Smart Manufacturing And Advanced Technical Service

Materials informatics enabled by AI can guide optimization of production processes.


SEMI spoke with Eyal Shekel, senior vice president of Service Strategy and Excellence at Tokyo Electron Limited, about the impact of artificial intelligence (AI) on smart manufacturing and how other fab solutions for smarter process tools are advancing semiconductor manufacturing.

SEMI: AI technology is considered a key enabler for smart manufacturing. What are the latest trends?

Shekel: The advent of advanced nodes and extremely complex 3D semiconductor geometry has lengthened time to market and increased costs in areas ranging from equipment development and large-scale metrology usage to monitoring yield inhibitors.

AI is becoming a critical tool in the area of material informatics to determine suitable materials and processing techniques in order to meet the needs of future devices. Together with new materials and processes, the development and implementation of virtual metrology will enable accurate and almost absolute real-time monitoring of our customers’ device wafers at each stage of the manufacturing process.

SEMI: What are the benefits of data analysis in the process from R&D and ramp-up to high-volume manufacturing?

Shekel: The new research field of materials informatics enabled by AI provides tools to guide the highly efficient discovery and optimization of production processes. For example, TEL has developed methodologies for co-optimizing processes and materials for etch rates.

To monitor and manage the yield of semiconductor fabrication processes, direct metrology measurements are important. However, it is difficult to monitor all production wafers due to the time and cost involved. With deep learning AI, it is now becoming possible to predict every wafer’s metrology measurements based on production equipment data and previously processed wafer metrology variables. This enables total quality management and run-to-run control, while simultaneously reducing production costs and cycle time.

SEMI: Can you tell us more about TEL Service Advantage?

Shekel: TEL Service Advantage is a TEL global support organization that allows customers to select a service plan that fits their needs. Through TEL Service Advantage, we can quickly respond to customer requests and technical advancements. TEL Service Advantage provides various plans to maximize equipment maintenance efficiency for customers and productivity from equipment manufactured by TEL. TEL Service Advantage plans can be combined to meet customer needs and achieve maximum results.

A key enabling element of TEL Service Advantage is TELeMetrics. TEL analyzes equipment data from various sensors using a remote connection and, based on that analysis, provides solutions to customer-specific problems around equipment throughput and predictive maintenance.

SEMI: How is AI helping during the pandemic? Can you share a success story?

Shekel: The pandemic forced severe travel restrictions worldwide, making it very difficult or even impossible in many cases to visit our customers, as it is still the case today. Standard communication devices like smartphones and email helped at the beginning when TEL intensified the remote support by our Total Support Centre (TSC).

TEL continued to develop its Service Advantage program quickly, and started using additional advanced tools and methodologies such as the following:

  • Deployed AR (Augmented Reality) to remotely assist our customer and TEL engineers
  • Secured remote connections into TEL tools to investigate parameters and logs, or to change set-up
  • Used remote training courses that connects trainers via video conferencing systems and training tools in the factories to skill up engineers located in a different parts of the world
  • Used AR glasses for tool start-up and troubleshooting
  • Expanded TEL database global technology with multi-tool on languages search capabilities

A key project at a customer site in Europe offers an excellent success story. Using all the approaches above, we collaborated with the local team to put a tool into production with no major delays. This was highly appreciated by the customer and very important for us.

SEMI: What do you predict for the future?

Shekel: Global technology infrastructure continues to develop and expand rapidly. Elements like 5G networks, IoT, and advanced sensing capabilities will lead to what we call General AI, which will be based on neuro-like infrastructure. The auto learning will spread across domains and rely on internal logic and reasoning to automate many tasks that are manual today. In our industry in particular, General AI will enable workers to focus more on data analytics and future advanced R&D rather than ongoing operations.

Eyal Shekel is senior vice president of Service Strategy and Excellence at Tokyo Electron Europe Limited. Upon his graduation as a Mechanical Engineer from the Technion (Israel leading technical institute), he joined Applied Materials. In 1997 he moved on to Tokyo Electron (TEL) in Europe, served as the Regional Service Manager of Israel and, soon after, was appointed the company’s General Manager. Since 2005 Shekel has been part of TEL Europe senior management. He oversaw the Service and Support Operations for TEL Europe as a senior vice president until 2019. In his current role, he co-leads TEL’s Global Service Committee in Japan.

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