Industry News, Trends and Technology, and Standards Updates

Ranjan Chatterjee

Vice President & General Manager, Smart Factory Business—joined Cimetrix at the first of 2016. Previously he had worked as the General Manager for Motorola Solutions — Software Solutions from 2007 to 2015 and as the Manager — Automation Systems Business Unit at Motorola — Global Software Group. He originally started with Motorola Corporation in 1989. With over 25 years in the technology industry, Mr. Chatterjee has a natural ability to identify market opportunities, define and create winning products and strategies, and formulate unique go-to-market software business models. He has degrees in Computer Science from both the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University.

Recent Posts

Standards Made Simple #1 – GEM (Generic Equipment Model)

Posted by Ranjan Chatterjee on Jul 10, 2019 10:54:00 AM

Ranjan-Chatterjee-2017-industriesIn this our first standard overview, we look at GEM. At its history, its application and its suitability for use in the smart factories of today and the future.

Overview

The GEM standard defines a software interface that runs on manufacturing equipment. Factories use the GEM interface to remotely monitor and control equipment. The GEM interface serves as a broker between the factory host software (host) and the manufacturing equipment’s software. Because the GEM standard is an open standard, anyone can develop GEM capable host or equipment software.

The GEM standard is published and maintained by the international standards organization SEMI based in Milpitas, CA, USA. SEMI uses the standard designation “E30” to identify the GEM standard with the publication month and year appended as four numbers to designate a specific version. For example, E30-0418 identifies the version of the GEM standard published in April of 2018.

The GEM/SECS-II standards are protocol independent. Today, there are two protocols defined by SEMI: SECS-I (E4) for serial communication and HSMS (E37) for network communication. SECS stands for ‘SEMI Equipment Communications Standard’ and HSMS stands for ‘High-Speed SECS Message Services’.

Not surprisingly, most systems today are using the HSMS. HSMS does not specify the Physical Layer. Any physical layer supported by TCP/IP can be used, but typically everyone uses an Ethernet network interface controller (NIC) with an RJ45 port. When using the SECS-I standard, the messages size is limited to 7,995,148 bytes (about 8MB).

The GEM standard is built on top of SEMI standard SECS-II (E5). The SECS-II standard defines a generic message layer to transmit any data structure and defines a set of standard messages each with a specific ID, purpose and format.

History and Adoption

GEM was developed by the semiconductor industry to allow fabricators to connect and manage multiple machines in billion dollar facilities all around the world.

GEM is the adopted technology by factories worldwide because it is mature and supports all the features required now and expected in the future. GEM allows the same technology and software to be used to integrate multiple equipment and process types, independent of supplier.

The GEM standard is used in numerous manufacturing industries across the world, including semiconductor front end, semiconductor back end, photovoltaic, electronics assembly, surface mount technology (SMT), high brightness LED, flat panel display (FPD), printed circuit board (PCB) and small parts assembly. The adaptability of the GEM standard allows it to be applied to just about any manufacturing industry.

All semiconductor manufacturing companies including Intel, IBM, TSMC, UMC, Samsung, Global Foundries, Qualcomm, Micron, etc., currently use the GEM standard on all manufacturing equipment and have for many years. This includes 300mm, 200mm and 150mm wafer production.

GEM was successful enough early on that SEMI developed and currently uses several additional factory automation standards based on GEM technology. These additional standards are referred to as the GEM 300 standards, named because of their widespread adoption by the factories dedicated to the manufacturing of 300mm wafers.

In 2008, the photovoltaic (solar cell) industry officially adopted GEM with SEMI standard PV2 (Guide for PV Equipment Communication Interfaces) which directly references and requires an implementation of the GEM standard. In 2013, high-brightness LED industry created a similar SEMI standard HB4 (Specification of Communication Interfaces for High Brightness LED Manufacturing Equipment). Recently, the printed circuit board association has followed in the same path with ballot 6263 (Specification for Printed Circuit Board Equipment Communication Interfaces). All three standards similarly define implementations of the SEMI standard that increase GEM’s plug-and-play and mandate only a subset of GEM functionality to facilitate GEM development on both the equipment and host-side.

Several additional SEMI standards have been created over the years to enhance GEM implementations and are applicable to any industry and equipment. E116, Specification for Equipment Performance Tracking, defines a method to measure equipment utilization as well as the major components within the equipment. E157, Specification for Module Process Tracking, allows an equipment to report the progress of recipe steps while processing. E172, Specification for SECS Equipment Data Dictionary, defines an XML schema for documenting the features implementing a GEM interface. E173, Specification for XML SECS-II Message Notation, defines an XML schema for logging and documenting messages.

Flexibility and Scalability

GEM requirements are divided into two groups; Fundamental Requirements and Additional Capabilities. Any equipment that implements GEM is expected to support all the Fundamental Requirements. Additional Capabilities are optional and therefore are only implemented when applicable. This makes the GEM standard inherently flexible so that both a simple device and a complex equipment can implement GEM.

GEM easily and inherently scales to the complexity of any system. A simple device need only implement the minimum functionality to serve its purpose. Whereas complex equipment can implement a fully featured GEM interface to allow the factory to fully monitor and control its complex functionality. GEM also allows multiple host applications to connect to an equipment.

The requirements in that the GEM standard only apply to the equipment and not the host. This means that equipment behavior is predictable, but the host can be creative and selective choosing to use whichever features from the equipment’s GEM interface to attain it goals.

Our Seven Point Checklist

Remember our simple seven-point checklist for connectivity from our original article:

  • Event Notification – real-time notification of activity & events
  • Alarm Notification – real-time notification of alarms & faults
  • Data Variable Collection – real-time data, parameters, variables & settings
  • Recipe Management – process program download, upload, change
  • Remote Control – start, stop, cycle stop, custom commands
  • Adjust Settings – change equipment settings & parameters
  • Operator Interface – send & receive messages to/from operator

Put simply GEM succeeds in each of these areas and you can find more detail by downloading our white paper or watching the videos on our website.

Conclusion

If you’re looking for a tried and tested standard that can be applied to any smart manufacturing ecosystem, no matter how large, it’s hard to beat GEM. The semiconductor industry is one of the most demanding and expensive industries in the world and they have done the work for everyone else at great cost and over many years. Industries like PCB fabrication are adopting this standard rather than developing their own for good reason, they need something that can be applied quickly, reliably, economically and at scale.

Forgive the pun but, we believe GEM is the gold standard for standards. We’ve been working with it successfully for decades in the semiconductors industry and more recently in PCB and SMT facilities. In some cases, we have deployed GEM at the request of OEM customers to drive greater control and traceability in their supply chain.

GEM White Paper

This blog was first posted on EMSNow.com.

Topics: Industry Standards, SECS/GEM, Smart Manufacturing/Industry 4.0

Connectivity in The Age of Data

Posted by Ranjan Chatterjee on Feb 20, 2019 11:32:00 AM

ipcapex2019Our 2019 has started with a bang! First with CES (Consumer Electronics Show) at the beginning of January, rapidly followed by APEX at the end of the same month. What intrigues me is that the ingredient technologies promoted as essential to the success of autonomous driving, smart homes and smart cities at CES, are exactly the same as those discussed as enablers for smart manufacturing at APEX. The drive for Industry 4.0, like the drive for the digital transformation of our lives, will be built on connectivity, on data and, of course, on the actionable intelligence that is derived from that data.

At APEX, I spent a lot of my time listening to speakers, talking to our customers and prospects and sharing my own ideas with industry luminaries on panels. The story is extremely consistent. The fundamental need in the short term is to get everything in the factory, and in fact throughout the entire manufacturing ecosystem, connected and digitized. What is less consistent is the approach to doing that, with many making a simple process much more complex than it needs to be.One element which, to my mind, is creating unnecessary inertia, is the debate around standards. Within the industry there is considerable debate around the new standards. Whilst some great work has been done, and in many ways it is a fine example of how IPC can bring the industry together, the whole debate has made a simple task more complex than needed. Many users are asking which standard to use, do I need one or multiple, what machines connect to which standard and when will all the new standards be available everywhere?

Yes, the new standards could be good, but it certainly isn’t the only good standard, and it will take a long time to develop, debug, adopt and implement. The suppliers in the industry along with a few MES providers are quite animated about the new standards, but the EMS companies and OEMs making product as well as the PCB fabricators, and of course the semiconductor industry, are less excited. Many of them have existing communications standards like GEM, ELS, etc., that work perfectly well. Others have legacy machines that would need additional hardware and software to connect to new standards, but have some existing and functioning communications protocol.

The truth is connectivity should be simpler, and it can be. The semiconductor industry has been through this entire experience over the last two decades and many companies have successfully connected thousands of machines from hundreds of vendors in dozens of facilities in many countries. At Cimetrix, we have been working with them and have been delivering simple, scalable, economic connectivity solutions as well as the layers of analysis and intelligence that are built on top of that.

My advice to anyone starting their smart factory journey is to get the digitization and connectivity done and move onto building the digital building blocks of analytics and intelligence as well as value as quickly as possible. The inertia caused by worrying about standards is counter-productive and could cause companies to be left behind. They could also remain in the Proof-of-Concept purgatory forever.

One of the pleasing things about the debates and discussions related to smart factory at APEX is the willingness of vendors to collaborate. Most, if not all, recognize that smart factory solutions won’t come from a single vendor. Machine makers are also realizing that their deep domain knowledge combined with data manipulation only delivers part of the value and the way that data is shared on the line and beyond is where additional performance benefits can be found. There are now dozens of partnerships between the machines that collect data and those that use data, some in a closed loop but more recently in a manner that makes data available to whoever can derive value from it. These open communications and data formats will deliver real value in the future and make smart manufacturing a reality across the whole supply chain, from sand to phone.

There is a universal awareness that this digitization will drive a huge growth in data volumes. Many see cloud and hybrid cloud solutions as an important part of the data storage mix. Huge amounts of data also need manipulation and vendors are betting on AI (Artificial Intelligence) to help manage the data and derive real value.

It’s fascinating to see the ingredient technologies of the smart cities, smart homes and smart living, finding their way into smart factories and it will be exciting to see how the PCB and SMT industries utilize these huge leaps in progress driven by the consumer electronics world.

(This post first ran on EMSnow.com on February 14, 2019.)

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