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

Report from the SEMI North America Standards Spring Meetings 2017

Posted by Brian Rubow: Director of Client Training and Support on Apr 18, 2017 10:30:00 AM

semi.pngSEMI held the spring 2017 North American standards meetings during the week of April 3 at the new SEMI facility in Milpitas, CA. The new facility had only been occupied for a few weeks prior, yet SEMI was able to hold the meetings with few technical difficulties. The new facility is quite attractive with improved accommodations for standards meetings.

There is a lot of activity currently, in the two task forces that I lead; namely the GEM 300 task force and DDA task force.

Every five years SEMI re-approves every active standard. Without renewal, the standards become “inactive”. During the Information & Control Committee (I&CC) meeting a few standards were re-approved this cycle with a few editorial changes including:

  • Ballot 6066A: E130 (Specification for Prober Specific Equipment Model for 300 mm Environment) and E130.1 (Specification for SECS-II Protocol for Prober Specific Equipment Model for 300 mm Environment) 
  • Ballot 6068A: E116 (Specification for Equipment Performance Tracking) and E116.1 (Specification for SECS-II Protocol for Equipment Performance Tracking)
  • Ballot 6064A: E121 (Guide for Style and Usage of XML for Semiconductor Manufacturing Applications)

Additionally, during the Information & Control Committee (I&CC) meeting, the following ballots were passed which make changes to standard:

  • Ballot 5549A: E30 (Generic Model for Communications and Control of Manufacturing Equipment) with the following changes to the GEM standard
    • The title was changed to “Specification for the Generic Model for Communications and Control of Manufacturing Equipment”
    • The initial sections were reorganized to have sections Purpose, Scope, and Limitations which results in renumbering all following sections
    • The Application Notes were renamed Related Information
    • Equipment Constant “EnableSpooling” was added to the Variable Item List.
  • Ballot 5738: E87.1 (Specification for SECS-II Protocol for Carrier Management)
    • Title was changed to remove the provisional status. All other references to provisional status were removed.
    • Numerous editorial changes were made for clarity, misspellings, incorrect references
    • Format codes were clarified for consistency
    • The only “technical” change was to allow for up to 255 slots in a carrier for attribute “Capacity”. This makes E87.1 more consistent with E87 which does not restrict carrier capacity and with known existing implementations that have more than 25 slots in a carrier. 

Ballot 5872B, an update to the E172 Specification for SECS Equipment Data Dictionary (SEDD), failed to pass. This update adds numerous optional features to the SEDD file for documenting GEM interfaces in an XML file. With this update, GEM interfaces can be documented almost entirely in an XML file; virtually eliminating the need for the traditional GEM documentation. The most valuable addition is the list of supported SECS-II messages and the expected format for each message. By documenting GEM interfaces in an XML file, factories can write software to parse the SEDD file and automatically configure host software to adapt to an equipment’s GEM implementation. The GEM 300 task force expects this ballot to pass later this year after making a few small changes.

In the next SEMI voting cycle for North America, called “Cycle 5”, the GEM 300 task force plans to resubmit ballot 5872C to update the E172 SEDD.

Additionally, a new ballot 6114 will be submitted for vote. Ballot 6114 introduces a new set of SECS-II messages for transfer of large strings or binary data. The new messages are initially intended for transfer of large Recipe files to/from the host system. Currently, the typical stream 7 SECS-II messages are limited to 16.7 MB. With these new messages, recipes could theoretically be allowed up to about 4 GB. Additionally, the new messages could be used to transfer other types of large strings or binary streams. The new messages include a “type” field to indicate the type of object being transferred. For recipes, field will most likely be “SEMI:RECIPE”, but other types could be defined in other standards like “ProductionRecipe” for E170 or “SEDD” for E172.

In the DDA Task Force, more plans were discussed for the EDA Freeze 3. The Korea DDA Task Force leaders have committed to working with North America DDA Task Force in this effort and presented several ideas for changes. The most dramatic change they presented was to consider using WebSocket technology instead of HTTP in order to make the SOAP/XML messages perform much better by maintaining a socket connection.

The GUI task force has begun its work to revise the E95 standard. It is still a great time for new task force members to join and contribute.

The Japan GEM 300 task force have previously made some announcements concerning a GEM300A initiative to expand the traditional GEM 300 standards (E30, E37, E39, E40, E87, E90, E94) to also include newer standards developed in the Japan GEM 300 task force. Namely E170, E171 and E174. E174 has been very controversial. During the North American GEM 300 task force meeting, it was requested that if there be any initiatives to declare a GEM300A set, that this be a collaborative effort between the various GEM 300 task forces and also consider including E116, E148, E157, E172 and E173.

During the GEM 300 task force, a representative from the Japan GEM 300 task force presented some possible future ideas to have a separate GEM connection for recipe management, to ensure that data collection reporting is not hindered by the transfer of large recipes files.

Topics: SEMI Standards

CCF Series Wrap-up

Posted by Derek Lindsey: Product Manager on Apr 12, 2017 11:00:00 AM

One of the habits outlined in Stephen R. Covey's book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, is to "Begin with the End in Mind." He goes on to explain that beginning with the end in mind means to "begin each day, task, or project with a clear vision of your desired direction and destination, and then continue by flexing your proactive muscles to make things happen.”

Beginning an equipment control project with a clear vision of your desired destination makes it much more likely that you will have a successful project. A blog post titled CIMControlFramework Work Breakdown dated March 15, 2016 outlined the tasks necessary to create a first-class equipment control application using CIMControlFramework (CCF). Since that initial blog post, Cimetrix has explored each of the tasks labeled in the work breakdown structure in greater depth in their own blog posts as follows:

Looking back from the successful completion of a CCF equipment control application makes it clear that the work breakdown vision from the beginning helped gain that success.

You can also reference the following blog posts related to CimControlFramework:

CIMControlFramework Dynamic Model Creation

Learning from Others

Build vs. Buy

WCF and CIMControlFramework

Topics: CIMControlFramework

Testing Your CCF Application without Waiting for Hardware

Posted by Brent Forsgren on Mar 29, 2017 11:26:00 AM

You've heard the expression, “you can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs.” That is, you shouldn't be surprised if you end up destroying a few things in the process of achieving your goal. When it comes to building a new piece of equipment, do you really want to risk breaking a few wafers, or worse yet, hurting personnel or equipment, to develop your new tool control software? I think everyone would answer with a resounding “No!”
In the March 2016 blog post on CIMControlFramework Work Breakdown, simulation was listed as one of the eleven points to be taken into consideration when developing an equipment control application using CIMControlFramework (CCF). In addition to personnel and hardware safety, there are other reasons to use simulation when developing equipment control applications, namely:

  • You want to start testing your software as early as possible, often this is before your equipment is finished. Then when your equipment is ready, integrating your tested software with your hardware will proceed smoothly and minimize delays in your time to market.

  • If you have an existing tool and you’re upgrading your tool control software, scheduling software testing time while still allowing other engineering teams (mechanical, process, etc.) to get their jobs done is challenging.

  • The hardware components that comprise your tool, e.g. robots, load locks, and process modules, will not be finished at the same time. You want to test your software with real hardware as soon as possible, while still simulating the missing equipment components.

  • Tool time is valuable. It's nice to be able to test your software without using the valuable tool time where possible.

  • It is likely that your tool will have more than one configuration, customized for each of your clients. Setting up different hardware configurations in order to develop and test your tool control software is time consuming. You want to be able to test your software for all of your equipment configurations in timely manner.

Wafer_tool-CCF-Simulator.jpgCCF provides a simulator that you can use to test your tool control software during development, and before you run the software on the real hardware. Running against a simulator first will expose issues in your software without damaging people, material and hardware. CCF’s simulator simulates real hardware, which means it is not necessary to add conditional checks in your software to check when it is running with a simulator versus real hardware.

CCF’s simulator features include:

  • Simulation of atmospheric and vacuum hardware components, e.g. load locks, vacuum pumps, vacuum gauges, etc.

  • Simulating delivery and removal of carriers to load ports, both manually and automatically using E84 handshaking.

  • Simulation of robot moves for both atmospheric and vacuum robots.

  • Simulation of I/O.

  • Simulation of hardware faults, to safely test error handling.

  • Simulate running single jobs or cycling wafers for endurance testing.

Additionally, CCF provides other tools to help you test your software without hardware.  CCF provides a Visual Studio template, and a number of classes and interfaces to aid you in developing simulation software for your process module or other custom hardware. Use the Visual Studio template to start development of GUI user controls for simulated hardware. Implement CCF’s I/O simulation interfaces for generating inputs to your tool control software and writing outputs to your simulated hardware. Tie the two sides together using CCF’s simulation client and server to handle the communication.

With these CCF tools, you can develop and test your tool control software without hardware. When hardware is available, you can test your software with your tool with a high degree of confidence that it will perform as expected.

Avoid “breaking a few eggs” and develop your tool control software with CCF and test it using CCF simulation features.

Topics: CIMControlFramework

Models in Smart Manufacturing Series – Introduction

Posted by Alan Weber: Vice President, New Product Innovations on 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

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 on 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 on 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 on 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 on 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 on 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

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