Smart Manufacturing Advances The Next Generation Of Semiconductor Chips

Fabs need a paradigm shift to leverage Industry 4.0 and enable maximum efficiency.


Semiconductor devices are ubiquitous in our everyday lives and foundational to today’s communication, education, manufacturing, health, and transportation industries.

From the moment our phone’s alarm clock wakes us up to unwinding by streaming our favorite shows, it’s difficult to imagine modern life without the devices that semiconductors enable.

To keep pace with performance and cost demands, semiconductor features and integrated circuits (ICs) have followed Moore’s Law, meaning the technology for IC fabrication has shifted dramatically from microns to hundreds of nanometers to single-digit nanometers and is expected to shrink again to angstroms. With this shrinkage in feature size comes a comparable increase in the complexity of the machines that build these advanced, sophisticated chips.

Petabytes of manufacturing data

There is a huge business incentive for semiconductor manufacturers to make transistors smaller, faster, and cheaper. However, this requires fabs to have the right expertise, equipment, and software to manufacture semiconductor chips at a large scale and with the speed necessary to meet competitive time-to-market requirements. For example, a cutting-edge fab requires an upfront capital investment of over $5 billion to produce trillions of transistors per minute, which are 2,000 times smaller than the width of a strand of human hair.

During the manufacturing process, these fabs produce over dozens of petabytes of data every year. Data is collected in real time from hundreds of thousands of unique sensors interconnected to share information related to manufacturing chips at advanced nodes. This large data stream needs to be monitored and analyzed realtime in a matter of seconds to guide fabs in achieving maximum efficiency.

Traditional techniques for monitoring and control of manufacturing processes do not scale to incorporate these petabytes of data. In the past, teams of manufacturing and semiconductor engineers were expected to continuously increase productivity, solve every problem, and figure out how to produce the next process node. Fabs need a paradigm shift to leverage Industry 4.0 along with the power of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) in modern software solutions to enable maximum fab efficiency.

Industry 4.0, cloud, and the need for software solutions

The vision of Industry 4.0 is to digitalize the manufacturing sector and become more efficient by utilizing the vast amount of data inherent in the manufacturing process. This aligns seamlessly with the needs of advanced manufacturing chip fabs. Software solutions with the latest AI and ML technology enable automatic data analysis, supplements the knowledge and experience of engineers in decision-making, and alerts fabs to potential process and yield issues.

In addition, fabs can benefit from the recent industrialization of the cloud, which enables the connection of multiple fabs to further share learnings and enhance the process across multiple fabs. When used effectively, software and data hosted in the cloud can sort and find the right data to analyze and use for optimizations, significantly diminish downtime, protect the greater supply chain from interruptions, help companies meet sustainability obligations, and, ultimately, beat out competitors. Software powered by AI and ML analyzes petabytes of data across multiple fabs, to assist in the decision-making process and enable the process control paradigm shift mentioned earlier.

Synopsys in the semiconductor supply chain

Synopsys provides such software solutions to semiconductor fabs and the general electronics industry. Offering advanced capabilities in AI and ML, Synopsys recently launched, which is a comprehensive solution suite to harness the power of AI from design to ramp and high-volume manufacturing. In addition, Synopsys has specialized expertise in the chip fabrication process, from IC design and mask synthesis to process and test and process control. The semiconductor industry needs the powerful software solutions that Synopsys offers to meet the ever-growing demands on manufacturing and process development, which in turn will power the electronic devices of the future.

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