skip to main content

New Solutions for 200mm Endura Tools

By Adam Kempf and Ramiel Oshana

These are concerns expressed by customers at a time when demand for devices built on 200mm tools is booming. However, the “More Than Moore” (MTM) inflection in consumer, automotive, industrial and medical devices makes it highly likely that these concerns will persist (see figure 1).

For MTM customers using Applied Materials 200mm Endura PVD products, these challenges are quite familiar. The tools, first introduced more than two decades ago, enable virtually all 200mm devices manufactured today, and continue to be in great demand for their productivity and dependability. But with die-shrink and other traditional Moore’s Law pressures beginning to take hold, customers are looking for solutions to these challenges.

In response, Applied has developed a new output improvement service solution for the 200mm Endura system to quickly modernize the equipment, improve process control and increase output by an average of 10%.


Figure 1. ~34% of the total silicon area in advanced smartphones is manufactured in 200mm fabs. (Source: TechInsights, Peter Kim, 2016) Process control is constrained by frequent data drops and fault detection and classification (FDC) data streams.

The Baseline

200mm Endura fleets are generally collections of tools acquired over many years from multiple sources. Some may have been purchased from Applied; others may have been acquired after fab closures, relocations or corporate mergers. Still others may have been bought from used-equipment suppliers. As a result, mismatched hardware and software can cause major challenges for maintenance, automation and process engineers.

While these tools have proven to be among the most dependable in a fab, some key tool components are showing their age. One notable example is the system’s controller. Not only are obsolescence issues a concern, but to compete in the MTM market customers need more output and better process control than the tools can provide in their current states.

From an output standpoint, system throughput is limited by the slow 30MHz speed of the 25-year-old controller, which delays process read-time and system control. Output also can be constrained by the lack of remote access and control. Recipe modifications and alarm resolution require “gowning up” and directly interfacing with the tool. Beyond that, even backing up the system can take a tool offine for over three hours.

These limit data-point collection to every 2–5 seconds, significantly reducing the ability to correlate system data to on-wafer results. Equally important, pneumatic lift speed variation results in chamber-to-chamber and tool-to-tool queue-time variation.

At the end of the day, a fab’s 200mm Endura fleet simply may not have the output and process capability needed to retain and gain share in MTM device markets.

Solving the Problem

Resolving the issues discussed above—and helping customers achieve sustainable productivity improvements on their legacy Endura tools—can be accomplished through a series of services and new applications designed to modernize the tool and help analyze and fine-tune it to deliver ongoing optimized performance.

The first step of our new output improvement service offering is to modernize the tool. This modernization begins with an upgrade of the original system controller. Installation of the new Applied Materials Vita controller brings modern electronics to the “brains” of the tool, giving it greater processing power, larger memory and higher data communication rates. These result in much-improved data fidelity and enable implementation of a wide spectrum of advanced capabilities, such as tool optimization, process modeling, and tight integration with fab-wide automation.

Applied Materials works with a fab’s maintenance managers to develop an upgrade schedule that minimizes impact to fab output. In preparation for the Vita installation, Applied customer engineers (CEs) audit each tool, creating a customized bill of materials. Custom kits are created for each tool that include robots, gauges and slit valve doors, lamps, seals and process kits. With this comprehensive preparation, the Applied Materials install team (I-Team) can successfully perform the upgrade in 3 to 7 days.

This approach quickly modernizes customer tools, while offering process transparency. The Vita controller eliminates obsolescence risk, while the proactive replacement of key hardware reduces downtime that might occur if older parts should fail and need replacement.

Importantly, the custom kits enable a manufacturer to standardize an entire fleet of Endura systems with matching hardware, promoting more consistent fleet-wide performance and improved process control. In some cases, this can lower work-in-process (WIP) bottlenecks by reducing the need to dedicate certain tools to specific sequences.

10% More Output

The terms “output,” “throughput,” and “availability” are often used interchangeably. However, consistent with SEMI standards and to clearly define the KPI, or deliverable, of this new service, Applied defines output as a function of both throughput and availability.

Applied’s new output improvement service product enhances both throughput and availability, which together deliver the targeted result: an average improvement in output of 10%.

Installation of the Applied Materials Vita controller enables the tracking of timing signatures for every mechanical movement on the tool. These signatures are used by Applied’s proprietary mechanical tracking application designed specifically to maximize 200mm Endura output by determining how the mechanical throughput of a system can be increased.

The mechanical tracking application works by extracting relevant tool timing data and running it through a powerful simulator. It then issues on-demand reports to pinpoint areas that can be improved, by comparing them to best known method (BKM) values (see figure 2a). Applied’s CEs can then make the required adjustments to achieve the desired results.


Figure 2a. Applied’s newly designed output improvement service solution pulls actual timing information from the system, analyzes it on a proprietary offline simulator, and generates reports comparing actual values to BKM values using customer-defined product sequences.

Once the throughput is optimized, a second application, the Applied Materials Throughput Health Monitor (THM), allows for throughput performance to be maintained by comparing tools across a fleet and identifying when there is a deviation from spec (see figure 2b). Actual chamber recipes/sequences remain unchanged, ensuring that throughput improvements are process-transparent.


Figure 2b. The Throughput Health Monitor (THM) enables real-time monitoring of mechanical timings, alarms any deviation from set point, and helps Applied CEs maintain maximum throughput and process control on tools.

Another critical component of Applied’s new 200mm Endura output improvement service offering is an Engineering Mode. The Engineering Mode allows for chamber qualification after maintenance without interrupting production wafers. This can significantly improve tool availability (green-to-green) and prevent the risk of wafers accidently going to the offline chamber and having to be scrapped.

RESULTS

The value of Applied Materials new output improvement service product is field-proven to help Endura customers meet their manufacturing goals. With innovative technology and tool modernization techniques, and proprietary data gathering and analysis applications, Applied Materials has high confidence in our ability to increase our customers’ output by an average of 10%. Figure 3 summarizes one customer’s output improvement on an integrated liner/barrier (iLB) system.


Figure 3. Several customers are leveraging Applied’s new solutions for the 200mm Endura platform to increase output by an average of 10%. This latest customer demonstration exceeded the 10% KPI.

Conclusion

Applied’s new output improvement service oering can quickly modernize tools, improve process control, and increase output by an average of 10%. With these new capabilities, our customers can clearly dierentiate their products in the MTM market and meet the growing and evolving demands for chips made with 200mm Endura production equipment.

Product demonstrations can be arranged upon request.

For additional information, contact ramiel_oshana@amat.com