Wet process stations occupy an almost-daily share of a plant engineer’s mind, if not energy. That’s because adherence to current SEMI standards in a production environment requires hitting targets with consistency and minimal intervention—without compromising the safety of people, facilities and the environment.
Kinetics’ success in the widest range of settings around the world has resulted in an educated, discerning view of process technology. This means the team knows where and when a product, process or plant warrants the investment in elevated automation at the level that the Aeris platform provides. From this understanding comes three powerful, practical insights.
AUTOMATION INSIGHT #1: PRODUCTION TARGETS MUST BE EXTREMELY CLEAR
Facilities without clear objectives for part or component output levels, yield and uptime availability are poor candidates for more complete automation in wet bench stations. Simply put, their ability to justify the expense attached to calibrating, maintaining and monitoring them is encumbered. As a result, managers and engineers put more time into rationalizing benches and less energy into optimizing them.
Confidence in the targets is critical, as scheduling software and automated transport systems deliver control and repeatability that support higher volumes. As ID codes track each lot and process recipes are automatically downloaded to the CPU, a production rhythm is established quickly and reliably. Touch screens display bench parameters as yet another checkpoint is implemented, one directly linked to production targets.
AUTOMATION INSIGHT #2: FASTER DOESN’T ALWAYS DEFAULT TO BETTER
The barriers to “better” are numerous, and are evidence that wet benches don’t merely complete discrete steps, but in fact link them in an environment filled with contamination potential. For example, the need to minimize airborne particle entrapment can be met through advanced venting baffle design and deck tours. This design insight needs to appear both in standard as well as custom wet bench options.
While these intentional features don’t require active or advanced automation, the use of such passive technology is essential to yield and quality objectives. Kinetics remains vigilant—and concerned—about systems in the market that substitute advanced displays and trademarked names for basic design rigor to support real and sustainable improvements. In summary: Electronics and data can’t compensate for a deep understanding of the physics and chemistry attached to wet benches.
AUTOMATION INSIGHT #3: PROBABLE AND PRACTICAL SUPERSEDE POTENTIAL
Much like a high-performance car still needs to be steered, braked and stopped (and is vulnerable to tire blowouts), an automated bench must account for the realities of HVM manufacturing. This is where “what’s possible” needs to converge with “what’s probable” across thousands of cycles and months (years, really) of operation. While always looking for improvement, the goal is not peak performance, but effective, bankable production.
In the case of the Aeris platform, that means controlling all aspects of recipes, temperature and motion through baths, to say nothing of minimizing ambient particle counts and handling sensitive wafers in the process. Once again, Kinetics has participated in hundreds of installations where repeatable performance can be raised without pushing the wet bench to “red line” levels in order to impress customers or the industry as a whole.
Whether a standard or custom configuration is of greatest merit, the Kinetics team stands ready to turn their hard-won insights about automation into plant-specific recommendations. And if manual or semiautomated wet bench stations will be most advantageous, Kinetics is ready as well. Click HERE to learn more.