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Industry 4.0 Reaches Into the Subfab

Can smart manufacturing make the whole fab more efficient?

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To unlock the full potential of their manufacturing systems and personnel, companies in many industries are rapidly moving toward highly automated systems and digital data-driven methods and tools. Widely known as “smart manufacturing” or Industry 4.0, the resulting productivity improvements are often so dramatic that many people are calling this shift a new industrial revolution.

The semiconductor industry, already more highly digitalized than many others, has been an early adopter of Industry 4.0 technologies. One example is the SECS/GEM equipment interface protocol, introduced a number of years ago for equipment-to-host data communications in highly automated fabs.

However, significant gaps remain in Industry 4.0 implementations in semiconductor manufacturing. One area that has not typically been included in such efforts is the subfab—but that is beginning to change as fab output soars to meet strong demand for chips.

The subfab consumes more energy and resources than any other part of the production facility, so as output increases manufacturers are scrambling to find better ways to manage energy, water and chemical usage while still maintaining high levels of safety, reducing emissions and minimizing costs.

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