300mm automation interface compliance looms,Therma-Wave opts for GW package

With the first production 300mm fabs scheduled for ramp up next year, chipmakers want tools to arrive at the fab site automation-friendly, though full supplier compliance to new 300mm software standards is unclear, say participants of a recent workshop on 300mm software requirements for automated manufacturing in Austin, TX.

In general, chipmakers are demanding compliance to SEMI’s E84, E87, and E90 standards by the end of the year; suppliers have until 2Q to bring up E40 process job and E94 control job standards. E84 provides low-level “hand-shaking” handoff with automated material handling systems (AMHS) robots; E87 provides coordination with a fab’s manufacturing execution system; and E90 provides substrate tracking. Several chipmakers have even more aggressive compliance deadlines, in some cases to match more aggressive 300mm fab plans. According to presentations by IBM, Texas Instruments, and other chipmakers at the workshop, automation interfaces must be in place and in compliance to the SEMI standards at the time of tool delivery. Together, the standards are considered key to the ramping of 300mm fabs to full productivity.

With the deadlines for compliance to these 300mm automation standards looming, metrology system supplier Therma-Wave, Fremont, CA, says it has opted for an off-the-shelf automation interface software package from GW Associates rather than developing its own version in-house.

The two firms recently completed a seven-week project to integrate GW’s connectivity software — GWconX300 — into Therma-Wave’s Opti-Probe 5340 thin film measurement system and validate operability with a third-party tester, said GW president Jack Ghiselli.

The software package allows Therma-Wave’s system to interface with the AMHS that will be deployed in 300mm fabs. Therma-Wave will incorporate GWconX300 in all of its 300mm system offerings. GWconX300 is compliant to SEMI’s E84, E87, and E39 standards. E39 — a standard for a database that supports 300mm factory automation standards — provides object services.

Ghiselli, also co-chair of a SEMI committee for SECS/GEM and related 300mm automation standards, says tool suppliers are facing a “buy vs. make” question, and notes that the 300mm ramp could be paced by “getting 50-60 types of equipment to be able to interface” to a fab’s automation system.

While Ghiselli is pitching an off-the-shelf package — GWconX300 was in development for three years — a number of tool suppliers –including leaders Applied Materials, ASM Lithography, and Tokyo Electron — are planning in-house efforts to meet software automation standards. In its presentation at the 300mm software workshop, Applied said it expected to be in compliance with E40, E84, E87, and E94 this fall, and plans to meet the E90 standard by January. Therma-Wave said it worked with GW in part because it wanted to stay focused on its core competencies; keeping up with software maintenance and changes is also an issue, said a company spokesman. “These [standards] are living documents,” he said.

GWconX300 will incorporate additional standards in the coming months, with E90 substrate tracking in place by the end of the year and E40/E94 in place by 2Q01. Ghiselli says other tool suppliers are in line for the GWconX300 package, and as a long-time supplier of SECS/GEM software, says GW is in negotiations with a number of tool suppliers for the new offering.

By Christine Lunday, SST News Editor


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