Industry News, Trends, and Technology, and Standards Updates

President's letter to our shareholders, customers and employees

Posted by Bob Reback: Chairman, President, and Chief Executive Officer on Jan 17, 2018 11:00:00 AM

Cimetrix-Bob Reback copy.jpgWow – what a great year for Cimetrix and exciting time for our industry!

The president and CEO of Applied Materials recently said, “This is the most exciting time in the history of the electronics industry.” The race is on for faster/better/cheaper devices, cloud computing, autonomous vehicles, Big Data, artificial intelligence, the “Internet of Things” and more. This means the world needs not only a lot more computer chips, but also innovations in chip design, packaging and electronics assembly. The fast moving (and giant) electronics companies driving these trends are also pushing to get far more data from the factory floor to support their “Smart Manufacturing” and “Industry 4.0” initiatives.

2017 was a record setting year for Cimetrix. Revenues increased 34% year-over-year. The Company continued to operate profitably on a quarterly basis with operating income over 10% for the year. We invested heavily in R&D to pursue new technologies and products for long-term growth while strengthening our balance sheet with solid increases in cash and stockholders’ equity.

Going Forward

Cimetrix is uniquely positioned as the world leader in developing and using standards that connect manufacturing equipment to factory software systems. We are second to none in knowledge of “equipment connectivity” standards. We chair the relevant global standards committees, and are well known throughout the industry as experts in this vital domain. In addition, our products are used worldwide in hundreds of thousands of equipment connections. We recently expanded the Cimetrix team with some great new employees located around the world to better serve our growing international customer base, which now includes over 30 factories in Taiwan and China.

Based on what we see, the industries we serve will continue to expand their usage of equipment connectivity standards such as the Generic Equipment Model (GEM) to integrate more equipment into their factory systems, while the more advanced semiconductor manufacturers will accelerate their adoption of the latest Equipment Data Acquisition (EDA) connectivity standards.

While we are very bullish on the longer-term trends for our industry and Cimetrix, it is always a little difficult to forecast short-term results. For 2018, industry analysts are currently predicting a single-digit percentage increase in semiconductor capital equipment spending. While you might think we would be satisfied with another year like we had in 2017, we expect to perform better than the overall industry in 2018 for a number of reasons. First, the “design wins” we worked so hard to earn in prior years should lead to market share gains that result in higher percentages of equipment using Cimetrix software products. Second, we believe the adoption rate will accelerate for the newer EDA equipment connectivity standards, where Cimetrix products are the most proven and widely used in the industry. Lastly, we believe our reputation for providing the highest levels of technical support to customers worldwide, especially in the Japanese, Korean, Taiwanese and Chinese markets, will enable us to continue winning new customers.

From all of us at Cimetrix, we thank our customers and shareholders for the faith and confidence they have placed in our products and our team. We will continue to strive for excellence in satisfying our worldwide base of customers and delighting them with innovative new products. 

Topics: Doing Business with Cimetrix, Working at Cimetrix, Cimetrix Culture, Global Services, Investor News

SECS/GEM series: GEM Collection Events

Posted by Brian Rubow: Director of Client Training and Support on Jan 10, 2018 11:12:00 AM

To start off our SECS/GEM series, let's begin with an explanation of one of the GEM standard’s key features called Collection Events. We'll start with an explanation as to how they work, then move to why they are so effective for collecting data from manufacturing equipment. 

What are collection events? 

The two words in the name “collection event” are descriptive. 

As denoted by the word “event” a collection event is a notification. Its purpose is to notify the host when something of interest happens at the equipment. The “host” is the factory client software that connects to the equipment’s GEM interface. For example, collection events can report when material arrived, a consumable is running low, a hardware problem occurred, a camera inspected the material, the material is ready to be removed, a chamber reached the target vacuum pressure, processing completion, etc. The equipment can use the collection event feature to report when anything of interest happens. Whoever makes the GEM interface determines exactly what collection events are available to the host; therefore the set of available collection events is different from equipment type to equipment type.

As denoted by the word “collection”, collection events are also capable of publishing data along with the collection event message. It is a very efficient form of data collection, asynchronously providing information as it becomes available. For example, a collection event that reports when material arrives might also report the arriving material’s barcode and location. There are three types of data in a GEM interface; information about the collection event (called data variables), status information (called status variables) and equipment settings (called equipment constants). Whoever makes the GEM interface determines exactly what information will be available for each collection event. So the set of available information for collection events is different from equipment type to equipment type. And the available data is only sent if the host sets up the reports. 

So in summary, a collection event can not only tell the host when something happens but it can also provide more detailed information about what happened and about the status of the equipment. 

A little analogy

Collection_Events2.jpgAs an analogy, think of the factory as a boss and the equipment they purchase as employees. There are many different styles of managing, just like there are different types of factories and styles for running a factory. You don’t want to be forced to run your factory just like someone else’s factory. You want to run it your way.

Additionally, each employee is unique and needs unique level of attention. And each employee is doing unique things. Generally speaking, all managers want to know basic information about employees and what their employees are doing. They want to know when the employee starts a project and when they finish a project. Some employees are very productive even with minimal oversight and reporting. Some employees need extensive oversight and reporting. GEM allow the factory to deal with each equipment uniquely. Specifically, GEM collection events give the equipment a way to report on what it is doing. 

The host has to set up the rules for the reporting and adapt the rules appropriately. For example, sometimes a manager does not care when the employee goes to the bathroom. For certain employees, the manager might want to know. In a GEM interface, the host can choose which notifications occur and which do not. 

Sometimes a manager just needs to be told when the employee does things like when employee arrives, departs, goes on break, and come off break.  Sometimes a manager needs more details, like what project did you finish, how long did it take, the key results of the project. Similarly, GEM allows the host to track not when things happen, but to also provide details about the activity. GEM reports meet this need very effectively. 

Why do you need this feature? 

The short answer is that collection events allow you to track what the equipment is doing in real time. If a factory wants to any degree of Smart Manufacturing or just wants to improve productivity, then one of the first things needed is the ability to track what the equipment is doing. Collection events provide this. You can track equipment utilization, material movement, processing milestones, count cycles of activity for predictive maintenance, consumable usage, and anything else related to the published collection events. The applications for such information are endless.

Sometimes collection events are also used to implement scenarios where the equipment needs information from the host before proceeding or permission to proceed. A collection event tells the host when the equipment is ready for the host instructions or permission.

How does the collection event notification work?

An equipment’s GEM interface can publish many different collection events. The host will not typically want to be notified of all of them at once and it does not have to. Collection events use a publish/subscribe design pattern in two ways.

Basic Publish/Subscribe Notification

The host subscribes to specific collection events to receive notification when they occur. The subscription allows a host to enable or disable the reporting of each collection event available in the GEM interface. The equipment publishes the collection events as they happen.

Event Report Publish/Subscribe Data Collection

By default, a collection event message will not include any data. A subscription also allows the host to decide what data to include in each enabled collection event’s message. The host defines reports and links the reports to collection events; thereby subscribing to the data. Each collection event can have a different report. Reports can also be shared across multiple collection events. A report can include any data variables associated with the collection event, any status variables and any equipment constants. The equipment publishes the collection event with the requested data.

Identification

Each collection event published by the equipment has a unique ID number for identification. The host software uses the ID number when enabling or disabling a collection event. The equipment uses the ID number when the collection event message is sent. Each available data variable, status variable and equipment constant also has a unique ID number. When the host defines a report, it assigned the report a unique ID number.

Broker

The broker to handle all collection event publication/subscription is built into the equipment’s GEM interface. It is part of the equipment system. Communication between the host (a client) and GEM interface is standardized using SECS/GEM communication. Communication between the GEM interface and the rest of the equipment hardware and software (the source of the equipment collection events and data) can be any appropriate technology and does not matter as long as the GEM interface functions properly and performs sufficiently well.

This means that messages are only sent from the equipment to the host when the host has subscribed. Having the broker as part of the equipment and GEM interface makes the GEM interface very efficient and use much less bandwidth than protocols that use an external broker where all messages and data have to be sent to a broker all the time.

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Persistence

The collection event subscriptions are persisted in a GEM interface. So if the host disconnects and reconnects, or if the equipment is restarted, the GEM interface will remember the setup of all subscriptions.

Which messages are used?

Here is a summary of each of the primary messages related to collection events. Note that the “S” identifies the “stream” and “F” identifies the “function”. Together, a stream and function number uniquely identify a message. 

Message ID Direction Description
S2F37 Host -> Equipment Enable or disable reporting for a set of collection events.

An empty list will enable or disable the reporting for all collection events. Enabling all collection event reporting is useful when characterizing a GEM interface. Disabling all collection events is useful before enabling the reporting of desired collection events.
S2F33 Host -> Equipment Define one or more reports.

An empty list will delete all reports as well as the report links to collection events. Deleting all reports is a useful when resetting the subscriptions, or when connecting to a GEM interface for the first time to override default subscriptions.
S2F35 Host -> Equipment Link one or more reports to a set of collection events.

If reports are already linked to a collection event, you have to remove them and then link all collection events in one message. An empty list will remove report links from the collection event.
S1F23 Host -> Equipment Request the list of available collection events and the available data for each collection event. 
S6F11 Equipment -> Host The collection event message.

If no reports are linked, the message will only include the collection event ID number. If one or more reports are linked to the collection event, then the report data for each linked report will be included in the message.

 

Frequently Asked Questions about Collection Events

How much bandwidth do collection events require?

This depends on several factors. 

  1. The number of collection events that are enabled by the host. 
  2. The size of the data reports linked to the collection events. 
  3. The frequency at which the enabled collection events are triggered by the equipment. This depends on the meaning of the collection event. 

How fast can collection events be triggered?

The GEM standard does not limit collection event frequency and uses standard communication hardware. In other words, by improving the hardware you can allow for faster collection events.

GEM allows for two protocols: SECS-I and HSMS. SECS-I is based on RS-232 serial communication and therefore little used today. Such implementations are not able to trigger collection events very quickly.

HSMS is based on network communication. Because serial communication is slow, by far most GEM implementations use HSMS. GEM uses TCP/IP very efficiently. The possible frequency of collection events depends on the speed of the network hardware, equipment computer performance, and host computer performance. Like most protocols, it usually takes more computer resources to consume messages than it does to produce them.

The speed at which collection events can be generated also depends on the data reports linked to the collection events. For example, if a data report is large, like 10 MB, this will impact performance.

Why aren’t I receiving the collection event messages? 

There are a few reasons why a host might not receive collection event messages. 

  1. Host and equipment must have established GEM communication using a successful S1F13/S1F14 exchange.
  2. GEM control state must be on-line. It cannot be in a host-offline or equipment-offline state. 
  3. GEM spooling must be inactive. To disable spooling while it is active will not make spooling go inactive. If the spooled messages are not wanted, then purge spooling using message S6F23. If the spooled messages are wanted, then request them iteratively using S6F23 until the spooling state becomes inactive.
  4. The collection event must be enabled. Use S1F3 to check the “EventsEnabled” status variable to confirm that the collection event is enabled. Use message S2F37 to enable the collection event. 
  5. The collection event activity needs to occur. For example, a collection event reporting when material arrives will never occur if material does not actually arrive. If the activity happens and the above conditions are satisfied, then the equipment’s GEM interface has a defect. 

What if an equipment’s GEM interface does not publish the collection event I need?

Ask the equipment supplier to add the desired collection event. It is difficult for an equipment supplier to accurately predict all collection events that the factories will want. The equipment supplier will need to upgrade their GEM interface software at the factory.

How large of data reports can be when linked to a collection event?

GEM allows a single data variable value or status variable value to be an array or structure of any data type including a floating point, string or integer. A single array is limited to 16.777215 MB. Total message size is limited to 4.294967295 GB.

To download a white paper on an introduction to SECS/GEM, Click below:

Download Now

Meet the Team Series: Ranjan Chatterjee, VP & GM, Smart Factory Business

Posted by Cimetrix on Jan 3, 2018 11:24:00 AM

Ranjan-chatterjee.jpegJoin us as we meet the Leadership Team of Cimetrix in our “Meet the Team” series.

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

What brought you to Cimetrix originally?

I started working with Cimetrix for PC-based open architecture machine control software products for factory automation when I was at Motorola. It evolved to co-developing and deploying communications products for factory automation across all of our factories worldwide with thousands of machines.

What's your favorite thing about working here?

We are creating software products and deploying capabilities at the most sophisticated and expensive factories in the world. We are participating and evolving the way electronic products are made worldwide. We are enabling thousands of machines to be connected and delighting hundreds of customers. We are punching above our weight. I am very proud of that.

What do you think makes a great VP and GM of the Smart Factory Business?

We have created a business to meet the needs of our customers by providing solutions that take advantage of the growing needs of our customers for solutions. Our customers are asking for collecting data, analyzing it and help in making decisions using analytical tools in a cost efficient manner. As leader of this business, I need to enable my team and the company to deliver this vision to delight our customers. This is a great opportunity to serve our customers.

Do you have a favorite quote or saying? Why?

I have a lot of quotes that I like depending on the context, mood and company. One quote that is applicable to this forum – “The only constant is change”. We need to be able to embrace change and be able to lead this momentum called Industry 4.0.

How do you deal with challenges that come up in your work life?

I like to Collect Data (listen to as many people as possible), Analyze (get feedback from as many people as possible) and Act. Sometimes a good nap helps also.

What do you like to do in your free time?

I like reading. I use most of my free time reading.

What's the best thing that's happened to you in your time working at Cimetrix?

I love robotics and software and working at Cimetrix helped me get back to doing both. The management and team at Cimetrix have an innate desire to be the best at both. The timing and desire to pursue both at Cimetrix is the best thing that has happened.

Learn more about our leadership team by clicking below:

Leadership Team

 

Topics: Doing Business with Cimetrix, Working at Cimetrix, Cimetrix Culture

Meet the Team Series: Brian Rubow, Director Client Training and Support

Posted by Cimetrix on Dec 21, 2017 11:03:00 AM

Cimetrix-Rubow_Rubow_copy.jpgJoin us as we meet the Leadership Team of Cimetrix in our “Meet the Team” series.

Brian Rubow is the Director of Client Training and Support for Cimetrix. He is well-known within the industry due to his involvement with the SEMI standards committees. He currently serves as the co-chairs for the North America Information and Control Committee, the North America GEM300 Task Force, and the North America DDA Task Force. Brian has Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering degree and a Master of Science in Manufacturing Engineering degree both from Brigham Young University.

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What brought you to Cimetrix originally?


I was actually still a student at BYU earning my Master's Degree and one of my professors was one of the founders of Cimetrix. He brought me in to do work in Robotics, which was the original direction of Cimetrix. I was really excited to join Cimetrix because Robotics was an area in which I enjoyed working.


What's your favorite thing about working here?

I enjoy working with customers. I find it fulfilling to see the problems they have and help to solve the issues. I also travel quite extensively to client sites and I like seeing all the different kinds of equipment and technology being used across the world.

What do you think makes a great Director of Client Training and Support

First of all, I believe leaders should be as hands-on as possible with their team. I need to understand what my staff is working on in order to understand their needs and give them support as a manager. And all our Client Training and Support staff are engineers who have to know how to use the products in order to be able to solve the various issues that may arise. The Cimetrix Support staff are all very knowledgeable and about the products, but they also have to know how to work and communicate with people around the world. 

Do you have a favorite quote/saying? Why?

I don’t have a favorite quote, but I am a daily reader of the comics Dilbert and Zits. I also loved Calvin and Hobbes, especially when I was younger.

How do you deal with challenges that come up in your work life?

I am very methodical when it comes to solving problems. I try to understand the problem first, which means I spend a lot of time listening to problems. A common tendency might be to throw out an answer before understanding the problem thoroughly, but I try to really understand the root of the problem before determining a path to solution. I find this saves time in the long run even if it takes a little longer to get to the solution at first.

What do you like to do in your free time?

I have quite a few hobbies I enjoy. I am a bee keeper (which is only sometimes fun!). I’m also a father of 8 children which keeps me very busy. My family enjoys playing board and card games together. My boys and I like to play games with a lot of strategy involved and we can be extremely competitive! I also enjoy cycling, listening to audio books and woodworking.

What's the best thing that's happened to you in your time working at Cimetrix?

I think it’s been fun representing our company in the Industry Standards groups I’ve been involved with throughout my years at Cimetrix. I have enjoyed playing an industry leadership role and helping bring about change that affects such a wider variety of companies and people.

Learn more about our leadership team by clicking below:

Leadership Team

Topics: Doing Business with Cimetrix, Working at Cimetrix, Cimetrix Culture

EDA Applications and Benefits for Smart Manufacturing: Introduction to a New Series

Posted by Alan Weber: Vice President, New Product Innovations on Dec 19, 2017 11:40:00 AM
With the adoption of the latest SEMI EDA (Equipment Data Acquisition, also known as Interface A) standards accelerating significantly over the past 18 months, it is time to highlight the applications across the industry that make the best use of these standards, and the specific manufacturing benefits that result.

The articles in this series are not simply suggestions of what one could do by leveraging the performance, flexibility, and architectural features of these standards. Rather, they are leading edge application-specific mini-case studies derived from actual production experience, and as such, can provide genuine guidance for those companies just now contemplating potential pilot projects or even factory-wide deployments of the EDA standards.
Another important aspect of this series is that the applications described affect a broad range of stakeholders in a semiconductor manufacturing company. These include, of course, the process control engineers and statistical modeling support staff responsible for the Fault Detection and Classification (FDC) implementation strategy in all modern wafer fabs, since this application has consistently been the initial consumer of the high-density, precisely framed equipment/process data and associated context information provided through the EDA interfaces.

However, other direct beneficiaries of EDA-enabled applications extend well beyond this group, and include:
  • Industrial engineers responsible for monitoring equipment and factory throughput in real-time, identifying opportunities to eliminate wait time waste in individual equipment types as well as the overall factory, and addressing bottlenecks as they shift and emerge;
  • Production control staff responsible for determining the material release schedule and managing the factory scheduling/dispatching systems to accommodate changes in customer orders and/or factory status;
  • Equipment engineers responsible for fleet matching and management to minimize or eliminate the need to dedicate certain equipment sets for critical process steps and thereby simplify the overall factory scheduling process;
  • Maintenance engineers responsible for minimizing equipment downtime, MTTR (mean time to repair), and test wafer usage required to bring equipment back to production-ready state;
  • Facilities engineers responsible for collecting and integrating sub-fab data from pumps, chillers, exhaust systems, and other complex subsystems into the production data management infrastructure for use by a growing range of analysis applications;
  • Sensor integration specialists responsible for supplementing the built-in sensing and control capabilities of critical process and measurement equipment to support advanced process development…

… and the list goes on.EDAApplications_1.1.png

Despite their diversity, these application articles all share a common profile, which includes a statement of the manufacturing problem addressed; a description of the major solution components required; a discussion of how the solution leverages specific, unique characteristics of the EDA standards; and finally, identification of the key ROI (return on investment) factors that are impacted by the solution. In addition, where available, example ROI calculations will be provided so that the readers can adapt them to their own company environments to quantify the potential benefit of implementing a comparable application solution.

From the above description, you may be tempted to assume that the series focuses mostly on the careabouts of semiconductor manufacturing companies (IDMs and foundries)… but this is not the case. Since the performance of the highlighted applications depends heavily on the “quality” (for lack of a better term) of the equipment interfaces supplying the data, the equipment suppliers have a major role to play in achieving the promised benefit. Specifically, the metadata models (specified by SEMI E120, E125, and E164) that define the parameters, states, events, exceptions, and other data available from the equipment and structure this information for external access essentially form the data collection “contract” between the equipment suppliers and their factory customers. For this reason, the detailed requirements for this aspect of the EDA implementation must be carefully specified and negotiated. This will not happen overnight, as the implications for future equipment design are significant.

As a number of industry experts have already expressed, it is an exciting time to be in the semiconductor industry, regardless of your position along the value chain. For those involved in the collection and use of equipment data to optimize factory performance, we hope you will find the coming series of articles especially useful in formulating you own company’s EDA implementation roadmap.

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To view additional resources on EDA/Interface A or other topics, click on the resources link below.

Resources

As always, your feedback is welcome, and we look forward to sharing the Smart Manufacturing journey with you.

Topics: Interface A, EDA

Features and Benefits of the SECS/GEM Communication Standards

Posted by Brian Rubow: Director of Client Training and Support on Dec 13, 2017 10:55:00 AM

After the Taiwan Printed Circuit Board Association (TPCA) chose the Generic Model for Communication and Control of Manufacturing Equipment (GEM) standard for equipment connectivity, they asked Cimetrix to present at a TCPA technical conference explaining some of the most important features and benefits of GEM.  After Brian Rubow (Cimetrix Director of Client Training and Support) presented they asked him to write a summarizing article which was published by TPCA during the October 2017 TPCA show. Today, we are re-publishing the article as we launch an extensive features/benefits blog series coming up in 2018. 

SECS/GEM refers to a set of SEMI standards that govern the communication between manufacturing equipment and factory host computer systems. The Message layer standard, SEMI E5 SECS-II, defines a generic message structure and a library consisting of many standardized messages. The Protocol layer standard, SEMI E37 High-Speed Message Service (HSMS), defines a binary structure to transfer SECS-II messages using TCP/IP. SEMI E30 GEM, defines a minimum set of requirements, additional (optional) capabilities, use cases and user scenarios for a subset of SECS-II messages. 

SECS/GEM is implemented on an equipment, and is used by the factory to implement command and control functions. Since it is an industry standard, any SECS/GEM-compliant host software can communicate with any SECS/GEM-compliant equipment. When fully implemented on the equipment, the standards enable factory software to completely control and monitor the equipment by means of its SECS/GEM interface. These standards provide numerous benefits to both equipment manufacturers and factories. Several of these benefits are highlighted in this article.

SECS/GEM White Paper

SECS/GEM Reduces Equipment Integration Costs

Factories are typically owned and operated by multinational enterprises which purchase equipment from a variety of equipment manufacturers. Even though the control software is different on every equipment, the factory is required to integrate the equipment to operate in harmony. While it is possible to independently integrate each equipment with custom software, this is not cost or time effective. 

The situation is similar for equipment manufacturers, who sell their products to diverse factories across the globe. Data collection and application software at every factory are different. The equipment manufacturer is required to help the factory integrate the purchased equipment. While it is possible to develop a custom integration solution for each factory, this is again not cost effective. Every time a factory asks for custom integration features, these costs get passed on to the factory itself.

Custom software, whether developed by the equipment manufacturer or the factory, is expensive to create and maintain, and tends to be of lower quality than desired. By contrast, the SECS/GEM standards define how to create a standardized interface on any manufacturing equipment. Equipment manufacturers benefit by developing one interface for all of their customers. Factories benefit by reusing the same integration software for all of their purchased equipment. Reuse of this software and technology both by the factory and equipment manufacturer raises the software quality, reduces costs and allows for more functionality. The equipment manufacturer and factory alike can invest not only in the minimum features required, they can also implement advanced functionality that is otherwise unaffordable. If they only have to support SECS/GEM, then equipment manufacturers can publish more data and support more advanced control. In turn, factories can then use the additional data to improve product quality and productivity. 

SECS/GEM Is Applicable to All Manufacturing Equipment 

Because SECS/GEM is divided into Fundamental Requirements and Additional Capabilities, it can be implemented on any manufacturing equipment, regardless of size and complexity. Additional Capabilities are optional because they are not always needed. For example, some equipment do not have recipes and therefore do not need to implement the Recipe Management Additional Capability. 

SECS/GEM also scales well with the magnitude of an equipment’s data. For example, a very simple equipment or device might publish 10 different collection events, whereas a complex equipment might publish 5000 different collection events; yet both can use the same SECS/GEM technology. 

Innumerable Applications Can Be Supported Using a SECS/GEM Interface

Everything that happens on an equipment can be tracked. Any remote control features and system configuration can be supported. The more data that is published by an equipment, the more software applications a factory can implement. A SECS/GEM interface makes it possible to implement applications for statistical process control, troubleshooting, predictive maintenance, feedforward/feedback process control, equipment utilization, material tracking, recipe validation and many more. Such applications often reduce the need for an operator interface on the equipment, thereby reducing the number of operators in the factory. Recipe management allows factories to minimize scrap. For example, use the SECS/GEM interface to store golden recipes in a central location and also to ensure that the correct recipe is used on the material. 

SECS/GEM Uses Network Bandwidth Very Efficiently

There are several features that make SECS/GEM naturally efficient. First of all, every SECS/GEM interface acts as a message broker. Because the broker runs on the equipment, unsubscribed data is not published on the network. For host software to receive alarm, collection event, or trace data messages, it must first subscribe. Since subscriptions for each alarm, collection event, and trace data are managed separately, the equipment can implement a single SECS/GEM interface that publishes all alarms, collection events and trace data requested by all factory applications without wasting network bandwidth with unnecessary data. Moreover, when the host subscribes for trace data, it specifies the data collection rate, making SECS/GEM much more efficient and useful than protocols that publish data at a hard-coded rate. 

Additionally, all SECS/GEM messages are always transmitted in an efficient binary format. This uses much less bandwidth than protocols that transmit in ASCII format. Despite using a binary format, SECS/GEM messages are also easily converted to and from a standardized XML notation. 

SECS/GEM Enjoys Enormous Industry Support 

SECS/GEM has been the backbone of factory/equipment communication and control systems for years in the semiconductor industry. This means that all semiconductor manufacturing today completely relies on SECS/GEM communication. 300mm semiconductor factories have been running with full automation based on SECS/GEM communication since the late 90s—large companies like TSMC, Samsung, Micron, Intel, Toshiba and many others utilize SECS/GEM 24/7 in every factory. Other industries like Flat Panel Display, High-Brightness LED and Photovoltaic have also officially adopted SECS/GEM because they recognized how SECS/GEM features can be applied to any manufacturing equipment to support mission-critical applications.

SECS/GEM Is Self-Describing

Although the standard requires GEM documentation to be provided with the equipment, SECS/GEM supports multiple approaches for host software to automatically adapt to an equipment’s SECS/GEM interface. There are messages for the host software to ask for the list of available alarms, status variables, equipment constants, and, for newer implementations, a list of available collection events and data variables. These messages make SECS/GEM plug-and-play. Additionally, the equipment manufacturer can provide a standardized XML file that provides a full description of the SECS/GEM interface and its features. 

Summary

These are just some of the many benefits of using SECS/GEM technology, both for factories and equipment manufacturers. SECS/GEM is proven technology that is available today. 

Topics: SECS/GEM

Cimetrix has a Strong Presence in Europe: Wrap-up of SEMICON Europa and Productronica 2017

Prod_wrap_5.pngCan you think of a better place to spend time with customers and partners than Munich, Germany during Productronica and SEMICON Europa trade fairs? SEMICON Europa has had dwindling attendance in the past few years, even in a hot semiconductor market, so SEMI decided to combine with the robust Productronica for 2017.  It was a great decision.  This trade fair had 8 full and busy halls as a result; with high spirits from all attendees.  Four of the Productronica halls were dedicated to the SMT industry (Surface Mount Technology) which is part of what we call Electronics Assembly.  This industry is wrestling with moving to Smart Manufacturing and Industry 4.0.  What better way to learn than to have SEMICON Europa next door?  SEMICON Europa occupied 1.5 halls filled with many of our current customers. 

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Cimetrix decided to place our booth in one of the four SMT halls because we have a lot to offer the SMT industry in their migration to Smart Manufacturing.  We had many visitors and discussions on how Cimetrix can help.  There are a variety of ways used in SMT to gather equipment data including older “one way” standards, GEM, and several proposed new standards and our 25+ year heritage in semiconductor equipment automation ideally positions Cimetrix to help customers think through these options.  We also brought extra staff to the show so we could spend time in the SEMICON Europa halls having scheduled meetings with our major European equipment suppliers and factories.  Several new opportunities were brought to our attention and updates/planning for 2018 were discussed. 

By far, the dominant theme at the show was Industry 4.0 and Smart Manufacturing.  There were many excellent presentations in the Tech Arenas; and almost every booth had posters on the move to Smart Manufacturing.  Of note were presentations by Dr. Jan Rothe from GLOBALFOUNDRIES and Jorg Richstein from Jabil discussing their automation plans for SMART Manufacturing; and Dr. Martin Schellenberger from Fraunhofer with a comprehensive set of steps to help companies understand Smart Manufacturing and the steps to get there. 

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As a company that focuses on helping manufacturers achieve their automation goals, it is hard not to come away from Munich excited about the next 5 years in electronics manufacturing. 

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Topics: SEMI, Doing Business with Cimetrix, Events, SEMICON, Productronica

Conclusions and Call to Action: 6th and Final Episode in the “Models in Smart Manufacturing” Series

Posted by Alan Weber: Vice President, New Product Innovations on Dec 1, 2017 11:00:00 AM

Over the past several months, we’ve highlighted the importance of explicit and standardized models in the context of equipment communications interfaces and some of the “smart” factory applications they support. The manufacturing stakeholders impacted by these applications run the gamut from process, equipment, maintenance, and industrial engineering to production operations to traceability regulatory compliance… yet these only scratch the surface.

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The question you may be asking now is “So what?” or “What should I do with this information?” The answer to these important questions depends on your company and your role. 

For example, if you’re part of a semiconductor manufacturing enterprise in today’s market environment, you know that you can probably sell every good device you make, so there is intense pressure to simultaneously maximize product quality, volume, and [factory and engineering] productivity–a perfect storm. Since lead times for new equipment needed for capacity expansion are at all-time highs, this means getting as much as you can out of your existing facilities while waiting for new deliveries. New applications to monitor and improve these KPIs are being developed continuously, but the one thing they have in common is a reliance on detailed, high quality, easily accessible and interpretable equipment data.

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For 300mm equipment with the latest generation of SEMI EDA (Equipment Data Acquisition) interfaces, this means having “good” E120/E125/E164-compliant equipment metadata models as a foundation. On top of this foundation, however, the models must also include the specific parameters, events, state machines, and other items that fully describe the behavior of the equipment according to your unique manufacturing requirements… which can only be achieved by mapping these requirements into specific equipment model elements, and updating your purchase specifications to close whatever gaps you find between what is currently offered by the equipment suppliers and what you really need. Fortunately, we have been through this process a number of times, and can help clarify your manufacturing priorities and translate them directly into updated interface purchase specifications.

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Admittedly, this may take some time, but remember that you always only get what you are willing to accept. It brings to mind the old adage: “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago; the second 

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best time is today.” 

As another example, if you are part of the embedded control system development team of an equipment supplier, you can anticipate not only increasingly explicit model content requirements, but also more stringent performance and testing requirements for the standard EDA communications interface as your customers raise their reliance on this technology to realize manufacturing competitive differentiation. We at Cimetrix have seen this demand build over the past 18 months, and are well prepared to support you throughout the entire equipment development life cycle.

This article is the sixth and final in the series announced earlier this year in the Models in Smart Manufacturing blog series. From here, we’ll soon begin a new series on advanced EDA applications and benefits based on best practices of the industry leaders – be sure to watch for this early next year!

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

 

*The visualizations of equipment metadata model fragments are those produced by the Cimetrix ECCE Plus product (EDA Client Connection Emulator).

Topics: EDA, Smart Manufacturing

North America SEMI Standards Meeting Fall 2017 Recap

Posted by Brian Rubow: Director of Client Training and Support on Nov 22, 2017 11:00:00 AM

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The SEMI North American Information & Control Committee meetings were held in Milpitas, CA at SEMI headquarters. The following activities might be important for Cimetrix customers and employees.

The DDA Task Force has officially kicked off the development of the next EDA standards, already deemed “Freeze 3” by many. Several ballots have been authorized for creation and voting early next year. This includes ballots to modify E125, E132, E134 and E138, which includes many of the core EDA standards. Additional work is also planned for E164. Most of the changes are expected to be straightforward, with a few corrections, clarifications and new features that various SEMI members have requested. E125 is probably the biggest proposed change in this set, where new messages will be added to provide the list of all parameters and the list of all events. Then the equipment nodes in the model will always reference parameters and reference events. This should clarify some of the confusion surrounding parameter definitions and parameter references.


By far, the longest discussion was surrounding the biggest decision of all. Currently, the EDA standards are using HTTP/1.1 for message transfer and SOAP/XML for message body. This means that the EDA standards are text based. At the time of EDA development, this seemed to be the best internet technology for data collection. Today, HTTP/1.1 is out of date. More recently, advances have been made in internet technology for sharing data in a binary format. The biggest advantage of transferring data in a binary message format is message efficiency. A binary message generally will be about 15 to 20 times smaller than text based messaging. This means less load on the equipment that publishes EDA data, much less load on the network and less load on the subscribing EDA clients. Many alternatives were discussed including WebSockets, HTTP/2, and even HSMS. It was discussed whether to stick with a text based protocol and use compression or move to a binary protocol. Data was presented from a DDA Task Force member regarding a performance comparison between HTTP/1.1 with text messages (like EDA today), HTTP with binary messages, HTTP/2 with SSL, WebSockets with binary messages and WebSockets with SSL. The test results showed binary messaging to be allow 25 times more data collection than the current HTTP/1.1 technology. Ultimately, it was decided that moving to a binary protocol was the right strategic direction.

Another point of discussion was how to implement binary messaging. Google has developed the Protocol Buffer technology. Specifically, we looked at version 3 called “proto3” which defines a notation for establishing binary messages. They have also published open source code gRPC in various software programming languages that implement the binary encoding and decoding for the Protocol Buffer technology and HTTP/2. This seems to be today’s best technology for binary web services. The DDA Task Force is in the process of developing a ballot to propose the adoption of this technology for the EDA messages. If approved, this would be the foundation of freeze 3 communication and a vast improvement.

In Japan, the Information & Control Committee recently created a DDA task force. The leader, Mitch Sakamoto from company ZAMA is coordinating with the North American DDA task force. Similarly, the DDA task force leaders in Korea are also working closely with North America. The Freeze 3 EDA development really is emerging as a worldwide coordinated development. The world-wide cooperation and coordination is much stronger and cohesive than the development was for Freeze 1 and Freeze 2.

The GEM 300 task force passed a ballot approving the use of SECS Message Notation (SMN) for GEM implementations. SMN could already be used anyway, but adding this to the GEM standard makes its use more official. This means that messages can be logged and documented using SMN.

The GUI task force continues to move along with planned improvements for the E95 standard. This including modernizing the graphics in the standard, updating the text and most importantly having the standard include the adoption of small screen devices as an equipment HMI. The new E95 standard will be a major revision standard.

In Korea, several ballots continue to be developed and reworked. This includes an update to the E87 carrier management services standard to allow more precise reporting when carrier approach the completion state. This includes an update to the E142 wafer map handling standard with new features in the schema file. Additionally, they are working on an equipment generic counter standard, which establish standardized methods for equipment to “count” things that happen on the equipment. This proposed specification is a favorite of mine personally. It is a clever way to recognize that it is important to count things on every equipment such as the number of times a vacuum has a been cycled, the number of times a nozzle has been used, the number of times a user has logged in, the number of times a robot has moved a substrate, the number of times an equipment has been restarted. It could be anything and it could be very different on two types of equipment. Collecting such data in a generic, natural way facilitates predictive maintenance; a key to minimizing factory equipment downtime.

Topics: SEMI Standards, SEMI

Creating a SECS/GEM interface for equipment automation using the Cimetrix CIMConnect toolkit

Posted by Jesse Lopez: Software Engineer on Nov 15, 2017 12:30:00 PM

Adding a SECS/GEM interface to an equipiment is the first step in automation. Without the proper toolset, this can seem like an overwhelming endeavor. The CIMConnect™ toolkit provides developers and integrators with the ability to quickly create a SECS/GEM interface and the power to perfect it.

Purpose
Recently I was introduced to the Cimetrix CIMConnect tookit. I had the opportunity to attend a hands-on client training event. Though my knowledge of SECS/GEM was minimal, within three days, I learned the basics of implementing a SECS/GEM interface using CIMConnect and want to share some highlights of that very positive experience.

CIMConnect
CIMConnect provides a robust software development kit that helps developers implement and manage a SECS/GEM interface from their equipment control application. CIMConnect is always current with the latest version of required SEMI standards which simiplifies the process of producing a GEM-compliant interface. When CIMConnect is installed, it comes with multiple tools that make development and testing straightforward and efficient.

CIMConnect Sample projects
CIMConnect samples provide a functioning example of a SECS/GEM application. Sample projects are available in C#, VB.NET, and C++. I will be referring to the C# sample since that is what I used during training.

This sample provides a “known-good” environment that provides a way to accelerate development by taking care of the essentials. I was able to focus on debugging the scope of what I was working on in my application, rather than questioning the SECS/GEM connectivity aspects.

C# Sample Features

  • Processing Simulation: The sample provides a loop that simulates equipment operation. This includes triggering events and updating variable values. 
  • EMService Initialization: When the Sample is compiled and run, CIMConnect is initialized and GEM communication is started.
  • GEM Operator Controls: GEM communication status is displayed in real time using GEM state machines. Communication can be controlled from the sample’s user interface.
  • Multi-threading Examples: Data is processed in separate threads. This is a good practice and allows the user interface to remain responsive while data is effectively processed asynchronously. 
  • Delayed GEM Communication Initialization: This demonstrates the concept of waiting for the equipment to be ready during initialization. 
  • Trigger Events: Events are triggered from the process simulation loop. As events are triggered, related variables are updated.
  • Get and Set Variable Values: This sample provides multiple examples of programmatically getting and setting variable values of varying data types.
  • Set and Clear Alarms: An example alarm can be set and cleared by toggling a checkbox in the user interface. 
  • Terminal Services: Terminal services provide an example of effective logging by displaying real-time messages to the equipment user interface.
  • Remote Commands: The sample allows the user to start and stop the processing simulation by sending a SECS-II message from the host.

Training process
Training is very interactive; the instructor demonstrates a new topic, and then allows the trainees time to try it out. When presented with a new feature to try out, I found it beneficial to initially create a button or checkbox to ensure the new feature worked. Next, I embedded the feature into the application. Breaking each process into these two steps removes ambiguity and avoids unnecessary debugging.

The pace was set by the client. The instructor was available to provide assistance as needed. Though the training follows a curriculum, each session is custom tailored to the needs of the client who requested the training. 

My Application
I had created a C# application prior to training. My application read in an XML recipe and simulated wafer processing. Having a working application to modify during training was very beneficial, since it simulated a real-world practical implementation.

Adding the SECS/GEM interface
The first step was to initialize CIMConnect. This step was simplified by extracting the Initialization functions from the sample project. Once I could observe that CIMConnect was initialized, I was able to move on to adding the SECS/GEM functionality.

API Calls
My application sends API calls to, and receives call backs from CIMConnect. The API calls were somewhat difficult to understand initially due to the customization each call allows.

Wrapper functions
The sample project provides several useful wrapper functions that implement API calls. The overhead of API calls is handled inside the wrapper. The benefit of using wrapper functions is that the developer can focus on whether the result matches his/her expectations rather than whether the API call is incorrect.

After my success using wrapper functions to call APIs, I started to modify and make my own wrapper functions. Eventually I became comfortable calling the APIs directly.

Equipment Configuration
CIMConnect lets you statically define events, alarms, variables, and other attributes in a configuration file. In my file, I created multiple variables that related to my application. Later I learned that my application could dynamically define items instead. Also, my application could programmatically override configured attributes. I think these features would benefit companies that produce multiple equipment types with slight variances.

Adding Events and Alarms
The first event that I created was to let the host know when a FOUP had landed on the load port. I used the SendCollectionEventWithData() wrapper function to trigger the event and increment a variable I had previously defined in the configuration file. This variable provided me with a count of FOUPs that had landed on the input port.

Using the AlarmSET() and AlarmClear() functions, I created 3 alarms. Since I didn’t have hardware such as an EMO button, I used check boxes to toggle each alarm’s behavior.

cimconnect_gettingstarted_1.pngMy application with a SECS/GEM interface. 

Developing Using the CIMConnect Control Panel
The CIMConnect Control Panel is a graphical user interface utility that provides a way to observe the inner workings of CIMConnect.

During development, I used the control panel frequently. I could watch the alarms status change as I toggled each checkbox in my application. Event history and alarm history provided real-time updates. I could change variable values and trigger events from the control panel and verify results on the host without needing to constantly modify my application.

I watched the GEM communication status change on the control panel as I used my application’s GEM control. I could also change the status on the control panel and watch it change in my application.

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CIMConnect Control panel 1.15.0

Host Testing with GEM Host Messenger
CIMConnect comes with GEM Host Messenger, a host application that allows the user to send and receive SECS-II messages to/from the equipment.

Using GEM Host Messenger, I could easily connect with my application. GEM Host Messenger displays and decodes messages into an easy-to-read format.

I could send S2F21 messages “START” and “STOP” to control processing on my application. It was very satisfying to see my once-standalone application being controlled remotely.

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Gem Host Messenger 1.0.0

Help Documentation, Tools, and Support
CIMConnect provides an in-depth help file and developer’s guide. I found myself referencing these frequently to get details on different functionality available in the extensive CIMConnect libraries.

Conclusion
CIMConnect allowed me to rapidly develop a SECS/GEM interface and implement it into an already existing program. With CIMConnect training developers unfamiliar with SECS/GEM can learn the basics in as little as 3 working days. Although this was a simple example, CIMConnect has the power and functionality to facilitate projects on any scale.

Find out more
To find out more about CIMConnect and to request a technical product overview or product demo, visit the resources page now.

CIMConnect Resources

Topics: SECS/GEM, CIMConnect, Equipment Automation Framework