Industry News, Trends and Technology, and Standards Updates

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: Semiconductor Industry, Doing Business with Cimetrix, Events, SEMICON

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, Semiconductor Industry

SEMICON West 2017 Wrap-Up

Posted by Cimetrix on Jul 19, 2017 11:30:00 AM
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SEMICON West 2017 has come and gone! The trade show and technical conference was held this year at the Moscone Center in San Francisco and turned out to be a very busy show for the Cimetrix team. While the show was only two halls strong, we had many meetings with current clients, met with new potential clients and even made a few new friends along the way.

A major highlight of the event for all of Cimetrix took place Tuesday evening at the SEMI Standards Awards reception where our own Brian Rubow, Director of Client Training and Support at Cimetrix, took home the prestigious SEMI Leadership Award. Brian, who has over 20 years of experience in the industry, has been a long-time leader and key contributor to the SEMI Standards programs throughout his career.  We were very proud of his work and so glad he was able to receive recognition from the SEMI organization. 

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The sales team was hard at work during the entire show and it wasn’t often the Cimetrix booth was empty! Meeting with many new companies made the show very exciting. Our team was especially pleased to meet for several hours with the CEO of our newest client from China! The relationships we establish and cultivate while at these tradeshows make them an invaluable part of our sales, marketing and support efforts. 

The Cimetrix team members that attended were Bob Reback (President and CEO), Dave Faulkner (EVP Sales and Marketing), Ranjan Chatterjee (V.P. Emerging Business & Technology Office), Stu Benger (Director of Sales, North America), Brian Rubow (Director of Client Training and Support), David Francis (Director of Product Management), Alan Weber (V.P. New Product Innovations) and Kimberly Daich (Marketing Manager). Several team members were able to attend for just a day including some of our newest engineers. It was a great chance for them to get to know the show, meet some clients and see some of the machines our software powers in action.

The Moscone Center is undergoing major renovations in preparation for SEMICON West 2018; and we were able to secure a premium spot for next year’s show. SEMICON West is always a great show and we were pleased to be able to attend this year, and as always we’re already looking forward to SEMICON West 2018!

Topics: SEMI Standards, Semiconductor Industry, Events, SEMICON

European Advanced Process Control and Manufacturing Conference XVII: Retrospective and Invitation

Posted by Alan Weber: Vice President, New Product Innovations on May 17, 2017 11:30:00 AM

APC.jpgCimetrix participated in the recent European Advanced Process Control and Manufacturing (apc|m) Conference, along with over 150 control professionals across the European and global semiconductor manufacturing industry. The conference was held in Dublin, a lively city on the east coast of Ireland which features a charming juxtaposition of old and new and is home to 1.2 million of the friendliest and most talkative people on the planet! 

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Of course, one of Ireland’s greatest “natural resources” may also contribute to their fine spirits…

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This conference, now in its 17th year and organized by Silicon Saxony, is one of only a few global events dedicated to the domain of semiconductor process control and directly supporting technologies. This year’s attendance was up from that of the three previous years, a clear indication that this area continues to hold keen interest for the European high-tech manufacturing community. Moreover, the participants represented all links in the semiconductor manufacturing value chain, from universities and research institutes to component, subsystem, and equipment suppliers to software product and services providers to semiconductor IDMs and foundries across a wide spectrum of device types to industry trade organizations – something for everyone.

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The local sponsor for the conference was Intel, which is the largest private-sector investor in the Irish economy and one of its biggest employers. In addition to excellent logistics support, Intel hosted a lovely evening of fine food and local entertainment at the world-renowned Trinity College.

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As in many prior years, Cimetrix was privileged to present at this conference. Alan Weber delivered a talk entitled “Smarter Manufacturing with SEMI Standards: Practical Approaches for Plug-and-Play Application Integration.” This topic was well aligned with one of the key themes of this year’s event, but stressed the point that our industry already has at its disposal many of the tools, techniques, and enabling standards required for Smart Manufacturing. Specifically, the presentation illustrated how the new SEMI E172 SECS Equipment Data Dictionary (SEDD) standard could be used to document an equipment’s GEM interface in way that provided much of the same hierarchical structure and context information inherent in the latest generation of EDA metadata models (SEMI E120, E125, and E164). If you want to know more, feel free to download a copy of the entire presentation from our web site.

In addition to Smart Manufacturing, recurring themes of the presentations included:

  • The IoT (Internet of Things) and interesting applications for all these “things” (e.g., most new drugs depend on a “smart delivery device” to be used safely and effectively)
  • Decision-driven data collection strategies (vs. “just in case” approaches)
  • Automated analysis, automated decision making, artificial intelligence, and other forms of machine learning
  • The evolution from reactive systems to predictive systems, or in Gartner’s terms, using data to move from hindsight to insight to foresight 
  • The increasing use eOCAP techniques (electronic aids and workflow engine support for Out-of-Control Action Plan execution) 
  • And, last but certainly not least, connectivity standards and technologies as key enablers of much of the above

The agenda also featured keynotes and invited talks from a variety of sources, namely:

  • Bosch – Success Factors for Semiconductor Manufacturing in High-Cost Locations
  • Intel – IoT’s Connected Devices and Big Data Analytics: the Opportunities and Challenges in Semiconductor Manufacturing
  • ST Microelectronics – FDC Control: the Loop Between Standardization and Innovation
  • IBM Research – Automating Analytics for Cognitive IoT 
  • Rudolph Technologies – Smart Manufacturing
  • Applied Materials – Advancements in FDC: Reducing False Alarms and Optimizing Model and Limits Management

The insights gained from these and the other 30+ presentations are too numerous to list here, but in aggregate, they provided an excellent reminder of how relevant semiconductor technology has become for our comfort, sustenance, safety, and overall quality of life. 

This conference and its sister conference in the US are excellent venues to understand what manufacturers do with all the data they collect, so if this topic piques your interest, be sure to put these events on your calendar in the future. In the meantime, if you have questions about any of the above, or want to know how equipment connectivity and control fit into the overall Smart Manufacturing landscape, please contact us!

Topics: Semiconductor Industry, EDA/Interface A, Events, Smart Manufacturing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Topics: Semiconductor Industry, SEMICON

Implementing your Process Module Using CCF

Posted by Tim Hutchison: Senior Software Engineer on Feb 9, 2017 12:30:00 PM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To learn more about CCF, visit the CIMControlFramework page on our website!

Topics: Semiconductor Industry, Equipment Control-Software Products, Cimetrix Products

14th Innovations Forum for Automation

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

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

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

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

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Topics: Semiconductor Industry, Doing Business with Cimetrix, Events

Fall 2016 SEMI Standards Meeting

Posted by Brian Rubow: Director of Client Training and Support on Jan 18, 2017 11:30:00 AM

SEMI_logo_share.jpg SEMI North America Information & Control Task Force and Committee fall meetings were last held at SEMI headquarters November 7 through 9, 2016. During these meetings, SEMI announced that they are relocating their headquarters to Milpitas, CA. That move is currently underway. In the GEM 300 task force, all of the ballots failed to pass. This include ballot 5872A, 5549, 6026, 6066, and 6068. In the DDA task force, ballot 6064 also failed.

Ballot 5872A is work driven by Cimetrix to complete to work initially proposed for the E172 standard SEDD files, a feature to enable an electronic format for GEM documentation. Ballot 5872A failed due to some minor issues. SEDD files already provide partial GEM interface documentation in an XML file by listing the data variables, status variables, equipment constants, collection events and alarms. The ballot proposes to enhance SEDD files by adding a list of supported SECS-II messages, remote commands, SEMI standards (with compliance tables), and default event reports. The ballot will be reworked and resubmitted as ballot 5872B.

 Ballot 5549A is a title change and organizational change to the GEM E30 standard. Several years ago, SEMI required all standards to have an official designation, such as Guide or Specification. E30 currently has a title that fails to establish an official standard designation. Additionally, the standard currently fails to have the mandatory sections “Purpose”, “Scope”, “Limitations” like other standards. The ballot was delayed several years due to the SML copyright claim by Peer Group and the ensuing legal confrontation with SEMI. The ballot was finally submitted in 2016 and failed because it renamed the Application Notes as an Appendix instead of “Related Information”. Additionally, there was some confusion because the ballot was based on the 0611 version of E30 rather than the 0416 version which had just been published. This ballot will be reworked and resubmitted as ballot 5549B.

 Ballots 6026, 6066, 6068 and 6024 are reapproval ballots for standards E109, E130/E130.1, E116/E116.1 and E121. SEMI automatically submits all standards for re-approval every five years if a standard has not been revised. These standards all failed due to outdated references. They will all be resubmitted in 2017 with minor changes to correct the outdated references.

 The new GUI task force was approved to create a new major revision of the E95 standard. In particular, the new revision will accommodate new software and hardware technology when laying out equipment user interfaces.

 Cimetrix proposed a new activity to define new SECS-II messages for transferring recipes. The activity will result in a new ballot 6614. Currently, the GEM standard defines two ways to transfer unformatted recipes. Using simple Stream 7 messages S7F3 and S7F6, the entire recipe is part of a single message. This makes is really easy to implement in the host and equipment GEM software, but recipes are limited to about 16.7 MB (the maximum size of a single data item in any SECS-II message). The second way is using the large recipe scenarios which involve using a sequence of messages S7F43/F44, S13F1/S13F2, S13F3/F4, S13F5/F6 (repeated iteratively until there is an error), S6F11/F12 and finally S13F7/F8. Even for an expert, this is very complicated. Ballot 6614 will propose simple new messages for transferring a large recipe using a single message where the recipe can be broken up into multiple parts where each part is up to 16.7 MB in size. If approved, another ballot will attempt to add this to GEM standard. This will open the door for the GEM standard to be used more effectively and in more application where the 16.7 MB limitation posed an issue.

 Japan Information & Control committee (I&CC) announced the official withdrawal of OBEM standards E98 and E98.1. Japan also announced a GEM300A initiative which includes standards E170 and E171 and E174. E170 is the Production Recipe Standard which allows equipment to designate production and non-production recipes; where production recipes are given change protection. E171 defines predictive carrier logistics. Ballot 5601 defines Wafer Job Management. It is not clear whether or not there any IC makers will demand any of these newer standards. Of the three, E170 seems to be most useful and interesting. Predictive carrier logistics seems to be useful only for equipment that have carrier internal buffers. It attempts to help the equipment report when carriers will be ready for removal. It is not clear how E171 will compete with the upcoming E87 ballot 4946 to be submitted by the Korean Information & Control Committee in 2017. Ballot 4946 modified the E87 standard to predict when carriers will be ready to unload. Wafer Job Management is a controversial standard. Japan I&CC announced the passing of ballot 5601 (now E174) despite the strong opposition by multiple knowledgeable voters in other regions, and despite very underwhelming support from regional leaders in North America, Korea, Europe and Taiwan.

 Korean Information & Control committee announced plans to submit ballot 5832, a proposal for a new Generic Counter standard which is built upon the GEM standard. The standard would allow an equipment to define various types of generic “counters” that can be reset by the host. The counters could be used a wide variety of applications; particularly predictive maintenance. The standard as defined in the current ballot defines digital counters, analog counters and collection event counters. Voting period for this ballot just ended recently.

 Next North American I&CC meetings will be held first week in April, 2017.

Topics: SEMI Standards, Semiconductor Industry, Events

Semicon Europa 2016 is in the books!

Posted by Cimetrix on Nov 10, 2016 11:30:00 AM

SEMICON Europa was held in Grenoble France this year from October 25-27, 2016.  Grenoble is a hot point for semiconductor technology in France with fabs and technology centers located close by.  Typically, this trade fair moves between Dresden and Grenoble each year with attendance of about 6000. 

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The Cimetrix team consisted of Dave Faulkner, EVP Sales & Marketing; Bruce Febvret, Business Development,  Europe; and Kimberly Daich, our new Marketing Manager.  Cimetrix brought our new double wide booth with new branding and was located next to our integration partner Agileo Automation.  

IMG_3302.jpgWe highlighted our CIMPortal Plus software demonstrating the benefits of the SEMI E164 standard.  Attendance seemed light this year which allowed the Cimetrix team ample time to meet with various equipment supplier customers who had exhibits at the show. Of particular interest to our customers was our advice on when and how to add Interface A to their control systems, and what impact Industry 4.0 and smart manufacturing will bring.  The evening networking event was very well done; congrats to the SEMI team.IMG_3326.jpg

SEMI made an importance announcement that starting next year, SEMICON Europa will no longer move back and forth between Grenoble and Dresden; and will move to Munich in mid-November.  This allows one large show featuring SEMICON and Productronica.  SEMICON Europa will focus on semiconductor related activities and Productronica will focus on electronics assembly technologies.  This decision works very well for Cimetrix as we share customers in both industries. See you next year in Munich!

 

Topics: Semiconductor Industry, Events, SEMICON

News You Can Use in SEMI Command and Control Standards, Part 2

Posted by Brian Rubow and Alan Weber on May 31, 2016 1:00:00 PM

 172SEMI.pngIn a previous blog we mentioned that two new SEMI standards, E172 and E173, demonstrated that the GEM standard was alive and well and even gaining new momentum by evolving to adopt new technology. The earlier blog focused on E172 with its SEDD files that use an XML schema to describe what is in a GEM interface. Today’s blog is about the E173 Specification for XML SECS-II Message Notation: a new way to log and document GEM/SECS messages, again using an XML schema.

A few years ago Cimetrix was involved in a project prototyping Wait Time Waste concepts and implementation alternatives. This work required Cimetrix engineers to review and extract data from many different SECS-II message log files from a variety of sources, and in the process, exposed a serious weakness in the industry. Because there was no standardized notation for logging SECS-II messages, everyone represented them differently, using different nuances and variations in their notation based loosely on SML (SECS Message Language, which is mentioned in the GEM standard). Additionally, SML itself was designed primarily for human readability, and certainly not for consumption by software programs; moreover, you can’t analyze a long message log without software to do the parsing for you. As a consequence, writing software to review the log files and to extract meaningful data from the log files was far more difficult than it should have been – SML and SML-like notations are simply not suitable for today’s needs. But now there is a suitable, industry-standard alternative. 

At Cimetrix we have utilized various notations for logging SECS-II messages for many years. In order for any notation to be useful it must meet certain criteria. First of all, it has to be easy for software to write (serialize). Secondly, it also needs to be easy for software to read (deserialize). And finally, it should be easy for humans to read and understand.

The original technique we used many years ago was based on the scripting language Tcl (pronounced “tickle”), which uses curly braces as structural delimiters. When programming within the Tcl language, this works very well. In other programming languages, however, it is easy to serialize, but not so easy to deserialize. Another technique Cimetrix had used for a few years was based on XML, which is well supported by all modern programming languages and an integral part of most internet activity. It is very easy to serialize and deserialize. And when formatted with carriage returns and indentation, it is quite easy to read for most humans (at least the ones who are software programmers or web page gurus).

Here is a subjective comparison between the notation alternatives using a scale of 1 to 5 where 5 is excellent and 1 is very poor or difficult.

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At Cimetrix we decided to leverage our experience with XML, SECS/GEM standards and the SEMI Standards organization and related communities to develop a notation that everyone in the industry could benefit from. The result was this new standard: SMN. It is comprised of two parts: an XML schema defined specifically for GEM/SECS messaging; and a specification document describing how to use it (although many details of the specification are embedded as annotations within the XML schema file itself). It looks like this:

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The schema is found on the SEMI website: http://dom.semi.org/web/wstandards.nsf/complementaryfiles

SMN brings the representation of SECS messages into the Internet era by defining an open, standard, XML-based notation for these messages. So what can you do with this? Here are some ideas:

  • Document individual SECS/GEM messages (the SEMI E172 SEDD file uses SMN for this). You can also document entire message scenarios.

  • Log individual SECS/GEM messages or scenarios in XML format. These can include only the messages, or might also include protocol messages (like the HSMS separate message).

  • Share message logs with others. If their software supports SMN, they can immediately make use of it. This should increase collaboration in the manufacturing community, particularly between equipment suppliers and their customers.

  • Embellish log files with comments and meaningful metadata, like data item names, variable names, collection event names, etc.

  • Analyze and extract information from log files offline for projects like Wait Time Waste, where you don’t need to process a live data stream.

  • Log messages in a raw binary format to save disk space, yet encapsulated in XML for convenience.

  • Many of the numerous XML tools in the software development community can now be used by SECS/GEM software developers. This opens up a world of opportunities.

  • Products like our CIMConnect and CIM300 can make use of SMN to make it easier to implement GEM and GEM300 interfaces on the equipment by using the SECSData element from SMN to pass data from the equipment supplier’s software into our product.

It is exciting to see the GEM standard evolve and embrace new technologies like XML to make integrating manufacturing equipment into the factories easier and easier.

For more information about these latest standards, and how you can incorporate them into your interface implementation, please contact us.

Topics: SEMI Standards, SECS/GEM, Semiconductor Industry