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Automated tool recovery increases equipment efficiency

SmartFactory 300works® can help reduce an often-overlooked component of maintenance downtime

Manufacturers are always interested in maximizing process tool availability and minimizing down-time. This is particularly the case in the semiconductor industry, where capital equipment costs are exceedingly high.

An often-overlooked component in maintenance downtime is the time it takes to re-qualify process tools following maintenance. Accelerating this post-maintenance qualification process can reduce overall maintenance downtime and improve process tool availability. SmartFactory 300works provides a systematic approach to automating the process.

Consider a simple example where an equipment engineer needs to run a monitor wafer to re-qualify a tool after preventive maintenance. This would ordinarily be a manual process during which the engineer looks to:

  • Determine which qualification process flow is required
  • Ensure the required wafers are available and ready for use
  • Retrieve the required wafers from storage
  • Process the monitor wafer(s)
  • Evaluate the results and decide the disposition of the process tool

This is conceptually simple, but it’s a time-consuming, manual process – particularly when something unexpected occurs, such as discovering that the required wafers aren’t available or aren’t ready to use. It becomes a big drain on factory efficiency.

300works automates this process with its automated tool recovery package. Depending on the degree of factory automation deployed onsite, manufacturers can reduce post-maintenance costs and re-qualification time by half or more.

Figure 1 shows how a monitor wafer process flow associated with preventive maintenance might be implemented within the automated tool recovery package.

This is how 300works automated tool recovery package improves the process by:
  • Locating the proper monitor wafers and ensuring they’re properly prepared for use
  • Downloading the process recipe to the process tool and initiating processing
  • Uploading processing results
  • Automating the disposition decision and returning the monitor wafers to storage ready to be used again
Figure 1: Automated Tool Recovery Workflow
Figure 1: Automated Tool Recovery Workflow

The overall impact of automating post-maintenance re-qualifications can be significant – particularly for bottleneck tools.

Our 300works automated tool recovery workflow ensures the proper re-qualification process flow and monitor wafers are used, and that re-qualification disposition occurs in a consistent manner. It also accelerates the re-qualification process, reducing tool down-time and gets tools back up and running in production quickly.

Interested in learning more? Reach out here for more information!

About the Author

Seong Hoon Lee and Boon Guan Lim
Seong Hoon Lee and Boon Guan Lim
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