by Sarah Fister Gale, contributing editor, Solid State Technology
As the semiconductor industry matures and consolidations increase, demand for greater efficiencies in the fab is driving a change in thinking about how and when factories invest in new generations of technology.
Rather than diving into new facility upgrades, many fabs are taking a closer look at the systems they have in place and making incremental changes to improve them, suggests Mihir Parikh, president and CEO of Aquest Systems, a global supplier of automated material handling systems (AMHS). He talked with SST in the days before SEMICON West, where the company is showing off its FabEX technology.
“As industry growth rates decrease to single digits and more companies consolidate, it is critical that factories improve their productivity,” he said. “The industry is not just going to invest in next generation tools and technologies. They are going to do what they can to get the most from their existing fabs.”
Most fabs have some areas where the existing overhead transport (OHT) or overhead shuttle-based AMHS cannot keep pace with the demand, creating bottlenecks and traffic jams that “steal productivity from the fab,” Parikh said. Aquest’s FabEX transporter, he explained, moves FOUPs at 3m/sec between interface locations (e.g. stocker and OHT input/output ports), which translates to an 8%-20% productivity improvement in areas where fab equipment might otherwise sit idle waiting for FOUPs, and that translates to millions of dollars in savings.
Improving fab performance and productivity is a big pain point in ever-expanding and increasingly complex fab environments, and Parikh believes using “incremental products and services” (like his FabEX) are the key. “As an industry we’ve got to get the best out of what we have,” he said. — S.F.G.