the systems view blog

Applying our perspective to industry topics and trends

July 2, 2019

Gas Delivery & the Smart Fab

How the Gas Delivery System is an Integral Part of Industry 4.0 Transformation

In recent years, automation and data exchange capabilities have advanced to transform the face of manufacturing across sectors in a fourth, data-driven industrial revolution. Termed “Industry 4.0,” this pervasive movement encompasses numerous sub-movements including the industrial internet of things (IIoT), cyber physical systems, artificial intelligence, autonomous applications, and more. No manufacturing segment is beyond the reach of Industry 4.0 transformation, but the semiconductor fab is leading the charge.

A hallmark of Industry 4.0, also referred to as “smart manufacturing,” is the flexibility it brings to manufacturing processes through greater insight, control, and automation. Because flexibility is and has always been a critical success factor for multi-project semiconductor foundries, the sector as a whole stands out as a luminary in Industry 4.0 adoption.

What is a smart semiconductor fab? And why is it critical to ensure your gas delivery systems are optimized for intelligent, Industry 4.0 automation?

At the heart of the smart fab lies the ability to collect real-time data from sophisticated fab equipment—from air purification systems, to gas manifolds and delivery equipment, to the processing chamber. But collecting real-time data isn’t enough. This data must be homogenized in a usable and actionable format across machinery and systems. By enabling various fab systems to communicate and share data with each other and with operators managing many different process touchpoints, smart fabs lay the groundwork for more predictive and optimized operational activities.

Jump-Starting Industry 4.0 with Your Gas Delivery System

In all fabrication facilities, both smart and traditional, the gas delivery system is a critical determinant of process efficiency, performance, and safety. It is critical that ultra high purity gases maintain their purity level as they make their way into the delicate and mission-critical processing chamber, as even the smallest contamination could have significant impact on the ultimate yield. Its position as a core component of the fabrication process makes the gas delivery system a natural starting point for Industry 4.0 integration.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the step change improvements made possible by gas delivery equipment that can collect real-time data, automate processes, and interface with other systems across the fab using Industry 4.0-ready control technology:

1. Optimization of Processes

In the semiconductor fabrication facility, particularly the multi-project fab, quantity is dynamic and ever-changing. These fluctuations affect a number of systems needing to ramp up or ramp down to production requirements. With gas delivery systems tied into the larger facility management system via Industry 4.0-ready control technology, fabs can ensure that their gas handling processes are always in-sync with demand patterns and project specifications. These controllers provide the communications link needed to seamlessly integrate operations involving gas delivery within the larger production process – whether giving operators visibility to critical gas delivery parameters in real-time or allowing the gas delivery system to interface and share data with other equipment throughout the fab. Industry 4.0-ready controllers also enable fab operators to continuously collect valuable data that can be leveraged to spot areas for greater efficiency and to proactively make operational improvements.

2. Automating Optimal Conditions

During the fabrication process, the difference between more wafers and waste is but one impurity away. Advanced control technology enables fab operators to maintain tight control over process gases throughout the delivery process. Inputs like pressure and flow rate can be automatically maintained by the system, which will also monitor and alert the fab if gas or system conditions begin to fall outside of set parameters. What’s more, they can be programmed to self-automate functions like purging and cylinder switchover, streamlining these necessary processes while removing the risk of contamination that naturally arises with human intervention.

3. Ensuring Safety Fab-Wide

The combined operational benefits of Industry 4.0 compatible gas delivery systems also drive significant safety improvements. With consistent monitoring and real-time control of gases – many of which are hazardous or combustible – fabs can mitigate potential issues before they create unsafe situations. The ability for the gas delivery system to interface with other equipment also creates safer processes throughout the entire fab. For example, the gas delivery system could detect a leak and send that alert to the facility management system to automatically shut down all other equipment nearby. And, automation enabled by the system controller reduces operator touch time and personnel’s exposure to dangerous situations and tasks.

Embracing Industry 4.0 with Advanced Control Technology from AES

GigaGuard™ Control Technology from AES provides a critical foundation for Industry 4.0 transformation by enabling our SEMI-GAS® systems to bidirectionally interface with one another, with other machinery on the fab floor, and with facility management systems. SCADA-ready and fully programmable, GigaGuard™ provides the flexibility and adaptability smart fabs need to embrace smart manufacturing and realize new levels of efficiency and yield.

Ready to bring Industry 4.0 to your fab? Contact AES to learn more about our Industry 4.0-ready technology.


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