Connectivity: The next great aid in 300-mm contamination control?

Global automation vendors see education as key to further implementation

Meg Villeneuve

SAN JOSE, CA—As the semiconductor industry moves to increase wafers to 300 mm and shrink geometries below 0.10 micron, many fab owners are faced with the challenge of decreasing the amount of contamination on the processed wafer.

Minienvironement manufacturer Asyst will be hold seminars throughout the Fall on fab automation, connectivity and automated material handling. Attendees will learn how to integrate the company’s PLUS Portal products, pictured above, into fab operations.
Click here to enlarge image

“[Fact is] the acceptable size of particles on the wafer from two years ago are no longer acceptable,” says Jim Jenson, director of marketing for minienvironments at Brooks Automation.

Chipmakers diving into 300 mm are currently looking to decrease contamination through the use of automation, connectivity and minienvironments. “The physical space [within a minienvironment] to keep decontaminated is smaller. Therefore it's easier to seal out contaminants,” says Charles Byers, director of communications and corporate marketing for Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC.)

The cost of keeping an area clean also decreases, according to Byers. “Instead of keeping two football size areas clean, you only keep the minienvironment free of contaminants,” Byers says.

Minienvironment manufacturer Asyst Technologies (Fremont, CA) is holding technology seminars throughout the Fall on fab automation, connectivity, automated material handling and automation foundry, with the ultimate goal of having companies understand what the technologies can offer. Asyst CEO, Mihir Parikh, calls the sessions “a peek behind the curtain.”

“It's clear that 300 mm requires more stringent controlled environments. Specifically [with] trace organics, temperature, humidity and especially water vapor controls not just for 300 mm but much more for 0.13- and 0.10-micron environments,” Parikh says.

While connectivity does not directly impact contamination control, it does aid in the process. Connectivity has three parts. First, connectivity talks to the computer attached to the tool and sends the recipe in for the batch of wafers being processed. Second, through connectivity, fab operators can track a lot of wafers using a lot ID number. Third, connectivity collects information from the tool to ensure it's running properly.

“Connectivity indirectly affects contamination control because it allows for better control of materials tracking with less misprocessing. Connectivity communicates the information about material and equipment throughout the fab,” Parikh adds.

When Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) started implementing connectivity at its fab, the chipmaker says it experienced better process control. “By connecting the tool to computers we were able to increase yields and cycle times,” says Dick Deininger, director of strategic equipment technology planning at AMD (Sunnyvale, CA.)

Both Parikh and Byers concur that when fabs implement the three technologies, connectivity, automation, and minienvironments, the risk of contamination decreases. “Automation enables greater contamination control because it keeps humans from coming in direct contact with the wafer,” Parikh adds.

Some ask, when is the best time to try a new technology? Implementing any new processes should be done during a downturn, especially when it won't interrupt cycles, according to Byers. The semiconductor industry, as a whole, is experiencing one of its worst downturns in history (see chart on page 4).

While the IC makers may be hardest hit, subsystems manufacturers are also feeling the pain. Market researcher, Robert Castellano, president The Information Network, notes in his latest report, “Factory automation tools will drop 25 percent in 2001 and will see a modest uptick in orders in 2002 before fully recovering in 2003.”


Easily post a comment below using your Linkedin, Twitter, Google or Facebook account. Comments won't automatically be posted to your social media accounts unless you select to share.