Reducing environmental and energy costs requires collaboration, tradeoffs

by Pete Singer, Editor-in-Chief, Solid State Technology

Mitigating energy and environmental impacts requires suppliers to measure their success in designing equipment for environmental efficiency, according to Norm Armour, VP of corporate asset services at Applied Materials, who provided an equipment supplier’s perspective at The ConFab in Las Vegas.

Achieving results requires even closer collaboration between equipment suppliers and fab operations management. “Give us some actual goals,” Armour said. Also, there is an opportunity to make improvements to the installed base of 200mm and 300mm equipment, he said.

Armour said that process equipment uses about 40% of the overall energy, “but if you look at all the support systems, it’s another 40%. There are lots of low-hanging fruit opportunities.” Support systems provide non-electrical utilities to tools. Chilled water, for example, consumed 21% of tool energy; deionized/ultrapure water 5%, process exhaust 5%, bulk gases 4%, compressed air 4%, and lighting 4%.

Armour said that a company objective is to design products that improve energy efficiency and that help customers decrease energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, with a target of 5% yearly improvement for the next five years. Applied Materials has incorporated design for environmental efficiency (DfE) and carbon emissions reduction (and the related energy consumption) into its product release process and its corporate and business unit scorecards. “We also have an overarching goal to reduce our carbon footprint by 20% from 2006 through 20012,” he said.

Armour listed several tasks required to a DfE process, including:

– Include energy efficiency in the “Statement of Market Requirements”;
– Establish the SEMI S23 standard for baseline energy consumption of existing product;
– Analyze existing product design;
– Include SEMI S23 energy consumption in the specification;
– Design and test to the specification;
– Fully characterize the new product according to SEMI S23 protocol; and
– Plan for enhancing energy efficiency.

Sustainability was introduced at the company’s supply chain forums last year, and suppliers are now being scored on their incorporation of resource use/green design in their roadmaps, noted Armour. The challenge faced by suppliers, he said, is that it’s difficult to drive change when neither industry nor customers have a single message. Also, tool developers could have an impression that this is not an important requirement because of mixed messages.

Typically, suppliers’ customers don’t raise energy conservation as a requirement, in contrast to other performance requirements (e.g. uptime, particles, etc), he said. Also, the trade-offs between potential performance “hits” and energy conservation solutions are not often acknowledged. Even when it is raised as a requirement, it comes through EHS channels rather than business ones, he said.

Although fab operators have set clear goals to reduce their energy consumption and their carbon footprint, energy costs only represent a fraction of operating costs and the value of the fab’s output in finished products, Armour explained. Thus, there is a disconnect between facilities/EHS/other operational personnel and their purchasing counterparts when it comes to weighing the advantages of environmentally friendly equipment.

There is no need to wait to design energy efficiency into new products: suppliers and fab operations management can successfully collaborate on retrofits of existing fabs, said Armour — though this will require studying existing energy budgets, a willingness to invest in technology (equipment and software) and even acceptance of longer ROI in some cases. While most suppliers are concentrating on optimizing new 300mm equipment, a substantial portion of fabs’ footprints involves existing installations of equipment with long useful lives, he noted.

Implementing energy saving solutions also requires a willingness on the part of fab operations managers to consult with suppliers, to host beta demonstrations and to invest in efficient retrofits, Armour continued. Integrating solutions into efficient packages will require close cooperation between supplier and fab operations. Features such as sleep mode, utilization of waste heat, and cooling water from scrubbers all require an approach where planning is done upfront and together. — P.S.


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