The Internet of Things (IoT) is set to drive demand and innovation in the semiconductor market over the next decade. While some consumer IoT applications will require semiconductors manufactured using cutting-edge technologies to deliver fast performance and low power consumption, the vast majority of chips for IoT applications will be utilized in client-side applications. These chips, such as a sensor monitoring room temperature in a connected HVAC system, require processing capabilities that can be met using legacy process (90 and 45nm) technologies manufactured on 200mm wafers.
And herein lies the opportunity and challenge for legacy manufacturing.
The growing complexity of manufacturing chips, displays and solar cells together with higher investment costs of advanced production facilities are changing service and support requirements.
The service business is still driven by the need to keep systems up and running: identifying mechanical problems, adjusting hardware, replacing parts, etc. However, today’s semiconductor fabs are also under increasing pressure to accelerate and maximize yield, reduce cost and improve productivity.
Applied Materials is a place where the voice of the customer comes through loud and clear. Each year we conduct a comprehensive customer satisfaction survey so customers can tell us how we’re doing. As we prepare for the 2013 survey, we reflect on last year’s results. Last summer we contacted more than 1,400 customers globally and got a response rate of 70 percent. Much of what we heard from respondents made us proud: across the board our customer satisfaction and loyalty ratings have gone up significantly. But there were still some pain points customers asked us to address.
In the June 2013 issue of Nanochip Fab Solutions, we highlight what Applied is doing to engineer a better customer experience. This companywide effort encompasses technology, services, training, and process improvements.
More than 2.5 million terabytes of “Big Data” is created every day – a truly astronomical sum. The challenge is how to extract strategic insight and actionable information from these mountains of data.
Semiconductor Manufacturing and Design magazine recently examined Big Data in microchip fabrication. The article includes perspectives from leading chipmakers and discusses Applied’s remarkable data-mining technology as a solution.
Once upon a time, microchips were (relatively) simple and so was servicing the machines used to make them: if a machine stopped working, you called a technician. We call this break/fix model Service 1.0.
As chips became more sophisticated, instead of just repairing the equipment, Service 2.0 aimed to make it faster and more efficient.
Today, chips are almost unimaginably complex and we’re on the brink of Service 3.0, where virtually everything in the fab is monitored to identify subtle shifts that could affect chip performance.
It gives me great pleasure to share that Applied Materials has once again been named to the InformationWeek 500 list of business technology innovators for delivering a customized, highly searchable knowledge management portal for Applied field service engineers.
The prestigious list is published annually by InformationWeek and this year’s list spotlights how mobile devices, cloud computing and big data analytics are changing the landscape for IT organizations. Not only is the IT organization now responsible for just tech support–it is also a strategic partner embedded into business products and services.
The Applied Rapid Knowledge (ARK) portal was recognized for increasing work efficiency and stream-lining product-related document searches, enabling field service engineers to better support customer equipment.
In 1993, when the internet was mostly a science experiment, Applied shipped a new P5000 CVD system to the Motorola SPS (now Freescale) Oak Hill fab in Austin, Texas -- where it was used to produce processors for Apple computers. A year later, Motorola installed its second P5000 system. Fast forward 20 years and you’ll find both tools on the production line and still running!
Together, the two P5000s have processed an astounding 4.4 million wafers -- or over a billion chips. Continually modified and upgraded over the years with new hardware and software improvements through the Applied Global Services (AGS) organization, these two tools have gallantly served a number of technology nodes and applications at Freescale.
Yingli Green Energy granted Applied Materials its "Special Contribution Award" for excellence in optimizing the efficiency and productivity of its solar photovoltaic (PV) cell manufacturing operations in Baoding, Hebei province, China.
Applied Materials was one of only two equipment manufacturers among Yingli’s 200 suppliers to win this prestigious award. This was the highest honor given to Yingli’s business partners during its 1st Supplier Conference held recently in Baoding, China.
On the 100th anniversary of Edison’s tungsten bulb, alternative lighting methods that use less energy and reduce pollution are gaining ground. Fluorescent (FL) or compact fluorescent (CFL) bulbs save energy but also have drawbacks such as unnatural color that may not be pleasing to the eye or in the case of CFL bulbs in particular, they may not fit in recessed lighting fixtures. And perhaps the most important issue, both FL and CFL bulbs contain mercury, requiring special handling for bulb disposal after use.
On the horizon is a promising new technology, Light Emitting Diode (LED) devices that can provide a good replacement.
Applied Materials technologists are featured in the cover story of the current issue of Solid State Technology speaking to how energy consumption and the resulting carbon footprint can be reduced more than 20 percent in customer subfabs. To read the article, click here.
Lots of innovation in the semiconductor industry goes towards making chips more energy-efficient. Less attention is paid to lowering the carbon footprint of the chip manufacturing process itself.
Now, Applied's engineers have developed a smart technology that conserves resources by synchronizing the process tools in the fab with their support systems in the subfab. The new technology can reduce CO2 emissions for a CVD chip processing system by 220,000 pounds annually. When you consider that a modern fab may have more than 200 tools that could use this “green” solution, the total opportunity to lower the carbon footprint becomes quite impressive.
When something goes wrong with a process system, manufacturers need immediate help. Thanks to the internet, there’s often no need to get on a plane when you can use a humble web browser to peer inside machinery located thousands of miles away. Using Applied Materials’ remote access capability, the company expects to avoid enough travel to save more than 650,000 pounds of CO2 emissions this year alone.
We’ve talked about the economic and environmental benefits of local solar ecosystems before on this blog, but even the best team can benefit from the experience of others, wherever they’re located. When it comes to making anything work better, collective wisdom is a powerful tool.