Semiconductor Industry News, Trends, and Technology, and SEMI Standards Updates

Semiconductor

Models in Smart Manufacturing Series – Introduction

Posted by Alan Weber: Vice President, New Product Innovations

Mar 24, 2017 11:30:00 AM

As a child I was an avid model builder—airplane models, trains, engines, cars, ships, even monsters (anyone remember “The Visible V8” and “The Creature”?)—anything I could get my hands on. At the time I didn’t reflect on the source of this fascination, but with the benefit of hindsight, it is clear that these models provided an interactive, tangible way to visualize, explore, understand, and enjoy the topics that were interesting to me. It was a way to enrich an otherwise intellectual activity.

Visible_V8.pngCreature.png

In fact, when Hurricane Carla ravaged the Texas coast and cut our electricity for 3 days, one of our luckier neighbors snaked an extension cord over the fence, which provided just enough power to run the refrigerator, a small black-and-white TV, and… you guessed it… my electric train. 

Model_train.png

More than four decades later, I still enjoy working with models, but in the high-tech manufacturing domain, they often operate in the reverse direction, providing a logical way to interact with and understand physical entities, like materials, fixtures, processes, devices, components, equipment, and entire systems. And as important as various model types have been throughout the relatively brief history of the semiconductor industry, they are increasingly an integral part of the “Smart Manufacturing” initiative that is sweeping a wide range of industries worldwide. 

The focus of my next few blog posts will be the specific models that are inherent in the communications interface definitions for manufacturing equipment, subsystems, and other devices that are expected to cooperate over the [Industrial] Internet of Things. Our first post in this domain almost a year ago introduced the notion that the metadata models called for in the latest generation of SEMI Equipment Data Acquisition (EDA) standards were already directly aligned with the Industry 4.0/Smart Manufacturing vision. This series goes into much more detail, showing how specific sections of the equipment models in the GEM and EDA standards directly support many of the factory monitoring, analysis and control applications that are essential for running a Smart Manufacturing enterprise (see Substrate Management example below).

substrate_management.png

Moreover, to the extent that the structure and content of these models can truly be standardized, their associated applications can be process- and supplier-independent, greatly reducing the development and support costs for the factory IT departments while providing useful capabilities for the production engineering and operations stakeholders.

To get a feel for the overall direction of this series, download the presentation "The Role of Models in Semiconductor Smart Manufacturing",  along with the transcript,  from the APC Conference held last October in Phoenix. Then watch for subsequent postings that address specific applications, from productivity (OEE) monitoring, material tracking, product traceability, process execution monitoring, and beyond.

We look forward to your feedback and to sharing the Smart Manufacturing journey with you.

Topics: Equipment Models, Industry 4.0, Smart Manufacturing

SEMICON China 2017 - China is becoming a major Center for Electonics Manufacturing

Posted by David P. Faulkner: Executive Vice President, Sales and Marketing

Mar 22, 2017 11:00:00 AM

Semicon_china_skyline.jpgSEMICON China was held from March 14-16 in Shanghai at the Shanghai New International Expo Centre.

This is a monstrously large complex of 17 exhibit halls of which 5 were filled with semiconductor and flat panel exhibitors. Another set of shows for PCB and solar filled up the remaining halls. China is clearly becoming the center for electronics manufacturing.

Cimetrix enjoyed sharing a booth with our partner Flagship International for the second year in a row.

The Cimetrix employees that attended were: Bob Reback (President and CEO), Dave Faulkner (EVP Sales and Marketing), Ranjan Chatterjee (V.P., Emerging Business & Technology Office), and Kimberly Daich (Marketing Manager).Semicon_China_booth_2.jpg

Our first China based equipment supplier using CIMControlFramework is finishing up their first production tools making full use of the CCF benefits.

Meetings with this customer’s president confirmed excellent progress in setting up this equipment supplier for future growth with a solid software platform.

This relationship we are establishing will provide confidence to other semiconductor equipment suppliers keeping a close eye on our progress. Cimetrix had a chance to visit with all equipment suppliers during the show identifying several new projects as we start our penetration in China. Cimetrix also stopped by Electronica, a trade-show that is co-located with SEMICON China in Shanghai.

Cimetrix plans to open an office in Shanghai during 2017 and equipment suppliers at the show expressed strong support for this move. More information about the Cimetrix plans in China will be coming soon.  

 Semicon_China_Booth.jpgSemicon_china_dinner.jpg

 

Topics: Semiconductor Industry, SEMICON

Using CCF I/O Helper Functionality

Posted by David Warren: Director of Software Engineering

Mar 14, 2017 12:00:00 PM

“Can you hear me now?”

A Cimetrix blog post on March 15, 2016 entitled “CIMControlFramework Work Breakdown”mentions that CIMControlFramework (CCF) includes ASCII serial drivers and IO providers.  What does that mean and why should you care?

Factory Automation Software
Equipment automation is all about creating software that controls hardware—combining individual components into a harmonious whole, with each piece playing its own unique part.  A critical aspect of control is the ability to communicate—and that is where CCF’s ASCII serial driver and IO providers can help you create your equipment application.

The .NET Framework, like many software development platforms, provides built-in support for serial ports and TCP/IP ports.  This built-in support is great for low-level, binary communication, but hardware devices often just need a simple ASCII connection.  For such hardware, CCF’s ASCII serial driver frees you from worrying about the connection and the underlying implementation.  You can focus on the content of the message instead of the mechanics of delivery.  It’s like using a telephone—you want to focus on the conversation rather than worrying about how the sounds are transmitted between the phones. 

Another common class of hardware uses signals to communicate.  These signals can be as simple as only having two possible values (think “on” and “off”) or having a range of values, like a temperature.  Each signal also has a direction—it is either an input or an output.  For input signals, the value is determined by the hardware and read by the software.  Output signal values are determined by the software and sent to the hardware.  For example, control software might use an output signal to turn a light on and off, and an input signal from a photocell to verify the light is on or off.  This class of hardware is called I/O (short for input/output) devices and is supported by CCF.

CCF includes support for communicating with ASCII serial and I/O devices to make your job easier.  Don’t spend your time and effort asking the hardware “Can you hear me now?”  Use CCF and focus on combining the parts into the harmonious whole. 

Topics: CIMControlFramework, .NET

Storing Data in a CCF application

Posted by Derek Lindsey: Product Manager

Mar 8, 2017 1:00:00 PM

In Sir Arthur Conon Doyle’s A Scandal in Bohemia, Sherlock Holmes tells Watson, “It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts.”

In a March 2016 blog post on CCF work breakdown Cimetrix listed eleven points to be taken into consideration when starting an equipment control application using CIMControlFramework (CCF). One of the tasks in the work breakdown is to determine what kind of data collection and storage is to be used in your CCF application and determine how that data is to be stored.

User_Interface_Sm_CCF_1-5-17.jpg

CCF provides several mechanisms for collecting and storing data. These include:

  • History Objects

  • Full GEM Interface

  • Full EDA/Interface A Interface

  • Centralized DataServer

The remainder of this blog post will look at each of these items in more detail.

History Objects

In early iterations of CCF, users noticed when using logging, there were certain messages that they wanted to be able to query without the overhead of having to search all log messages. To help accommodate this need, History objects were introduced. Some examples of these objects in CCF are EPT History, Wafer History and Alarm History. When an important event happens in the life of a history object, a log message is written to a database table (configured during CCF installation) that corresponds to that type of object. That database table can be queried for the specific historical information for only that type of data. 

Full GEM/GEM 300 Interface

As described in a CCF blog post from February 15, 2017, CCF comes standard with a fully implemented GEM and GEM 300 interface. The GEM standards allow users to set up trace and event reports for the collection of GEM data. No additional programming is required by the application developer to have access to the GEM data collection.

Full EDA/Interface A Interface

The same blog post of February 15th also states that CCF comes standard with a fully implemented Freeze II and E164 compliant EDA interface. EDA can be used to set up data collection plans based on Events, Exceptions and Traces. With the E157 standard and conditional trace triggers, EDA makes it easy to zero in on the data you want without having to collect all data and then sift through it later.

Centralized DataServer

In order to create, initialize, populate and pass data, CCF uses a centralized DataServer object. The DataServer is responsible for creating the dynamic EDA equipment modelas well as populating CIMConnect with Status Variables, Data Variables, Collection Events and Alarms. All this is done at tool startup so that the data available exactly matches the tool that is in use.

Data is routed to the DataServer which then updates the appropriate client – such as EDA, GEM or the Operator Interface. An equipment control application can register to receive an event from the data server when data changes. Users can key off of this event to capture that data and route it to a database as desired. Since all tool manufacturers have different requirements for which database to use and how data is written to that database, CCF leaves the actual SQL (or equivalent) commands for writing the data to the equipment application developer.

With CCF Data collection and storage is … Elementary.

Topics: Interface A, CIMControlFramework, Equipment Control-Software Products, GEM Interface

CCF Provides Fully Implemented GEM300 and EDA Interfaces

Posted by Bill Grey: Distinguished Software Engineer

Feb 15, 2017 1:00:00 PM

What does this mean and why should I care?

The SEMI standards for 300mm Semiconductor Manufacturing Equipment can be an overwhelming burden of information to understand, let alone implement.

The GEM standards comprise over 450 pages of documentation: E4, E5, E30, E37, E37.1, E172, E173.

The 300mm standards add another 280 pages: E39, E40, E87, E90, E94, E116, E157, E148.

And the EDA standards pile on an additional 480 pages: E120, E125, E128, E132, E134, E138, E164.

That’s over 1200 pages of standards documents filled with requirements and implementation information. 

On top of that GEM and EDA collect data differently from the equipment.  See a post we did on data collection for more information on those differences.

Implementing the requirements defined in those standards without an SDK would be a very brave undertaking.  Even with SDKs for the standards, it would be a fair amount of work, when all you really want to do is get your equipment automated.

In addition, it is very important that those standards be implemented correctly in order for your equipment to be smoothly integrated and accepted into each fab.  Different fabs use the standards slightly differently or have additional requirements.   This requires experience.

GEM300 and EDA standards implementation is a very large burden.

semi standards difficult burden

So what does this mean?

One of the large tasks for the EDA standards is defining a hierarchical model of the equipment and what data it can produce in XML per the schemas defined in the standards.   Creating the initial model and keeping it up to date as the equipment evolves is a tedious task.  In addition, that model must be conformant to the E164 standard (which has over 10 pages of requirements on its own).   See our blog post on conformance testing. CCF does this for you, producing an E164 compliant EDA model in the background based on your CCF programming. See our blog post on CCF dynamic model creation further details.  CCF also builds the GEM interface model for you at the same time.

Further, CCF is completely GEM compliant and 300mm compliant, using the Cimetrix CIMConnect and CIM300 products which have been successfully deployed in every 300mm fab around the world on many different equipment types.

Twelve hundred pages of standards, compliantly implemented, at no additional effort.  That is what this means.

Turn that donkey into a goat and use CCF.

 

 

Topics: SECS/GEM, EDA, CIMControlFramework, GEM Interface

Implementing your Process Module Using CCF

Posted by Tim Hutchison: Senior Software Engineer

Feb 9, 2017 12:30:00 PM

You have designed the ultimate process that will revolutionize the semiconductor industry.  The parts have been collected, the process module assembled.   But now you need the software to make all the components work together.

As described in a recent CIMControlFramework (CCF) blog post around designing recipes, the recipe is the secret sauce for your process.  The recipe is used to direct the hardware to perform the process; How much time in a step, temperature, gas flow, pressure, etc.

The recipe provides directions to the process module on how to perform the processing.  How and when to enable/disable hardware components.  What setpoints to be set for components.  How much time to spend on any given step.  The process module (PM) software that you develop will take the recipe that you have defined and perform the operations using that recipe. CCF stays out of your way to allow to create your secret sauce.  

CCF makes integrating your process module easy.  CCF provides a simple process module interface that allows CCF to know when to prepare for processing, prepare for transfer, and process using the supplied recipe.

 Your process module hardware may be made up of any number and types hardware components, E.g.  Mass Flow Controller(s), valves, chuck, etc. that will be used to process the recipe. Since CCF does not use proprietary interfaces and does use C# and Visual Studio, creating interfaces to your hardware is much easier and left to you to design and develop these drivers. CCF makes it easy to connect to your hardware, whether it is via a PLC or talking directly to the hardware. 

CCF makes it incredibly simple to report data to a UI, a GEM host and even an EDA client.  Declare your status variable, update, and publish.  The data is reported to all three for you automatically!!

CCF takes the stress out of the necessary evil of moving material through the equipment to get it to your process module. It provides an interface for interacting with your process module allowing you to spend your time where it matters most - creating your secret sauce to help make you successful!

Topics: Semiconductor Industry, CIMControlFramework, Software

EDA Testing – How is this accomplished today??

Posted by Alan Weber: Vice President, New Product Innovations

Feb 7, 2017 1:30:00 PM

Over the past several months, we have posted a number of blogs dealing with the testing of SEMI’s Equipment Data Acquisition (EDA / aka Interface A) standards suite. The first of these posts connected the importance of this topic to the increased adoption of the EDA standards across the industry, and broke the overall problem domain into its three major components. 

Subsequent postings provided additional detail in each of these areas:EDA_Icon.png

To bring this series to a close, this post addresses the “as-is” state of EDA testing as it is practiced today by the advanced semiconductor manufacturers who are requiring EDA interfaces on new equipment purchases and the suppliers who provide that equipment. 

For compliance testing, the three options in general use include: 

  1. ECCE Plus product- this software tool was originally developed under contract with the International Sematech Manufacturing Initiative (ISMI) to validate the fidelity, usability, and interoperability of early versions of the standard; it can used to manually execute a set of procedures documented in the “ISMI Equipment Data Acquisition (EDA) Evaluation Method for the July 2010 Standards Freeze Level: Version 1.0” document (see title page below) to exercise most of the capabilities called for in the standard; note that this is the only commercially available solution among the three.

ISMI.png

  1. Company-specific test suites – one major chip manufacturer (and early adopter of EDA) maintains its own partially-automated set of compliance tests, and provides this system to its equipment suppliers as a pre-shipment test vehicle. This set of tests is then used in the fab as part of the tool acceptance process; however, this system also includes a number of company-specific automation scenarios, which are not available for outside use. This highlights the need to support custom extensions in an industry-validated tester if it is to be commercially viable.

  2. In-house custom test clients – this is a variation of #2 that some of the major OEMs have chosen as their economies of scale dictate; the problems with this approach are that a) the test clients must be kept current with the EDA standards, which are themselves a moving target, and b) unless thoroughly validated by the eventual customers of the equipment, there is no guarantee that passing these tests will satisfy the final acceptance criteria for a given factory. 

For performance and stability testing, there are no automated solutions currently available. The ISMI EDA Evaluation Method does describe some rudimentary performance evaluation procedures, but these no longer reflect the expectations of the customers with many years of accumulated EDA production experience. Clearly a better solution is needed.

Finally, for metadata model conformance testing, the only available solution is the Metadata Conformance Analyzer (MCA) that was commissioned by Sematech and implemented by NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology). It has not been updated in almost five years, and exhibits a number of known issues when applied to a SEMI E164-compliant equipment model (E164 = Specification for EDA Common Metadata), so it will be increasingly insufficient as more companies require full Freeze II / E164 specification compliance. 

The good news in all this is that Cimetrix has recognized and anticipated this emerging need, and is actively addressing it on our product roadmap. If you want to know more about EDA testing and/or discuss your specific needs, please contact Cimetrix for a demonstration of this exciting new capability!

Topics: Interface A, EDA, EDAConnect, ECCE, Data

President's Letter to our Cimetrix Community

Posted by Robert H. Reback: President and Chief Executive Officer

Feb 2, 2017 11:30:00 AM

To the Cimetrix community of clients, partners, shareholders and employees,

Cimetrix had another year of solid progress during 2016. Financial results were in-line with expectations, as Cimetrix continued to achieve profitability every quarter with full-year revenue in the $6M to $7M range.

Our key highlights include:

  • Cimetrix continued to enhance its reputation for product quality and the highest levels of customer support in the industry, receiving consistently excellent feedback from our client base.

  • Cimetrix continued to invest in building great products with new releases of all our product lines. Substantial improvements were made in both new features and internal testing that will benefit our clients for many years. 

  • Cimetrix gained additional “design wins” for its products in North America, Europe and Japan, where the company has an established presence. In addition, Cimetrix won important new clients in China and Korea. 

  • Cimetrix strengthened its organization as we added a number of new employees in business development, software engineering and technical support functions. The Company continued to invest in employee development, education and continuous improvement. We believe the concepts and training we’ve received in lean and agile processes will enable Cimetrix to build better products and more efficiently provide our clients with the highest levels of service. 

  • Cimetrix made a number of key investments that we believe will lead to future long-term growth. We strengthened our local sales and technical support in a number of Asian countries. We developed a number of new product prototypes in collaboration with key clients leading to the introduction of an exciting new Cimetrix product in 2016. Several other new products are in development and have the potential to significantly expand our markets.

Cimetrix also held its first shareholder meeting since going private in late 2014, which provided a forum to explain to shareholders why the Company took that important step, the progress we’ve made since going private, and our future plans. As a result of generating positive cash flow from operations, Cimetrix was able to continue providing liquidity for shareholders that contacted the Company. Prior to going private, the Company had over 4.5M shares outstanding, adjusted for stock splits. As of December 31, 2016, the Company had fewer than 3.9M shares outstanding. This means that every current shareholder’s ownership percentage has increased by over 15%.

Going Forward

Going forward, industry analysts predict an increase in semiconductor capital equipment spending for 2017. In addition, we are seeing increased traction for the relatively new SEMI Standards for Equipment Data Acquisition (EDA), also known as Interface A. We believe these trends will enable us to achieve short-term incremental increases in revenue that support continued operations on a profitable basis and investments in new products and markets that will lead to longer-term step function increases in revenue.

We will continue to focus on satisfying our worldwide base of clients, improving our efficiencies and effectiveness, and executing our plan to expand the markets for Cimetrix products for long-term growth.

From all of us at Cimetrix, we thank our clients for the trust they have placed in our products and our team. We also thank our shareholders for their patience and support. 

Sincerely,

Robert H. Reback
President and Chief Executive Officer

Topics: Partners, Doing Business with Cimetrix, Working at Cimetrix, Cimetrix Culture, Announcements, Investor News

14th Innovations Forum for Automation

Posted by David P. Faulkner: Executive Vice President, Sales and Marketing

Jan 31, 2017 11:04:00 AM

The 14th innovations forum for automation was held on January 19 and 20, 2017 at the DGUV Akademie in Dresden, Germany.

14-Innovations-forum-snow.jpgCimetrix was one of the sponsors of the conference.  Dresden is hot bed for semiconductor manufacturing in Europe.  In fact, 50% of the chip output from Europe comes from Dresden. The conference is organized by the Automation Network Dresden which consists of 5 Dresden based companies; AIS, HAP, Ortner, SYSTEMA and Xenon.  SYSTEMA is a Cimetrix partner and helps us with integration projects. 

The focus of the conference is to bring the latest information on best practices, new technologies and the future of automation.  Themes this year were Smart Manufacturing, Industry 4.0 and IIOT (Industrial Internet of Things).  Presentations by Bosch about their automation roadmap, Infineon about running experiments in a highly automated fab, Kostal about standardizing MES, and IAV about the challenges of automated driving where a few of the interesting case studies and technologies.  This is a great conference to meet semiconductor professionals from Europe and learn what the European community is doing in the area of fab automation. For Cimetrix, it is good to see that equipment to host connectivity plays a key role in all the projects outlined during the conference. Sponsoring and attending gave us the opportunity to meet with current customers and start discussions with new potential customers. 

Innovations-forum-pic2.jpg

Before the conference, SYSTEMA held an Expert Day session at the SYSTEMA facility in Dresden on the morning of January 19.  The session was a series of presentations targeting predictive maintenance.  SYSTEMA and its partners have a wealth of experience in this area.  

innovations-forum-pic3.jpg

 

Topics: SEMI, Events, Germany

Cimetrix HostConnect

Posted by Joe Cravotta, Client Support Engineer

Jan 26, 2017 11:45:00 AM

Cimetrix is proud to release its first new product to assist in GEM host application development, and I’m excited about how this is going to change the development of new host applications. Prior to the release, I was given access to HostConnect, a native .NET software development kit, and used it to create a couple of applications that connect to GEM equipment.

In developing those applications, I quickly became familiar with the layered architecture of HostConnect. HostConnect has four layers; each layer name and relevant classes is shown in the image below.

HostConnect_Layers.jpg

As with most layered objects, each additional layer adds to the previous layer. Now that I’m familiar with these layers, starting with the first layer, these are the aspects that stand out to me:

  • SECS Messaging: This is equivalent to our SECSConnect product. A solid understanding of the SEMI E5 (SECS-II) and E30 (GEM) standards is necessary to interact with this layer. The user application must be able to construct, parse, and handle asynchronous SECS-II messages.

  • SECS Transactions: This layer adds classes (generically called SxFy classes) to abstract the construction and parsing of many SECS-II messages. It also has the ability to synchronously send and receive SECS-II messages. Automatic message replies may be configured, but none are setup by default.

  • GEM Capabilities: This layer specializes the SECS Transaction layer for use in GEM host applications by setting up common automatic message replies and providing the EquipmentCapability classes (more detail about these classes below).

  • Connection and Discovery: This is the layer I’m most excited about because it is configuration based. The discover feature quickly characterizes an equipment’s GEM interface for HostConnect to use.

After working with HostConnect, I’m reminded of the task that got me acquainted with the SEMI E5 and E30 standards. I was asked to create a GEM host sample application from scratch. A large majority of my time was spent learning specific SECS-II messages and understanding the capabilities defined by GEM. After a few months, the sample application included trace report, collection report, and unformatted recipe management. If HostConnect was available, I’m willing to say I would have been able to complete this task in only a couple of weeks.

Remember the EquipmentCapability classes I mentioned? These classes encapsulate common GEM capabilities, and is one reason I believe I would have been able to complete the sample application in a much shorter time. For example, the EventReports class greatly simplifies report management. Simply register for the EventReportReceived event to receive incoming report data. The report data is parsed and provided in an easy to use parameters object. You don’t need to parse the SECS-II messages, and you don’t even need to know which SECS-II messages are used.

Another reason HostConnect would simplify my sample application, and the most exciting feature to me, is the configuration ability at the fourth layer. HostConnect stores default behavior options and an equipment’s GEM interface within a single configuration file. The discover feature can characterize an equipment’s GEM interface and create the configuration file for you. With a single file per equipment, it would be simple for my sample application to communicate with several different equipment without any code modifications. This flexibility makes HostConnect ideal for developing an application that needs to communicate with multiple different equipment, such as a testing application.

Seeing how much HostConnect does out of the box, but also allowing customization by accessing lower layers, I can say that I wish I had HostConnect when I built my sample host application.

Topics: Announcements, HostConnect

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