, on March 21, 2024, 02:33 PM

RBA Simplified: Good & Bad Weather Days in Semiconductor Manufacturing

Wafer deposition under vacuum has long been known to be the most optimal condition for processing – if for no other reason than to control many of the ambient variables. Even so, some manufacturers of deposition equipment have developed new equipment that process “at atmosphere.” This saves equipment and processing costs to be sure, however, atmospheric deposition introduces ambient conditions and difficult-to-control variables that may adversely impact process quality. Fluctuations in humidity, temperature, airflow, and natural changes in ambient barometric pressure alter these desirable nominal process conditions. The only way to control this variability is to know when the conditions are favorable for quality processing and avoid processing material when conditions are unfavorable. Looking at the weather report before processing each material is an unreasonable expectation of the floor operator.

Minimizing the Impact of Ambient Conditions on Deposition Processes

What if an application could monitor conditions and change the availability of the equipment as conditions change? Well, with some creative rules and access to external weather data, the SYSTEMA Rule-Based Activities (RBA) could support this use case. RBA is an application designed to allow the user to automate decision-making and actions in a production process based on a set of predefined rules.

Integrating Weather Data into Process Decision-Making

Through historical data analysis, process engineers can determine the effects of barometric pressure and quantify optimal upper and lower limits. RBA can bring in any number of data sources into its decision-making process for a rule, including weather data! At a predefined interval, RBA can evaluate the current barometric pressure for a given GPS coordinate (specifically) or locale (generally). If the returned result is within the limits defined in the conditions defined in RBA, then RBA will do nothing to the availability of the equipment. However, if RBA determines the returned barometric pressure value is outside of the limits, then RBA can issue a “DOWN” message to the affected equipment, effectively preventing any further loading of the equipment. The RBA rule can then check the barometric pressure at defined intervals, and when the barometric pressure returns to a value within the established limits, RBA can transact a command that will bring the affected equipment to an “UP” state, making the tool available for processing. At the point of committing the material to process on the equipment, RBA will provide the assurance the ambient weather conditions are favorable for the quality of processing of the material.

Automated Equipment Availability Management with SYSTEMA RBA

This is just one example of how RBA can utilize external data to affect a positive result in quality, equipment utilization, and human resource management. The time saved by automatically checking weather conditions and implementing an action may be difficult to quantify, but it seems the natural outcome would result in process engineers, equipment engineers, and floor operators being freed to engage in more complex activities. So, the next time a weather system blows over the facility, RBA can have its “eye” on the weather and will ensure the material starts on the equipment when the conditions are just right. To explore potential other use cases or for additional information on how to enable SYSTEMA RBA in your factory, please contact us.


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