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


Using C# for Development at Cimetrix

Posted by Cimetrix

Apr 12, 2010 4:00:00 PM

by Vladimir Chumakov,
Software Engineer

We started using C# at Cimetrix about 5 years ago when we first started working on CIMPortal™, our Equipment Data Acquisition product. Later on we used C# exclusively for development of our Equipment Client Connection Emulator (ECCE) tool; EDAConnect™, a client-side software library product for implementing the SEMI EDA Standards; and CIMControlFramework™, an equipment automation framework for tool control.

Here is why we chose - and keep using - C# for new project and product development at Cimetrix:

  • The biggest advantage using C# brings is not the programming language itself but the extensive amount of functionality provided by the Microsoft .NET Framework. The development time savings by using the .NET Framework could be measured in years.
    • We used ASP.NET libraries for development of CIMPortal’s Web GUI and implementation of the Interface A SOAP interfaces.
    • WinForms is by far easier to use than MFC library in C++ that we've used before.
    • WCF is used in EDAConnect for implementation of the Interface A SOAP interfaces and as inter-process communications in CIMControlFramework.
    • ADO.NET is the framework used for working with Databases. We use it in CIMStore and CIMControlFramework products.
    • And the best part is that Microsoft continuously keeps improving its .NET Framework. Microsoft released a new 4.0 version of the .NET Framework today on April 12th. It contains many new features. The most exciting is Parallel Computing Platform ( which includes significant advancements for developers writing parallel and concurrent applications, including Parallel LINQ (PLINQ), the Task Parallel Library (TPL), new thread-safe collections, and a variety of new coordination and synchronization data structures.
  • Visual Studio (we currently use 2005 and 2008 versions) is an excellent development environment for both C++ and C# but has many features exclusive to C# that we take advantage of:
    • The Unit Testing Framework helps us with the creation and maintenance of test code.
    • C# Code refactoring ( Refactoring is a formal and mechanical process used to modify existing code in such a way that it becomes 'better' while preserving the program's intended functionality. In addition to improving a program's overall design, the refactoring process tends to yield code which is far easier to maintain and extend in the long run.
  • C# Language advantages over C++
    • Automatic memory management allows much easier implementation of memory-leak free code.
    • 64-bit programming. There is no need to maintain two separate versions of source code or to have different builds – the same C# application runs on both 32- and 64-bit versions of Windows and is automatically compiled on the fly into native 32 or 64 bit code.
    • Performance. Contrary to common belief that C# is slower than C++, we've found that when features like immutable objects, lock-free containers and automatic memory management are used together, applications written in C# are faster than similar application written in C++.
  • There are still areas where C++ is better than C#
    • Application startup performance. Because C# applications are compiled at the run time, on the fly, it takes more time for application to start.
    • C++ templates are still powerful than generics in C#

All these advantages, especially in development time savings, is the reason why we use and will keep using C# at Cimetrix.

You might also be interested in:

Topics: Programming Tools, WCF, Microsoft, .NET

The Tech Ahead

Posted by Cimetrix

Mar 9, 2010 4:00:00 AM

Microsoft Logoby Bill Grey,
Director of Research and Development

2009 was a tough year and it is good to see the Semiconductor industry coming back. With development projects ramping up, here is a peek at the new technologies coming out this year:

AMD has some new 45 nm Phenom II and Athalon II CPUs out and has the 6-core 45 nm Thuban CPU coming out later in Q2. 2011 will follow with a Llano 32 nm quad-core APU and 32 nm Bulldozer core CPU called Zambezi with up to 8 cores.

Intel has 32 nm rolling strong with the release of the Clarkdale CPU with 2 cores this quarter. They will follow up with the Gulftown processor around mid-year with 6 cores.

It doesn’t look like processing power will be much of a problem any more. =)

For developers, Microsoft released Visual Studio 2010 and .NET 4.0 in April. More information may be found at

Among the changes that got me excited are:

  • better support for parallel code development and debugging
  • debugging of mixed-mode native and managed code on 64-bit operating systems
  • the Visual F# programming language
  • reference highlighting in the editor (finally!)
  • call hierarchy navigation for C# and C++
  • box selection for copy/paste (finally!)
  • .NET background garbage collection instead of concurrent garbage collection for better performance
  • .NET tuple objects for structured data
  • .NET memory-mapped files (shared memory)
  • .NET String.IsNullOrWhiteSpace method indicates whether a string is null, empty, or consists only of white-space
  • Managed Extensibility Framework (MEF) to build extensible and composable applications

Office 2010 comes out the first half of this year with some new collaboration features such as co-authoring and PowerPoint presentation broadcasting:

On the Windows side, Windows 7 is here in 32-bit and 64-bit flavors and is being adopted much faster than Vista was when it released. Windows Server 2008 R2 is out for the server platform. For embedded systems, Windows Embedded Standard 2009 has replaced Windows XP Embedded and a new version is on the way called Windows Embedded Standard 7 (Windows 7 based).

How many semiconductor manufacturing tools will need or will go to a 64 bit operating system this year?

One item that could spur the move to Windows 7 is a change in hard drive technology that is not targeted to be supported by Windows XP. Hard drives are moving from 512 byte sectors to 4 kilobyte sectors and will be incompatible with Windows XP. Some of the smarter drives may have a compatibility mode for Windows XP, but at a cost of reduced performance. This will start in early 2011.

Would you be interested in learning more about these emerging technologies and their effect on Cimetrix products? If there is a significant interest, Cimetrix plans to host a webinar on this topic in the near future.

Topics: Semiconductor Industry, Programming Tools, Windows 7, Microsoft, .NET, Visual Studio 2010, Office 2010

WCF and CIMControlFramework

Posted by Cimetrix

Feb 1, 2010 7:08:00 AM

by Derek Lindsey,
Principal Software Engineer

When creating new tools for use in the semiconductor industry, most original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) prefer to concentrate on their area of expertise – the processing of wafers. The bother for them is that they have to conform to material handling standards to get the wafers delivered to the correct process module before they can perform process on the wafers. They also have other overhead that takes time and resources away from what they do best. This overhead includes operator interfaces, recipe management, error handling and the list goes on.

With CIMControlFramework™ we set out to create a flexible equipment automation framework that handles much of the overhead associated with wafer processing. This allows OEMs to spend more time on perfecting their processing while still creating a first class application to drive the tool. The framework includes packages for performing recipe management, alarm management, user management, configuration management, message logging, scheduling, factory automation, user interface and material handling.

Data generated at any point on the tool from any of these packages can be quickly and easily accessed by any other module or external application. This is where Windows Communication Foundation (WCF) enters the picture. To paraphrase Reggie Jackson, WCF is the straw that stirs the drink. It allows access to all of the functionality provided in these packages. Cimetrix chose to use WCF for distributing the functionality contained in each of these packages. WCF is as easy as ABC. In order to use WCF services, we need three pieces of information: an Address, a Binding and a Contract (A, B, C).

Each of the packages listed above provides a service with functionality for clients to access. The functionality provided by the service is the contract. An address is where the service is located. A binding is how the client talks to the service (what protocol is used.) These three pieces of information are called an Endpoint. Once a client application knows the endpoint, it can access the vast array of functionality provided by the CIMControlFramework service packages.

Once an OEM taps into CIMControlFramework, they can focus their resources on process technology and product differentiation.

An excellent blog on WCF can be found here:

You might also be interested in:

Topics: CIMControlFramework, Equipment Control-Software Products, Product Information, Equipment Automation Framework, Programming Tools, WCF

A case for custom programming tools when creating equipment models.

Posted by Cimetrix

Oct 13, 2009 8:00:00 AM

by Allyn Sullivan,
Software Engineer

I have recently worked with several customers who were in the process of building CIMPortal equipment models for their tools. Some were using the Equipment Model Developer (EMD) which ships with CIMPortal while others were programmatically building their models using the CxModel API. Working with both sets of customers, I saw a very real need for customers to develop programming tools to create equipment models instead of relying on the EMD alone.

Every model has a unique equipment configuration. Building an equipment model through the EMD is a laborious process. Each node of the equipment is added individually with a minimal amount of automation. Although suitable for those new to CIMPortal and initial model development, the EMD is not practical for building the many unique equipment models required for every tool configuration that a manufacturer makes.

Most manufacturers use a base tool to which they can add components to meet their customer's specification. Equipment configuration data can then be imported from the bill of materials (BoM), parts inventory, or other data from the manufacturing system of record. The model builder application can import this data (from a database or spreadsheet, for example) and use the CxModel API to generate several unique equipment models automatically. The application should be able to easily generate equipment models for any tool in the manufacturer's inventory.

Developing the proper tools that meet your individual needs is the most efficient way of creating equipment models for CIMPortal. You'll save time over using the EMD and have more consistent equipment models across tools.

Questions about developing equipment models?
Post a comment or send me an email.
Want to learn more about the Interface A Standards?
Cimetrix will be hosting a webinar on November 12, outlining the features & benefits of Interface A - presented by Doug Rust.


You might also be interested in:

Topics: Equipment Data Acquisition, CIMPortal, Programming Tools, Equipment Models, EMD

What is a Software Framework? And why should you like 'em?

Posted by Cimetrix

Oct 2, 2009 8:59:00 AM

by Mike Baker
Cluster Tool Control Practice Manager

The purpose of a framework is to improve the efficiency of creating new software.  Frameworks can improve developer productivity and improve the quality, reliability and robustness of new software.  Developer productivity is improved by allowing developers to focus on the unique requirements of their application instead of spending time on application infrastructure (“plumbing”).

Many people equate the term software framework with an object-oriented software library, or set of libraries, intended to provide reuse.  However, there is an important difference between a framework and a library, that difference is often called “inversion of control.”  If you’re using a library, the objects and methods implemented by the library are instantiated and invoked by your custom application.  You need to know which objects to instantiate and which methods to call in order to achieve your goals.  On the other hand, if you’re using a framework, you implement the objects and methods that are custom to your application and they are instantiated and invoked by the framework.  A framework defines the flow of control for the application.

A common way to customize framework behavior is to override framework-implemented features. The abstract or virtual methods defined by framework classes can be overridden in user-defined code. New objects can be created that implement framework-defined interfaces. These approaches leverage polymorphism to allow one software system, the framework, to interact with software developed by another group.

To emphasize the point, let’s look at a grossly oversimplified example. The Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF) is a framework for building Windows applications. To create a new Windows application with WPF there are two essential elements. The first is a XAML file. The XAML file describes the configurable attributes of the application including: which classes to instantiate, values for object properties, and which methods to invoke in response to user activity. The following is a very simple example of a XAML file:

<Window x:Class="WpfApplication1.Window1"

xmlns="" xmlns:x=

Title="Window1" Height="300" Width="300">


<Button Name="button1" Click="button1_Click">Button</Button>



This sample describes a Window that can be instantiated by the application. Application-specific logic for this window is found in a class named WpfApplication1.Window1. The sample describes how to label the window and the initial size of the window. The window contains a Grid control which in turn contains a Button control. The attributes of the Button control tell WPF to invoke the WpfApplication.Window1 method named button1_Click when the button is clicked by a user.

The second essential element of a WPF application is code. The following is a simple example:

namespace WpfApplication1


/// <summary>

/// Interaction logic for Window1.xaml

/// </summary>

public partial class Window1 : Window


public Window1()




private void button1_Click(object sender, RoutedEventArgs e)


MessageBox.Show("Hello world.");




This snippet is sufficient to implement a Windows application. The framework’s "inversion of control" is represented by the button1_Click method. This method is invoked by the framework when the user clicks on the button. The framework defines practically everything that happens when this application is executed; the Window1 class defines only the application-specific behavior. No coding is needed to display the window, process user input, or handle any common window operations (e.g. move, resize, minimize, maximize, close). Compare this sample with the amount of code that would be needed to develop even a simple application like this one without a framework. Many organizations develop Windows applications; few do it from scratch.

Now extend the framework concept from the general-purpose to a specific application domain (e.g. equipment automation). A domain-specific framework permits new domain applications to be developed more quickly, with high quality, and allows developers to focus their attention on the unique requirements of their application or system. Imagine configuring a new equipment control solution using framework-implemented building blocks and implementing only the overrides that are unique to your system. Those overrides could include elements of process control, human machine interface, data collection and analysis, recipe management, material handling, etc. Today there are many organizations that develop individual equipment automation solutions from scratch. A team using an equipment automation framework, such as CIMControlFramework™, could (for example) focus their time on how to execute a process recipe instead of worrying about how recipes are stored, retrieved, organized, protected, uploaded, downloaded, or communicated to the process equipment.


  • Reuse code that has been pre-built and pre-tested. Increase the reliability of the new application and reduce the programming and testing effort, and time to market.
  • A framework can help establish better programming practices and appropriate use of design patterns and new programming tools. A framework upgrade can provide new functionality, improved performance, or improved quality without additional programming by the framework user.
  • By definition, a framework provides you with the means to extend its behavior.


  • Creating a framework is difficult and time-consuming (i.e. expensive).
  • The learning curve for a new framework can be steep.
  • Over time, a framework can become increasingly complex.

Topics: CIMControlFramework, Equipment Control-Software Products, Equipment Automation Framework, Programming Tools

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