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

Choice is Good!

Posted by David Francis: Director of Product Management on Mar 30, 2016 1:00:00 PM

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The snow on the north side of my house finally melted the other day. That is a sure indication that spring is coming. I don’t have anything against winter, but I do love spring — except that it means a lot of yard work. One of the first tasks is to get some fertilizer down so the grass will be green and healthy during the summer months. So I went to the store to get some fertilizer and couldn’t believe all the choices. There are fertilizers for pre-emergent control, organic fertilizers, granular, liquids, and the list goes on. The nice thing about this is that you can choose the right fertilizer for your needs.

Advances in semiconductor manufacturing are now driving equipment OEMs to look at new ways to meet growing manufacturing requirements. Not all OEMs will have the same processing requirements. Some may have large data sets or image files they need to deal with. Others may not. For some, speed of execution may be very important, while it may not be for others.

Starting today Cimetrix makes available the new release of CIM300. For CIM300 customers that develop on 64-bit operating systems, you now have a choice to develop 32-bit applications or 64-bit applications. This allows greater flexibility in speed and memory use options when using CIM300. Choose your target when you compile your application, no coding changes are needed.

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The new release of CIM300 also has fixes and enhancements requested by customers as well as updated support for the latest SEMI GEM300 standards. With this release, customers will continue to enjoy the reliability of CIM300 with new benefits. Under the hood, we have increased our GEM compliance testing to ensure that interfaces developed with CIM300 will pass factory acceptance testing.

One new feature in this version of CIM300 is a new utility that allows logging to be configured at runtime. The CIM300 Settings utility works with the CIMConnect logging package. CIMConnect logging can also be configured through this utility.

So CIM300 customers, exercise your option to enjoy added flexibility and new features combined with the same reliability you expect from Cimetrix products.

Topics: CIM300, Product Information

Benefits of Being a Microsoft Gold Competency Partner

Posted by Richard Howard: Director of Tech Ops on Mar 10, 2016 1:02:00 PM

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In November 2014, Cimetrix attained a status of ISV (IP & Solution Development) Gold Competency Partner with Microsoft®. Now you may be thinking “So what? What could that possibly have to do with me as a client of Cimetrix?” That’s what I would have thought if I had read the headline without knowing what was involved to both achieving and maintaining that level with Microsoft. So let me briefly share the main value of Cimetrix being a Gold Competency Partner and why it matters to our clients and to Cimetrix.

A requirement for Cimetrix to reach the Gold Level was that we had to have, at a minimum, three (3) products that passed the Gold Competency Test for Windows® 8. This test (commonly referred to as a “logo” test) ensures that the software applications adhere to patterns and practices consistent with Microsoft’s operating system architecture. The logo compatible applications must conform to the following:

  1. Compatibility and Resilience – Apps are expected to be resilient and stable, and eliminating failures helps ensure that software is more predictable, maintainable, performant, and trustworthy.

  2. Adherence to Windows Security Best Practices – Using Windows security best practices will help avoid creating exposure to Windows attack surfaces. Attack surfaces are the entry points that a malicious attacker could use to exploit the operating system by taking advantage of vulnerabilities in the target software. One of the worst security vulnerabilities is the elevation of privilege.

  3. Support Windows Security Features – The Windows operating system has many features that support system security and privacy. Apps must support these features to maintain the integrity of the operating system. Improperly compiled apps can cause buffer overruns that may, in turn, cause denial of service or allow malicious code execution.

  4. Adherence to System Restart Manager Messages – When users initiate shutdown, they usually have a strong desire to see shutdown succeed; they may be in a hurry to leave the office and just want their computers to turn off. Apps must respect this desire by not blocking shutdown. While in most cases a shutdown may not be critical, apps must be prepared for the possibility of a critical shutdown.

  5. Support of a Clean, Reversible Installation – A clean, reversible installation allows users to successfully manage (deploy and remove) apps on their systems.

  6. Digitally Signing Files and Drivers – An Authenticode digital signature allows users to be sure that the software is genuine. It also allows one to detect whether a file has been tampered with, such as if it has been infected by a virus. Kernel-mode code signing enforcement is a Windows feature known as code integrity (CI), which improves the security of the operating system by verifying the integrity of a file each time the image of the file is loaded into memory. CI detects whether malicious code has modified a system binary file. It also generates a diagnostic and system-audit log event when the signature of a kernel module fails to verify correctly.

  7. Prevention of Blocked Installations or App Launches Based on an Operating System Version Check – It is important that customers are not artificially blocked from installing or running their app when there are no technical limitations. In general, if apps were written for Windows Vista or later versions of Windows, they should not have to check the operating system version.

  8. Does Not Load Services or Drivers in Safe Mode – Safe mode allows users to diagnose and troubleshoot Windows. Drivers and services must not be set to load in safe mode unless they are needed for basic system operations of such as storage device drivers or for diagnostic and recovery purposes, such as anti-virus scanners. By default, when Windows is in safe mode, it starts only the drivers and services that came preinstalled with Windows.

  9. Follows User Account Control Guidelines – Some Windows apps run in the security context of an administrator account, and apps often request excessive user rights and Windows privileges. Controlling access to resources enables users to be in control of their systems and protect them against unwanted changes. An unwanted change can be malicious, such as a toolkit taking control of the computer, or be the result of an action made by people who have limited privileges. The most important rule for controlling access to resources is to provide the least amount “standard user context” necessary for a user to perform his or her necessary tasks. Following user account control (UAC) guidelines provides an app with the necessary permissions when they are needed by the app, without leaving the system constantly exposed to security risks. Most apps do not require administrator privileges at run time, and should be just fine running as a standard-user.

  10. Installation to the Correct Folders by Default – Users should have a consistent and secure experience with the default installation location of files, while maintaining the option to install an app in the location of their choice. It is also necessary to store app data in the correct location to allow several people to use the same computer without corrupting or overwriting each other's data and settings. Windows provides specific locations in the file system to store programs and software components, shared app data, and app data specific to a user.

Microsoft provides a suite of tests that ensure compliance to the standards listed above. Cimetrix, as part of our release process, now runs the logo testing suite against all products prior to a scheduled release. To date we have received logo certification for our latest versions of CIM300, EDAConnect, and ECCE Plus. We have also submitted the latest release of CIMConnect for endorsement. We will continue to make sure all new product releases are subject to and pass the logo certification process. Committing to making sure our products are logo tested not only ensures our continued status as a Gold Competency Partner, but it also lets our clients know of our commitment to deliver quality software that is compatible with Microsoft’s current operating systems. 

The largest benefit Cimetrix receives from our Gold Partner status is the access to Microsoft tools and technologies. As a Gold Competency Partner, Cimetrix receives premium MSDN subscriptions to ensure each engineer in Engineering, Quality Engineering, and CT&S have the most up-to-date technology tools, training, and information they need to get their respective jobs done. Having access to the right tools ensures that our engineers can be as efficient and effective as possible. In addition, the cost savings of having these tools provided to us, as opposed to having to purchase a subscription for each engineer, is significant. By saving money on tools, we can devote those monies to product development. 

Application certification and the tools provided by MSDN subscriptions are just a couple of examples of how our Gold Competency Partner status provides benefits to our clients. Cimetrix greatly values its partnership status with Microsoft. We are committed to continuing to adhere to the requirements and standards set by Microsoft in order to retain our Gold status.

Topics: Partners, CIM300, EDAConnect, ECCE, Microsoft

To Better Serve Our Clients, We Will Be Discontinuing the Mailing of CDs and Hardcopy COAs for Runtime Licenses

We here at Cimetrix are excited that we are implementing a new process that will both benefit our clients and the environment. We have always delivered our software runtime license orders to our clients on CDs along with hardcopies of their Certificates of Authenticity (COA). Well, starting January 1st, we will begin delivering orders to our clients through emails that will include a digital COA for each runtime license and instructions on how to download their software.

As a company, we have always prided our self on providing the finest quality customer experience possible so we feel that this new process is just one more step in improving our service. There are a number of benefits of this change:

  • Most of our clients integrate Cimetrix’s software with their own software by using the Software Development Kit (SDK), most runtime license CDs are simply thrown away, which in today’s world is really not acceptable. By making this simple change, we will be eliminating thousands of pounds of potential waste.

  • We are constantly improving our software products and the latest version should always be obtained from our Support website (cimetrix.com/online-support)—not from a CD stored on a shelf somewhere for who knows how long. This change ensures that the latest version of our software will always be used.

  • The shipping cost and time delay by sending CDs by a carrier will be eliminated which will be a direct cost savings to you. 

  • The proof-of-purchase for our runtime license is the COA, not the CD. The COA number is what is used to obtain the license code using our online license generator. 

So the only thing we need our clients to do is to make sure we have an email address on file of where they would like their future orders sent. It’s that simple. We do foresee a period of adjustment for some clients, so for those that still want CDs and hardcopy COAs delivered, we will have this option available for an additional fee.

Of course, if you have any questions or comments regarding this policy, we are always happy to hear from you.  You can contact us at Orders@Cimetrix.com.

Topics: CIMPortal, CIMControlFramework, Support, CIM300, CIMConnect, EDAConnect, SECSConnect

Connecting GEM-Based Equipment to PLCs

Posted by Cimetrix on Nov 10, 2014 4:17:00 PM

The Cimetrix open source GEMBridge solution is now updated to use with Kepware Technologies KEPServerEX OPC platform. Cimetrix customers using CIMConnect and CIM300 can use GEMBridge to connect their PLC-controlled equipment to SECS/GEM and GEM 300 interfaces using an OPC-compliant interface.

Cimetrix announced this solution last week in a press release. With this solution, OEMs can send messages to and from programmable logic controllers to enable complete equipment control throughout the system. 

Kepware’s KEPServerEX is a flexible and scalable solution for connecting, managing, monitoring, and controlling diverse automation devices and software applications. Communications is managed through a robust platform that supports an array of open standards such as OPC, propriety communication protocols, API's, and various automation systems' interfaces. KEPServerEX enables improved operations and decision making throughout all levels of an organization.

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KEPServerEX provides the ability to consolidate data and information from various sources. This not only ensures consistency and reliability, but also reduces the number of Third-Party communication servers from which the end application must gather data. Furthermore, having a single source gather data for client applications reduces network traffic, device and system resource usage, and data inconsistencies. Instead, it provides a manageable and scalable platform for automation communications.

For more information, contact Cimetrix at info@cimetrix.com.

Topics: SECS/GEM, CIM300, CIMConnect

A Look Back at 300mm Semiconductor Fabs

Posted by Cimetrix on Mar 26, 2012 10:34:00 AM

By David Francis
Product Manager

I ran across an old issue of Future Fab International – Issue 6 – that I have had since it was published in 1998. I helped write an article that was published in this issue titled “Complete System Integration is Crucial to the Success of 300mm Manufacturing.” The article looked at changes that would be required in semiconductor manufacturing to support the move from 200mm wafers to 300mm wafers.

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At the time, I was working for a software company that specialized in the development of Material Control Systems (MCS) for controlling Automated Material Handling Systems (AMHS). Most of the 200mm manufacturing facilities had implemented inter-bay transport systems that move material from one manufacturing bay to another, but within the bays, operators manually loaded wafers onto process or metrology equipment. Operators had to decide what work should be done next, or where the material should go after each process, after reviewing choices from a dispatch screen. There were islands of automation, but not much integration.

With the size, weight, and bulk of the 300mm carriers, transport systems would need to deliver material directly to the processing or metrology tool. This required very tight integration between the MCS, the dispatching system, and the factory Manufacturing Execution System (MES). In 1998 the GEM300 standards that would make all this possible had not been adopted very widely yet and were only starting to get semiconductor equipment suppliers’ attention.

This old article talked about the need for developing a reliable, low-footprint intra-bay transport system. It also explored the new concept of having the dispatch system make the decision about what work to do next rather than just suggesting what could be done. The MCS would need to interface with the dispatching system to be able to position material close to where it would be needed for processing.

The SEMI GEM 300 standards started gaining traction about the year 2000 and the idea of “lights out” manufacturing soon became a reality. It has been exciting to watch as the MES, dispatcher, AMHS and MCS systems have progressed and the fully automated, integrated manufacturing environment described in the article has become a reality.

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While the move to 450mm wafers is probably still a few years off, I expect that transition will be much easier than the transition from 200mm to 300mm because of the work done for 300mm factories. The standards are well established, the control systems have matured, and the integration of the various components is very stable. It is exciting to see these future visions become common practice.

Recently, Cimetrix updated our Introduction to SEMI GEM 300 Standards white paper.  We have refreshed the content to answer some of the questions many people pose to us. Take a look and let us know what you think.

Topics: SEMI Standards, CIM300

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