The current chip crisis presents the semiconductor industry with one of its biggest challenges of recent decades.
Progressive digitalization means that semiconductors are now installed in almost every device. These highly integrated chips can process digital information, and the demand for semiconductors is increasing every year. However, semiconductors are among the most complex products, also in terms of their production, as is shown in the following simplified illustration of the individual production steps.
|Figure 1: Steps of semiconductor manufacturing|
These steps are carried out in a ‘fab’, a factory facility for manufacturing semiconductors. A whole range of components is required for this, such as silicon wafers, photo masks, various gases, and fluids. The semiconductor manufacturing machines are responsible for the actual production of the semiconductors. These machines manipulate atoms with the help of etching processes, deposition, and lithography in such a way that highly integrated chips are formed on a wafer. The wafer is then cut, and the chips are packed accordingly.
Tools of semiconductor manufacturing machines
Important components of semiconductor manufacturing machines are their devices, also known as tools. The new comX 51CA-RE\R from Hilscher is also used in these tools and is responsible for EtherCAT communication. According to the ETG.5003 standard, communication modules can be used in the following tools:
1. Abatement and Sub Fab Systems
There are many pumps and reduction systems in a subfactory, which process the exhaust gases and by-products that are produced by the manufacturing process. They are also responsible for creating a flawless environment for the tools in the process chambers in the clean room.
2. DC & RF Power Generators
DC and high-frequency generators are used in semiconductor production to perform the chemical and physical processes within the process chamber (e.g. deposition, etching, and cleaning).
3. Mass Flow Controllers
More than 100 gases and some fluids are used in the production of semiconductors, which can be regulated by means of a mass flow regulator.
4. Process Control Valves
Process control valves are typically used to control pressure, fluid level, fluid flow, or temperature in a variety of industrial applications. They are also used in semiconductor production.
5. RF Match
In high-frequency technology, a load impedance that is not adapted to the electrical line causes the generator to be unable to transmit its full power to the load. Due to the RF adjustment, a precise adjustment of power levels can be carried out in the range of microseconds. In semiconductor production, this guarantees accurate power transmission, which ultimately contributes to the stability of the production processes.
6. Roughing Pumps
In semiconductor production, vacuum pumps are used to generate a vacuum or an ultra-high vacuum. Dry-running vacuum pumps help to stabilize the process conditions.
7. Temperature Controllers
During etching, solid material is liquefied by a chemical solution. The right temperature plays a central role here. Therefore, temperature controllers are used to prevent deviations. These could lead to the wafers becoming unusable after etching.
With a turbopump, the required pressure for the generation of a (ultra-high) vacuum is generated by fast-rotating rotors, which leads to extremely pure process conditions.
9. Vacuum Pressure Gauges
The highly accurate measurement of the vacuum is essential for the semiconductor manufacture to safeguard the clean room. Vacuum pressure gauges are therefore used in various process steps (e.g. separation or etching).
Construction of new fabs
In addition to the progressive digitalization, there are other points that make the construction of new fabs indispensable. The shortage of semiconductors is currently on everyone's lips. It is due to political tensions that have led to supply shortages among raw material suppliers. Natural disasters also led to major production stoppages, and the Covid-19 pandemic did the rest to exacerbate this crisis.
However, the industry's biggest players are facing this challenge and are investing billions to build new fabs.
With the comX 51CA-RE\R, Hilscher is responding to the need to expand existing production facilities and create new capacities in semiconductor production. Manufacturers of production machines can rely on Hilscher's many years of experience with EtherCAT, but also on the reliability of the comX module.
- EtherCAT Slave network interface for devices of semiconductor manufacturing equipment
- Developed according to the ETG.5003-1 standard, the Common Device Profile
- Complete slave interface with network connector "onboard"
Thank you for reading the fifth part of our comX blog series.
Read the first part here: Part 1 - Global chip crisis: Hilscher supports the setup of new semiconductor factories
Read the second part here: Part 2 - Embedded Modules: Market Leader for more than a Quarter of a Century
Read the third part here: Part 3 - comX: Flexible Communication Module for Automation
Read the fourth part here: Part 4 - comX 51CA-RE\R: It’s now the turn of the Semiconductor Industry