Improving cSi Manufacturing with Automation Software
Since SmartFactory launched earlier this year, I thought I’d take the time to discuss what we’ve been hearing about the software.
Applied Materials’ SmartFactory is an MES software solution tailored to the unique needs of crystalline silicon (cSi) manufacturing and thus represents an opportunity to achieve significant improvements in quality of product and operations without costly investment in hardware systems.
cSi manufacturers today generally rely on paper based systems or very basic Manufacturing Execution System MES solutions to address increasing pressures on quality throughput and operational costs. As a result, they commonly encounter problems with operator mis-processing, unscheduled downtime, excessive inventory, sub-optimal quality and long delays in resolving quality issues.
I’ve included an illustration here to help better explain how SmartFactory leverages key features from Applied Materials’ advanced factory automation technology, but in a package configured specifically for cSi operations. It is an “out-of-the box” solution that is rapid to install and ramp-up and is pre-integrated, complete with workflows tailored to cSi manufacturing operations.
Automation and monitoring capabilities down to the sensor level reduce the incidence of mis-processing and operator error.
As shown in the illustration below, optional pre-integration of a full advanced process control (APC) capability allows for continuous monitoring and early detection of process excursions, root cause analysis and interdiction and downtime prediction, thereby reducing scrap and addressing quality issues.
The related data mining capabilities and associated alarming and triggering features enable reduction of both unscheduled downs and excessive scheduled downs. Additionally, collaboration of MES and APC components within the system eliminate mis-processing due to poor control of equipment configurations.
In summary, with SmartFactory manufacturers can achieve greater uptime, throughput, yield, and utilization, while improving efficiency and reducing documentation and overall costs.
Further, as part of Applied Materials’ factory automation roadmap, SmartFactory provides a framework to support future advancements in cSi manufacturing such as smart/predictive scheduling for increased throughput and capacity, and yield prediction and optimization for increased quality.