Microelectronics Sector Extends AI from Pattern Recognition to Prediction and Control

What’s next for smarter, more connected electronics manufacturing - Part 3

The fast-maturing infrastructure now enabling analysis of exponentially larger data volumes brings the microelectronics industry to an inflection point, where the winning companies will be the first to master the use of this data to solve the industry’s emerging challenges. SEMI expands its coverage of these vital issues with a Smart Manufacturing Pavilion and three days of talks SEMICON West, July 10-12 in San Francisco.

While deep learning is starting to be applied to image recognition for wafer inspection, it is also being considered for sequential pattern recognition in order to evaluate equipment parameter traces. The next emerging applications will start to use those learned patterns to predict outcomes, and then use those predictions to automate process control. One early application of deep learning is IC process development. 

“People don’t think of research and development as the first place to automate, but it’s where applying our digitization and simulation has first had impact,” says David Fried, Coventor vice president of Computational Products. He noted that insertion is easier in the lab than in the fab. 

SC West SM SRAM cutaway Pt 3

Technology at 10nm and beyond is now so complex that companies at the leading edge must use process modeling to understand the effect of process variation on their designs. Learning cycles can now be accelerated during development by simulating 10,000 digital wafers instead of running 25 actual wafers during screening, Fried says. Applying structured analysis and machine learning to the data simplifies optimization across the 500 or more interrelated process steps. Coventor has recently introduced a statistical analysis package that aids the design and analysis of process variation experiments by using large volumes of data from its models. Fried says these models are next being used to accelerate the yield ramp in manufacturing.

Digital simulation also could speed development of high-mix, lower value products

While digital twins are best known for their use in complex, high value products like jet engines, the simulation technology could also enable the electronic manufacturing services (EMS) sector to reduce the time, cost and risk of developing its high mix of products. “The EMS sector’s use of digital twins will be vital for it to smooth the move of CAD/CAM digital design data for so many different products into manufacturing, and to accelerate validation testing of designs and products by doing more of it in the virtual world,” says Dan Gamota, vice president of Engineering and Technical Services at Jabil.  

Gamota also highlights the push for traceability from the automotive and healthcare markets, where the digital models could be used to quickly assure that the design was built exactly as specified. “In the past year, traceability has evolved from just ‘nice to have’ to ‘how to achieve,’” he adds. “Companies are expecting it, but aren’t willing to accept the cost and risk of doing it alone. We need the community to discuss realistic implementations, identify the most critical elements and bring together the ecosystem partners to build baseline reference architectures for key digital building blocks. The community also needs to assure the reliable flow of data among the electronic manufacturing segments from semiconductor to OSAT to EMS.”

SC West SM pt 3 PQ 1

Predictive maintenance and virtual metrology applications could mature in next few years

While predictive maintenance initially seemed a likely early application of machine learning in factories, it remains a challenge for the electronics sector. “The difficulty is that it’s not clear where to get the most bang for the buck,” says Tom Ho, president of BISTel America, noting that it may make the most sense to track the failure performance of a single expensive part, like an electrostatic chuck, since predicting the failure performance of a whole complex system like an etcher is much harder.

“Collecting enough data from all failure types, including especially the rare events, is difficult unless you have a long history of a lot of tools,” adds Doug Suerich, PEER Group product evangelist. “The gain from collecting performance information from many tools across the industry could be big, but many companies still need to overcome concerns around exposing their IP.”

Another big opportunity for prediction is virtual metrology – predicting the wafer outcome from the process or sensor data with enough accuracy to replace the physical metrology. “Virtual metrology is improving, and since metrology can be slow and expensive, any reduction could mean a huge potential savings,” says Suerich. “But it is still seen as too scary for many companies. Two to three years from now, companies will expand the practice from lower risk areas into processes that require more confidence in the results.”

Moving beyond prediction to automated control needs digital models

Once the results are predicted, the model can be used to control or automatically optimize a process and enable the system to learn by itself, usually by reinforcement learning on a digital model. The model can then independently make adjustments to optimize the manufacturing process. “Automated process development is getting close now. Instead of smart guys turning the knobs, deep learning is automating the smart tuning,” says Suerich, suggesting the industry could see widespread adoption in as little as two to three years. This type of machine learning needs a good digital model, and masses of data for learning. One approach uses human experts to build a physics-based model of the clearly understood parts of the process, then turns to deep machine learning to optimize the lesser-understood variables. The alternative, the data-first approach, runs a computer algorithm to suggest the solution purely from data, without human input, and then relies on the human to evaluate the usefulness of the results.

Modeling digital twins of wafers could enable automated process control, chamber matching, and fleet matching, says Fried. If every wafer had its own virtual twin with all the upstream metrology and structural information needed to make equipment control decisions, it could feed forward that information to enable the seamless transition from one step in the process to another based on understanding their complex interrelationships. This could potentially improve uniformity across wafers and equipment, and reduce the need for metrology, he argues.

SC West SM pt 3 PQ 2

Moving metrology sensors into the chamber will also require model-based algorithms to enable dynamic process control in close to real time, says Fried.  These algorithms will be needed to acquire, parse, and process the data at high speed, and then to choose how to adjust the controls. “There will be a model behind collecting and interpreting the metrology data,” he notes. “That’s a really rich vein for improvements in process control.”

“The end goal is to collect equipment data in real time, analyze it with AI, and send back controls to optimize manufacturing processes,” Jabil’s Gamota says. “This requires a robust architecture for communication between equipment and consistent formats for data collection and analysis. But the cost and complexity of this heavy lifting is too great for any one company to do alone. We need a consensus-based architecture for ingesting, analyzing and acting on the data.”

SEMI tests data transfer protocols, benchmarks best practices

SEMI is launching a smart data project to identify the various data transfer protocols needed for inter-company communications. The project will feature a proof-of-concept model in a development fab to produce verifiable results so SEMI can better understand how different approaches meet member needs.  SEMI’s smart manufacturing technology communities and the Fab Owners Alliance are also benchmarking current smart manufacturing practices in the microelectronics industry to help SEMI members better understand the path forward and potential return on investment.  

Speakers over all three days at SEMICON West addressing these issues include Active Layer Parametrics, Applied Materials, Applied Research & Photonics, ASML, Bosch Rexroth, Cimetrix, Coventor, ECI Technologies, Edwards Vacuum, Final Phase Systems, GE Digital,  Infineon, Jabil, Lam Research, Osaro, Otosense, PEER Group, Qualcomm, Rockwell Automation, Rudolph Technologies, Schneider Electric, Seagate, Siemens, Stanford University, TEL, TIBCO Software. See semiconwest.org.

What’s next for smarter, more connected electronics manufacturing - Part 1

What’s next for smarter, more connected electronics manufacturing - Part 2

Paula Doe, SEMI 

Topics: SEMICON West , integrated circuit , IC , Smart Manufacturing , ASML , metrology , Infineon , GE Digital , Coventor , Applied Materials , Lam Research , Rudolph Technologies , virtual metrology , machine learning , 10nm , SRAM , digital simulation , Active Layer Parametrics , Bosch Rexroth , Cimetrix , ECI Technologies , Final Phase Systems , Osaro , PEER Group , Qualcomm , TIBCO Software , wafers , traceability , OSAT , EMS , electronic manufacturing services , Fab Owners Alliance , Applied Research & Photonics , Edwards Vacuum , Jabil , Rockwell Automation , Schneider Electric , Seagate , Siemens , Stanford University , TEL