J. REDMAN & GRADY BARRENS, Ergotech, Los Alamos, NM, USA
Recent economic events in the semiconductor industry have made optimization and cost-cutting essential in all areas of production. It should be apparent, with all other factors taken into consideration, that those who emerg e from this situation with bold profitability will be those who have taken advantage of the latest advances in fab integration. Fab integration is more than the linking of major systems — now more than ever it involves the linking of data from equipment heretofore never considered critical in terms of information, yet are considered essential parts of the process. The challenge of fab integration needs to be addressed in light of the continual need for faster decision making and the ever present march of technological advances. Often, however, outstanding technological advances in a single piece of process equipment create a useless island of productivity if the data and other signals generated by this machine remain stranded on this island, or are not distributed to processes both up and down the line. The need to gather more information from equipment comes at a time when fabs have a reduced budget for new equipment purchases and equipment manufacturers have reduced revenue to redesignmachines to incorporate these changes. This is especially relevant to making the most of and even achieving heightened benefit fro m current 200 mm equipment installations. While these older machines often lack up-to-date user interfaces and integration capabilities, these can be added by a software retrofit. The growth of Internet and Intranet technologies, especially “Java”™ -based technologies, allows the creation of more user-friendly systems without the requirement to significantly modify the equipment. These applications and interfaces reside on the machine and yet can be accessed by any computer equipped with a Web browser. Unsightly embedded displays can be easily replaced by modern graphical interfaces that can be viewed locally or remotely. The ability to easily view data without walking to the machine is always valuable; however, remote displays are especially useful for maintenance and troubleshooting. Leveraging the advantages of Java-based technology makes sense not only for the ability to build remote and local user interfaces, but also for the encompassing benefits it brings for networking and data communication.