It’s not an overstatement to say that the semiconductor industry lies at the heart of our technological advancement as a species. Driverless cars, mobile phones and IoT networks all rely on chipmakers who can meet increasingly formidable quality and quantity requirements. But to answer this demand, semiconductor manufacturers need the right approach, the right technologies, and an unshakable eye for the details. Here are some tips for semiconductor manufacturers who want to maintain their relevance and improve their yield.
There are few manufacturing environments in which cleanliness is of higher importance than in semiconductor fabrication. We’re talking about products with tolerances measurable down to the millionth of a centimeter. When even a single speck of dust can set you back, it’s worthwhile to reconsider the equipment and protocols you use to keep your facility clean — and to double-down on maintenance and regular cleaning.
Clean suits are a must-have, of course — but even personal hygiene items like hair products and fragrances pose a contamination risk and must be forbidden throughout the fabrication environment. Air curtains should be used as a matter of course to rid employees and visitors of any surface particulates. Beyond that, it’s important to remain vigilant when it comes to performing regular maintenance and cleaning on your air filtration and circulation systems.
Given the formidable growth and continued importance of the semiconductor industry, it’s no surprise that standards in this field see regular revisions and additions. SEMI E176-1017 is one of the more recent semiconductor standards and one which every company would do well to keep top-of-mind as they scale their operations to meet demand.
SEMI E176-1017 describes a holistic approach to addressing electromagnetic interference in the fabrication environment. Perhaps the most important component here is the measuring and surveying component. Semiconductor fabricators cannot control EMI if they do not have equipment and processes in place to measure it. Surveying for EMI in a production environment requires a combination of:
Surveying for EMI falls on facility management and not on the designers of the production equipment housed there. Modern production facilities include series of interconnected powered equipment, which only underscores the importance of a holistic approach to EMI mitigation rather than a piecemeal one.
In a perfect world, semiconductor manufacturers could prioritize throughput and processing time equally to improve the productivity of their operations. We don’t live in that world, though — and that means companies oftentimes have to prioritize one over the other. Thanks to the increasing accessibility of automation technology, you may find that throughput is the lower-hanging fruit to pick.
For instance, it’s time-consuming to position and reposition wafers within fabrication tools and to remove them once the process is complete. Since production equipment grows more efficient with each generation, processing time is something which declines naturally over time — but throughput may remain a stubborn bottleneck.
That bottleneck is on borrowed time thanks to automation. Semiconductor fabrication facilities increasingly leverage robotics and other automated tools to handle wafers and other materials and to cut down on lossy and potentially error-prone manual transportation, error detection and calibration between processes.
Because your productivity and livelihood depend on your mechanical assets, it’s essential to work with a company that stands behind their equipment, designs for safety, and makes it easy to schedule on-site repairs and maintenance when something goes wrong or you reach the end of a maintenance interval.
There’s the future to consider, too. SiC chip demand is rising according to recent reports. This is an advanced industry, but not every equipment provider has its eye on technology and material trends. When the time comes to spin up a new operation or add another machine, look for a provider that’s has equipment that can keep your silicon carbide materials from breaking down during polishing.
Finally, we land on predictive diagnostics — one of the best things to happen to semiconductor manufacturing in recent years. This describes an “integrated intelligence” in fabrication equipment that monitors for temperature, position, voltage, speed, angle, position and manifold other variables which would be difficult or impossible to measure in real-time by any other means. The implications include faster detection of machine failure and the delivery of more proactive maintenance. In turn, that means fewer work stoppages and more time to solve emerging problems before they begin eating into your profitability.
Thanks to the automotive, smartphone and IoT industries taking off, semiconductor manufacturers find themselves up against increasingly stringent quality standards. Sometimes, these standards result in the rejection of chips which would otherwise meet in-house quality benchmarks. Smart technology answers this call, too — and helps put a helpful price tag on lost productivity and unnecessary waste.
Smart technology makes it easier to collect data and make a more informed decision to approve or “kick out” a semiconductor product. Loss matrices represent one practical way to put this operational data to work and more clearly visualize the relationship between quality control and profitability. One semiconductor manufacturer, for example, after assembling a loss matrix, discovered losses amounting to $68 million due to electrical testing issues, loose dies, flux losses and other waste, and a variety of other preventable causes. Collecting operational data on a more granular level helped surface each of these issues and helped management draw up process improvements.
If there’s a common thread here, it’s awareness. Sometimes awareness comes from improved training and adherence to in-house and industry standards. Other times, we can outsource our awareness to intelligence-gathering technologies and smarter production equipment and have some of the heavy lifting done for us.
Article by —
Megan Ray Nichols
Freelance Science Writer
Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *
Machine Tools World April 2019
Machine Tools World March 2019
Machine Tools World February 2019
Machine Tools World – January 2019
Machine Tools World – December 2018
Machine Tools World – November 2018
Machine Tools World – October 2018
Machine Tools World – September 2018
Machine Tools World – August 2018
Machine Tools World July 2018
Copyright © 2015. Divya Media Publications Pvt. Ltd. All rights reserved