methods for measuring and testing the above requirements should also be described in the purchase specifications so the equipment suppliers can know they are being successfully addressed during the development process and can demonstrate compliance before and after shipping the equipment. Clarity at this phase saves time and expense later on.

Examples of such requirements include:

  • The supplier must test the EDA interface across the full range of performance criteria specified above and provide reports documenting the results.
  • An earlier requirement states that the EDA interface must be capable of reporting at least 2000 parameters at a sampling interval of 0.1 seconds (10Hz) with a group size of 1, for a total data collection capacity (bandwidth) of 20,000 parameters per second. In addition to this overall bandwidth capability, the supplier must demonstrate that this performance is possible over a range of specific data collection deployment strategies, meaning different #s and sizes of DCPs, different sampling intervals, group sizes, etc. without causing the EDA interface to reach one of its “Performance Warning” states or overstress its computing platform. To this end, all combinations of the following data collection configuration settings must be run for at least 15 seconds each; assuming the equipment has n processing modules:
    • Trace intervals (in seconds): 1, 0.5, 0.2, 0.1 (and 0.05 if possible)
    • # of parameters per DCP: 10, 50, 100, 250, 500, 1000 (and 2000 if possible)
    • # of DCPs: 1, 2, 3, … to n
    • Group size: 10, 5, 2, 1
  • The test client should be run on a separate computing platform with sufficient computing power to “stay ahead” of the EDA interface computer; in other words, the EDA interface should never have to wait on the client system.
  • Test reports should indicate the start and stop time of each iteration (i.e., one combination of the above settings), and verify that the timestamps of the data collection reports sent by the EDA interface are within +/- 1% of the value expected if the samples were collected exactly at the specified trace interval.
Performance parameters of the EDA interface platform should also be monitored during the tests and included in the report. These parameters should include memory usage, CPU processing load, and disk access rate (and perhaps others) for all processes that constitute the EDA interface software.

This approach is shown in tabular form for a 2-chamber tool (see below); since Group Size does not (or should not) impact the effective parameters per second rate, it is not shown in the table.edabest-measure-1
  • A summary report for all performance tests that show acceptable message generation and transmission timing across the full range of data collection test criteria must be available.
  • Detailed SOAP logs for specific performance tests must be available on request.

In Conclusion

Red_smart_factory-TW

We hope you now have some appreciation for the importance of solid requirements in this area, and can accurately assess how well your current purchase specifications express your actual needs. If you want to know more about a well-defined process for improving your specifications, or have any other questions regarding the status and outlook of the EDA standards, and how they can be implemented, please contact us.

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Topics: Industry Highlights, EDA/Interface A, Doing Business with Cimetrix, Smart Manufacturing/Industry 4.0, Cimetrix Products, EDA Best Practices

New SEMI Standards for Flow Manufacturing Automation Demonstrated at JISSO PROTEC!

Posted by Alan Weber: Vice President, New Product Innovations on Jun 26, 2019 10:59:00 AM

Jisso-ProtecCimetrix attended the recent JISSO PROTEC exhibition (June 5-7, 2019) at the Tokyo Big Sight International Exhibition Center to see the latest developments in SMT (Surface Mount Technology) manufacturing… and witnessed a truly compelling demonstration of the new SEMI Flow Manufacturing communications standards in action.

Jisso-1The new suite of standards is named SMT-ELS (Surface Mount Technology-Equipment Link Standards), and includes SEMI A1/1.1 as a lower-level messaging standard with SEMI A2 SMASH (Surface Mount Assembler Smart Hookup) defining the content of the messages required to configure an SMT manufacturing line and automate the material and information transfer among all equipment in that line. This is depicted in the figure below.

Jisso-2

The demonstration itself included placement equipment from 4 large equipment suppliers—Fuji, JUKI, Panasonic, and Yamaha—as well as load/unload stations and a bar code reader at the beginning of the line (see picture below). Each of these companies had implemented the “horizontal” (machine-to-machine) communications according to the SMT-ELS standards. The demonstration consisted of an operator scanning one of the stack of input boards with the barcode reader, placing it on the loader conveyor, and then watching as each piece of equipment automatically adjusted its internal conveyor to accept the board, run through its part placement recipe, and pass the board to the next equipment in the line, finally arriving at the unload station conveyor after a minute or so.

Jisso-3

Jisso-4

Before a fully automated multi-vendor production SMT line can be implemented, more work on the standards is necessary, especially in the area of error handling and recovery. In addition, the suppliers of other (non-placement) equipment types must adopt this approach. However, given the factory benefit of mixing equipment from multiple suppliers to optimize line performance for a specific set of products, this is only a matter of time.

If you want to know more about the status and outlook of these standards, and how they can be implemented in your equipment or factory, please contact us.

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Topics: Industry Highlights, Events, Global Services, Smart Manufacturing/Industry 4.0, SMT/PCB/PCBA

The 19th Annual European APC Conference is in the books!

Posted by Alan Weber: Vice President, New Product Innovations on Apr 23, 2019 10:34:00 AM

apcm20191Cimetrix participated in the recent European Advanced Process Control and Manufacturing (apc|m) Conference, along with over 150 control professionals across the European and global semiconductor manufacturing industry. This site of this year’s conference was Villach, Austria, a picturesque town nestled in the eastern Alps just north of the Italian border in the state of Carinthia. This region is home to a number of high-tech companies and institutions all along the semiconductor manufacturing value chain, and since it was the first time the conference was held in Villach, the local hosts rolled out the red carpet. apcm20192-2

This conference, now in its 19th year and organized by Silicon Saxony, is one of only a few global events dedicated to the domain of semiconductor process control and directly supporting technologies. As usual, the conference was very well organized, and featured a wide range of high-quality presentations, keynote addresses, and tutorial sessions. The supplier exhibits associated with this year’s event were especially numerous, as were the technical posters displayed in the exhibition area just outside the conference rooms.

As in many prior years, Cimetrix was privileged to present at this conference, as Alan Weber delivered a talk entitled “Addressing Connectivity Challenges of Disparate Data Sources in Smart Manufacturing.” The presentation highlighted the need for unifying data collection concepts—like explicit equipment models and generic structures for data collection plans—are increasing necessary for maintaining the fidelity of a factory’s “digital twin” in Smart Manufacturing settings where the number of data source types is growing. This presentation resonated with a number of the key conference themes, so if you want to know more, feel free to download a copy of the entire presentation from our web site.

apc20193-1Other highlights of the conference included:

  • An update by Otto Graf on the ambitious vision and progress of the BOSCH 300mm wafer fab now under construction in Dresden. In this talk he emphasized the role that digital technologies will play in bringing up the fab and climbing the yield ramp and other features of a wall-to-wall Industrie 4.0 implementation. apcm20194-1
  • “The Role of APC and Smart Manufacturing / Industrie 4.0 in New Reliability-Critical Markets“ by James Moyne (University of Michigan / Applied Materials) – James re-presented a number of the Smart Manufacturing technologies in the context of automotive industry requirements, especially the role that Subject Matter Expertise (i.e., people!) will play alongside other emerging technologies. He also pointed out that the Factory Integration chapter of the International Roadmap for Devices and Systems (IRDS) will be reorganized around the key tenets of Smart Manufacturing.

  • A thought-provoking invited talk from Dr. Roman Kern of the KNOW-CENTER titled “Possibilities and Challenges of Digitalization in the Semiconductor and Other Domains.” His key messages started with “Big Data is the new oil…. AI is the new electricity… and Data Science is the new lingua franca for leading global industries,” and then he went deeper into all of these.

  • Dr. Germar Schneider of Infineon Technologies built on the theme above in a practical setting with his “Chances and Challenges of Digitization in Semiconductor Fabs and Success Factors during the implementation” presentation. This was not only an in-depth look at some of the multi-year efforts at Infineon, but also included a summary of current digitization projects across the European manufacturing R&D community. 

  • apcm20195-1Another invited talk from BMW was delivered by Rainer Hohenhoff which covered “Product Data and Product Life Cycle Management in the face of new business models of the automotive industry.” In short, it discussed many of the ways a car company might make money even after people stop buying as many cars as they do today… and what collisions (pun intended) you could expect in the market as service companies like Google, Amazon, UBER, and others converge on the transportation consumer. 

There were poignant moments as well. After 19 years of personal dedication to this event, both Gitta Haupold of Silicon Saxony and Dr. Klaus Kabitzsch, Program Committee Chair from Technical University of Dresden are retiring. They will definitely be missed!

apcm20196-1The insights gained from these and the other 30+ presentations are too numerous to list here, but in aggregate, they provided an excellent reminder of how relevant semiconductor technology has become for our comfort, sustenance, safety, and overall quality of life. 

This conference and its sister conference in the US are excellent venues to understand what manufacturers do with all the data they collect, so if this topic piques your interest, be sure to put these events on your calendar in the future. In the meantime, if you have questions about any of the above, or want to know how equipment connectivity and control fit into the overall Smart Manufacturing landscape, please contact us!

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Topics: Industry Highlights, Semiconductor Industry, Doing Business with Cimetrix, Events, Smart Manufacturing/Industry 4.0

The Giga Factory Minute Series: Industry Drivers

Posted by Alan Weber: Vice President, New Product Innovations on Feb 27, 2019 1:19:00 PM

Giga FactoryIt’s time for another episode in our Giga Factory Minute series... And in keeping with the theme of moving around the clock, we see that the focus of this month is “process steps completed.” However, rather than focus on manufacturing processes, we’ll use this opportunity to highlight an important industry process that is underway. Specifically, I’m referring to the role that the automotive market has in quite literally “driving” important segments of the semiconductor and electronics industries. Even as portions of the industry forecast a slowdown over the next 6-9 months, those in the automotive sectors are busier than ever.

From a wafer fab standpoint, one of the biggest news items over the past 6 months has been announcement, groundbreaking, and construction of a new facility in Dresden, namely the Bosch RB 300 wafer fab. The automation aspects of this factory were featured in a very engaging presentation by Otto Graf (Managing Director, Robert Bosch Semiconductor Manufacturing Dresden GmbH) at the recent Innovationsforum for Automation in Dresden, Germany. 

A modern automobile is brimming with electronics, as you can see from the systems highlighted in the figure below. (Image courtesy of chipsetc.com)chipsetc

Every function in a car, from engine control to seating to headlamps to collision avoidance is getting smarter… and this is a welcome sight for the scores of companies that provide the components that realize these functions.

RedSmartFactory_225But the full impact of automotive electronics includes all the infrastructure technologies external to the car, such as 5G telecommunications, “smart” roads and traffic signals, routing and congestion management systems for major cities, satellite systems that provide GPS information, entertainment content providers for the non-drivers, and law enforcement, just to name a few. And as driverless cars approach commercial feasibility, the scope and importance of these systems increase significantly.

In this context, anyone who thinks the “good old days” of the semiconductor and electronics industries are behind us isn’t paying attention -- so buckle up and prepare to enjoy the ride!

If your company plays a role in the manufacturing aspects of this exciting market, and you are struggling with how to address the equipment control and connectivity challenges you face, give us a call. We’ve got people who can help you make sense of it all, and products that can transform your problems into solutions.

EDA Implementation Insights: Competitive Differentiation

Posted by Alan Weber: Vice President, New Product Innovations on Feb 13, 2019 11:50:00 AM

people arrowIn the first blog of this series, Clare Liu of Cimetrix China made the compelling case for choosing a commercial software platform for implementing the equipment side of the EDA (Equipment Data Acquisition) standards interface rather than developing the entire solution in-house. 

Whenever this “make vs. buy” decision is discussed, however, the following question inevitably arises: “If we choose a standard product for this, how can we differentiate the capabilities of our equipment and its data collection capability from our competitors?” It’s a great question which deserves a well-reasoned answer.

Platform Choice and System Architecture

Most advanced fabs use EDA to feed their on-line FDC (Fault Detection and Classification) applications, which are now considered “mission-critical.” This means if the FDC application is down for any reason, the equipment is considered down as well. It is therefore important to choose a computing platform for the EDA interface that is highly reliable and has enough processing “headroom” to support the high bandwidth requirements of these demanding, on-line production applications. Moreover, this platform should not be shared by other equipment communications, control, or support functions, since these may adversely impact the processing power available for the EDA interface. 

Surprisingly, this approach is not universally adopted, and has been a source of problems for some suppliers, so it is an area of potential differentiation. 

Adherence to Latest Standards 

gold-thumbs-upThe automation requirements for the most advanced fabs call for the latest versions (Freeze II) of all the standards in the EDA suite, including the EDA Common Metadata (E164) standard. Dealing with older versions of the standard in the factory systems creates unnecessary work and complexity for the fab’s automation staff, so it is best to implement the latest versions from the outset. The Cimetrix CIMPortal Plus product makes this a straightforward process using the model development and configuration tools in its SDK (Software Development Kit), so there is absolutely no cost penalty for providing the latest generation of standards in your interface.

It takes time and effort for equipment suppliers with older versions of the standards to upgrade their existing implementations, so this, too, is an opportunity for differentiation.

Equipment Metadata Model Content

This is probably the area with the largest potential for competitive differentiation, because it dictates what a factory customer will ultimately be able to do with the interface. If an equipment component, parameter, event, or exception condition is not represented in the equipment model as implemented in the E120 (Common Equipment Model) and E125 (Equipment Self-Description), and E164 (EDA Common Metadata) standards, the data related to that element cannot be collected. In effect, the metadata model IS the data collection “contract” between the equipment supplier and the fab customer.

eye-with-maglassThis is why the most advanced fabs have been far more explicit in their automation purchase specifications with respect to equipment model content, going so far as to specify the level of detailed information they want to collect about process performance, equipment behavior, internal control parameters, setpoints and real-time response of common mechanisms like material handling, vacuum system performance, power generation, consumables usage, and the like. This level of visibility into equipment operation is becoming increasingly important to achieve the required yield and productivity KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) for fab at all technology nodes.

The argument about “who owns this level of information about equipment behavior” notwithstanding, providing the detailed information the fabs want in a structure that makes it easy to find and access is a true source of differentiation.

Self-Monitoring Capability

If you really want to set your equipment apart from your competitors, consider going well beyond simply providing access to the level of information needed to monitor equipment and process behavior and include “built-in” Data Collection Plans (DCPs) that save your customers the effort of figuring out what data should be collected and analyzed to accomplish this. Your product and reliability engineering teams probably already know what the most prevalent failure mechanisms are and how to catch them before they cause a problem… why not provide this knowledge in a form that makes it easy to deploy?

A few visionary suppliers are starting to talk about “self-diagnosing” and “self-healing" equipment… but it will be a small and exclusive group for a while – join them.

Readiness for Factory Acceptance

checklistBefore the fab’s automation team can fully integrate a new piece of equipment, it must follow a rigorous acceptance process that includes a comprehensive set of interface tests for standards compliance, performance, and reliability. This process is vital because solid data collection capability is fundamental for rapid process qualification and yield ramp that shorten a new factory’s “time to money.” If you know what acceptance tests and related software tools the fab will use (which is now explicit in the latest EDA purchase specifications), you can purchase the same software tools, perform and document the results of these same tests before shipping the equipment. 

This will undoubtedly speed up the acceptance process, and your customers will thank you for the effort you took to put yourself in their shoes. Incidentally, this usually means the final invoice for the equipment will be paid sooner, which is always a good thing.Red_smart_factory-TW

In Conclusion

In this posting, we have only scratched the surface regarding the sources of competitive differentiation. As you can see, choosing a commercial platform enables this far more readily than the in-house alternative, because it allows your development team to focus on the topics above rather than worrying about compliance to the standards. If you’d like to know more, please give us a call or click below to talk schedule a meeting. 

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Topics: Industry Highlights, EDA/Interface A, Doing Business with Cimetrix, Smart Manufacturing/Industry 4.0, Cimetrix Products

The Giga Factory Minute Series Introduction: What to Watch for in 2019

Posted by Alan Weber: Vice President, New Product Innovations on Jan 17, 2019 11:05:00 AM

Gigafab-Minute-1We introduced the Giga Factory Minute concept last year to highlight the impact that standards have in orchestrating the entire manufacturing process, from releasing unpatterned wafers into the line (1:00 on the figure) to the shipment of good die to the downstream assembly/test facilities (12:00). This year, we’ll use this same diagram to identify important industry trends, technologies, events, or other items of interest to our subscribers. Since there are 12 “hours” on the diagram, watch for a posting every month related to the topic in that segment.

January 2019

Since this is January, we’ll focus on the more general topic of electronics manufacturing product materials, of which “wafer starts” is the specific material type that begins the 4-month journey through the wafer fab.

In the early days of the automated factory industry, there were only a few material form factors to deal with… even when you go all the way back to the raw silicon and forward to the finished electronic product. (You can see most of these on the “Sand to Systems” infographic here.)
However, now that semiconductors have found their way into virtually every major industry on the planet, from computers to entertainment to transportation to agriculture to wearables and even to “ingestibles,” the automated material handling challenges across this product diversity have exploded. And it’s only going to get worse. Red_smart_factory

You may not be responsible for handling exotic material types anytime soon, but understanding the role that equipment connectivity standards can have at the earliest steps in a Smart Manufacturing process is useful nevertheless. Give us a call if you’d like to know more about how these technologies can benefit your operations. 

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Topics: Semiconductor Industry, Smart Manufacturing/Industry 4.0