July 2020 Edition

Virtual APC Embraces Smart Manufacturing

By Nanochip Staff


Annual APC Conference goes virtual and expands its scope to encompass evolving smart manufacturing and Industry 4.0 topics; premier technical forum now called the Advanced Process Control Smart Manufacturing (APCSM) Conference.

Nowhere has the idea of smart manufacturing (SM) been embraced more enthusiastically than in the semiconductor industry. SM refers to using big data, unified physical-cyber systems, and tightly integrated supply chains to achieve these three benefits: greatly increased flexibility, adaptability and consistency in manufacturing; enhanced analysis capabilities; and entirely new capabilities such as predictive analytics.

Advanced process control (APC) tools and techniques are critical building blocks of SM practices. Over the last 35 years in semiconductor manufacturing, these building blocks have evolved from pilot applications in run-to-run (R2R) control and fault detection and classification (FDC) to fab-wide solutions. More recently, predictive solutions such as virtual metrology and predictive maintenance (PdM) have emerged.

However, within the past five years we have truly entered the era of SM and Industry 4.0, where data, connectivity, and analytical solutions take on new urgency in advancing fab capabilities. All these capabilities are enabled by a knowledge network that combines analytics with subject-matter expertise for “no knowledge left behind” solutions.


Since 1989, the annual APC Conference has played a leading role in advancing these solutions, providing a technical forum and format for presenting the latest industry developments. However, APC has been taking a wider view, going beyond its traditional focus on R2R control and fault detection to also consider a growing spectrum of topics. These include PdM, virtual metrology, big data, machine learning, and the challenges and opportunities of using digital twins to emulate a fab’s operations. Accordingly, APC recently changed its name to the Advanced Process Control Smart Manufacturing (APCSM) Conference to reflect the importance of SM. It continues to be the semiconductor industry’s go-to technical forum for SM and Industry 4.0.

This year, in light of the current pandemic situation, the 2020 APCSM Conference will be held virtually as a one-day webinar on October 6. The conference will feature six hours of interactive presentations on the latest APC and SM innovations and trends, including reports on progress with standards as well as technology roadmaps. Technical talks will be provided by users, OEMs, solution suppliers, and industry and academic experts. The user and OEM communities will solicit a keynote, and all talks will be interactive, allowing participants time to submit questions and discussion points.


Data and IP security have become another important thrust of the conference, given the critical need for semiconductor manufacturers to effectively share information with suppliers up and down the supply chain. APCSM Co-chair James Moyne said, "We need to control access to data and IP not only within the four walls of the fab, but outside those walls with suppliers and customers as well. For example, there can be latent yield issues out in the field. We may have chips leaving the factory with issues that are not detectable until they are installed in customer fabs and end-user systems. In such cases, how do we share with the customer and protect IP, but in such a way that if there is a security breach, we know how to trace the lineage of the data?"


James Moyne, Ph.D.
Research Scientist in Mechanical Engineering, University of Michigan

Moyne, a University of Michigan researcher who also consults with the Advanced Services Engineering group at Applied Materials, continued this line of questioning. "How do these different industries share with each other? How do the semiconductor suppliers and the automotive manufacturers, or the suppliers of physical materials, share IP and data securely? These industries may have different protocols for talking to each other. We need interfaces which allow us to do our jobs, but without sharing too much information so that we risk a data breach."

A SEMI standards effort is underway to develop an equipment security standard that mitigates potential threats during equipment delivery and support activities. "The goal is to define robust equipment needs in terms of security issues, to develop specifications for malware-free equipment integration," Moyne said.

The equipment integration standard is the "tip of the iceberg, the first of many IP data and security topics coming down the pike. It is an initial foray, to develop a common ground for people to agree on," Moyne said. "Some researchers are also investigating the use of blockchain techniques to protect the threads of information used by the supply chain," he added.


The APCSM Conference will tackle a broad array of SM topics (see Figure 1). Each topic is proving critical to future manufacturing success, as increases in data volume, speed, integration, distribution (including in the cloud), and processing power are driving improved capabilities across the board. Artificial Intelligence, predictive analytics, and digital twins are being used at increasing rates to solve complex problems ranging from process control to PdM and defect pattern identification.


Figure 1. The key tenets of SM as envisioned in the International Roadmap for Devices and Systems (IRDS) will form the basis of the program at the 2020 APCSM Conference (formerly APC). (Source: IRDS and Applied Materials)


The 2020 APCSM Conference will be held Tuesday, October 6, as a virtual conference webinar. Exact times and agenda are to be determined. Interested parties must register to hear the talks, participate in the Q&A, and receive proceedings. Additional up-to-date information including the Call for Papers and sponsorship opportunities can be found at

The 2020 APCSM Conference is underwritten by the Integrated Measurement Association (IMA), which has organized the event for the past eight years.