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The Road to Full Auto in Semiconductor Assembly Test Manufacturing – Overcoming Roadblocks (Part 3 of 3)

Organization readiness, data, equipment, factory layout, material handling….do these roadblocks sound familiar? Watch this video (part 3 of 3) to get tips from the experts on how to move forward in your journey to full automation.
Learn strategies for mitigating roadblocks in this video series, featuring The Road to Full Auto in Semiconductor Assembly Test Manufacturing (part 3 of 3).


Welcome to the third video in our series on Full Auto and semiconductor assembly tests. In this video we will discuss the roadblocks to achieving Full Auto and strategies to mitigate them. So what are the roadblocks to achieving Full Auto? First, the organization itself can be a roadblock if it lacks a Full Auto vision and executive buy-in.

Next, data can be a roadblock. This could mean not enough data or too much data.

Third, legacy equipment can be a roadblock.

We discussed this briefly in our first video. Next, the factory layout can be too complex or ill-suited for Full Auto. And finally, material handling challenges.

Let’s dive a little deeper into each of these roadblocks now. Your organization needs to have a vision for what it needs and expects with lights out Full Auto manufacturing and how it can be implemented. What processes could be handled via automated execution and which really need a human touch? How can your equipment know what lot is which and how will you manage the equipment recipes? Have you defined control limits for your equipments and corrective actions for when KPIs go out of those limits? Consider how you can improve your supply chain systems in a lights out Full Auto context.

If you use or implement a digital twin, consider how its usage may be changed or improved. Consider how lights out manufacturing and the right data could enable self-learning. These are just a few examples of what your organization could consider in its Full Auto vision.

But a vision without executive buy-in might never see the light of day. It is critical that your organization’s executives have buy-in and budget for lights out Full Auto. What about roadblocks with respect to data? Smart manufacturing is enabled with data, the right data.

What data do you need to automate your equipments and processes? What is the right data to measure your KPIs? Does any legacy equipment need to be retrofitted to enable integration, perhaps by adding sensors and small computers like Raspberry Pis? What data is needed to integrate all your enterprise applications and can your network infrastructure handle all this data and if not, what needs to be upgraded? Consider the trade-offs between low-cost storage like an on-prem or off-prem cloud and high performance such as a solid state SAN where appropriate. Again, decide what data is critical to automate and measure your processes, how to capture it, and how you can store it, balancing cost and performance. We mentioned in prior videos that legacy equipment presents its own challenges for assembly test facilities.

We want to integrate to equipment not only to capture valuable data but also to automate a lot of processing activities such as recipe selection, tracking in and out lots, and running those jobs. In an ideal scenario, all factory equipment would be compatible with the SECS/GEM standard protocol, but we are not in an ideal world. You may have critical factory equipment that has to connect via OPC/UA, TCP/IP, or web services and SmartFactory Equipment Automation or EA is your solution.

EA has various adapters allowing us to integrate to this legacy equipment, enabling your factory to realize higher levels of automation. Factory layout. Simulating a factory layout can have a lot of benefit, especially when building a new factory.

Using SmartFactory simulation, your organization can plan for maximum factory productivity before you even break ground. Optimize layout of new factories, explore what-if scenarios, understand and visualize dependencies between components, determine effects of variability and unforeseen events, determine system requirements, and identify constraints. So measure twice and cut once, and when in doubt, simulate.

We’ve mentioned in prior videos that non-standardization is a big roadblock to automation and assembly test. The Semi-Industry Association has a task force to work on that problem. Semi-ABFI is the Semi-Advanced Backend Factory Integration Task Force.

That group’s mission is to create new standards for assembly test facilities to help enable a path towards Full Auto. Google Semi-Smart Manufacturing Standards and Semi-ABFI to learn more. Material handling is arguably the last and highest hurdle in the road to Full Automation and assembly test.

In 300 millimeter wafer fabs, we benefit from standardized FOUPs and FOSBs for handling the wafers. In the top left, we see some carriers used in a wafer fab and bumping facility. In semiconductor backend, there is much less standardization.

In the midterm and long term, the Semi-ABFI task force should be aligning on standards to mitigate such problems. In the short term, your facility should determine, as best as possible, standard magazines, trays, and boards to be used across all sites. The more you standardize, the lower your automation hurdle will be.

Now, how do you move those standard trays from point A to point B? That’s where automated transports and an Automated Material Handling System, or AMHS, comes in. This could come in the form of Automated Guided Vehicles, AGV, Rail Guided Vehicles, RGV, and Overhead Hoist Transport, OHT. Each of these options has their own pros and cons.

An OHT is generally fastest and does not take up floor space, provided your factory has the height to accommodate them. AGVs and RGVs may be a good alternative, but of course will take up valuable floor space. The potential return on investment might compel your organization to implement automated transport.

Consider the potential increase in factory output and yield, and reduction in labor cost and human errors. Finally, to manage all these automated transport systems and material types, like trays and magazines, use Applied SmartFactory Material Control, also known as Class MCS-5. This solution will integrate multiple AMHS providers into a single solution, and once implemented, does not require factory downtime to implement changes.

That brings us to the end of our three-part series on Full Auto and semiconductor assembly test. In the first video, we discussed today’s manufacturing challenges. In the second video, we defined Full Auto and its role in addressing those challenges.

And finally, in this video, we discuss roadblocks to Full Auto and how to mitigate them. Let’s wrap up. Full auto is required to stay competitive in assembly/test, and some leading edge assembly/test companies have realized this and have made strides towards Full Auto. Smart capital investments can mitigate roadblocks and gaps for Full Auto. Formal industry standards and cooperation can lower costs and accelerate the path to Full Auto. Lastly, it’s time to make the jump, so contact us to learn more about how Applied SmartFactory can solve your high-value problems. Thanks for tuning in.

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Joe Napiah
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