How Fully Automated Wafer Fabrication Equipment Improves Process Control

How Fully Automated Wafer Fabrication Equipment Improves Process ControlAs the microscopic structures etched on silicon wafers become more complicated and densely packed, precise process control and the elimination of particle contamination become increasingly important. The accuracy of chemical dosages and the timing of steps have to be consistent and the handling of wafers must be reduced to a minimum. Fully automated wafer fabrication equipment can help ensure that these conditions for the production of high-quality semiconductor components are met.

Software is the Key to Full Automation

Manual and semi-automatic wet processing equipment rely on operators to mix chemicals and transfer wafers. The correct execution of the process steps depends on operator training, the operator following instructions and the instructions being accurate. Errors or inconsistencies in execution can result in defective products, production line down time and low quality output. Throughput is reduced and productivity suffers. The semiconductor manufacturing facility’s overall operations are less efficient and less profitable.

When software runs the wafer fabrication equipment, it eliminates the variability introduced by manual operation and inconsistent documentation. Once a process runs correctly, the software can be saved, and it will always run the same process exactly the same way in the future. Batches are consistent and components work as designed.

The use of software to run fully automated stations can have the following benefits:

  • Exact chemical ratios are ensured and are maintained from batch to batch.
  • The timing of process steps is precise and repeatable.
  • Process variables can easily be optimized by programming small changes in the software.
  • Accurate chemical dosages result in reduced waste and lower chemical use.
  • Chemical neutralization and disposal are reliable and easily documented.
  • Worker safety is enhanced because operators are less exposed to toxic chemicals.

These benefits come from programming automatic controls to manage the cleaning and etching of the silicon wafers. The software calculates how much of each chemical is needed for a particular process step. It controls the adding of the chemicals to the process tank, times the process step, drains the chemicals and neutralizes the waste chemicals. Once the variables in the software are optimized, the software will run the optimized process the same way every time. The results are predictable and consistent.

The Use of Robotics Reduces Contamination

Particle contamination becomes a bigger problem when the structures and conductors on the silicon wafers are small or tightly packed. For the smallest microscopic structures, a single particle may block a conductor, distort a structure or affect diffusion. The result can be an increase in defective products, products with a reduced life span or products that don’t have the desired characteristics.

Manually moving or handling wafers can be a source of particle contamination. Robotic parts are designed with low particle counts in mind and the movement of wafers can be reduced to a minimum. The exact motions are programmed and performed the same way each time.

In fully automated systems, only the robotic arms transport the wafers and no manual handling by operators is required. Once the automated sequence is started, the robotics controlled by the software move the wafers through the process without operator intervention. Fully automated robotic systems reduce particle contamination and improve semiconductor manufacturing facility performance.

Modutek Offers Fully Automated Wafer Fabrication Equipment and Wet Bench Stations

Modutek’s product line includes fully automated wafer fabrication equipment and wet bench stations. The company programs its own SolidWorks Simulation Professional and SolidWorks Flow Simulation software and makes extensive use of robotics to deliver excellent process control and high-quality output. Modutek’s software is developed in house and all wet process stations are assembled in the company’s San Jose facility. This means that Modutek specialists can optimize the automation to deliver the best possible performance and that they can customize the equipment for special applications.

The full range of benefits that Modutek’s fully automated stations include the following:

  • Reduced chemical usage
  • Improved etch rates
  • Higher yields
  • Better throughput
  • Excellent repeatability
  • Can handle both acid and solvent applications
  • Can work with standard wafer carrier sizes and custom sizes up to 30″ x 60″
  • Extensive tracking of process variables
  • Highest output quality

To make sure that the desired performance is maintained and to track all relevant data, the Modutek fully automated stations provide data logging and data access through Ethernet. Customers can record process variables and track key characteristics through an optimization period or during normal processing. These records can be valuable for quality assurance purposes and for demonstrating compliance with environmental regulations.

Modutek Supports the SECS/GEM Semiconductor Industry Protocol

The SECS (SEMI Equipment Communications Standard) and the GEM (Generic Equipment Model) protocol standards specify how automated semiconductor fabrication equipment can communicate with a host computer. Developed by the Semiconductor Equipment and Materials International organization, the standards define interfaces, messaging and communication capabilities. Communication can be via TCP/IP networks or an RS-232 connection. This means the control system of the fully automated wet process station can communicate with hosts that could range from a local computer to a server in the cloud.

Modutek’s fully automated stations support this protocol and can supply a variety of data to the hosts while receiving remote commands to start or stop a process and to choose stored recipes or programs. In an automated fabrication facility, an operator can remotely control their automated stations and can remotely log data and operating parameters. A library of recipes and software programs for specific process steps can be accessed by the automated stations that can carry out fabrication steps with a minimum level of local operator involvement.

Based on their expertise in the field of wet process semiconductor manufacturing and the hands-on experience of its specialists, Modutek can recommend automated semiconductor fabrication equipment and can build systems to meet the specific needs of customer applications. All software and robotics are designed, built and tested at Modutek’s San Jose facility.

The company leverages this capability to offer its customers custom automation solutions. Modutek’s fully automated stations can operate in a simple locally automated cycle where local operators log and verify operations. They can also function as part of an automated fabrication facility controlled remotely with data and operating parameters stored in the cloud.

With more than 35 years of experience, Modutek continues to provide innovative and reliable equipment for semiconductor manufacturing. For a free consultation or quote contact call 866-803-1533 or email [email protected]