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Semiconductor Factory Automation

About Semiconductor Factory Automation –

Semiconductor factory automation consists of two parts, (Physical Automation) actually moving material around , and logical (Material Execution Systems) keeping track of where the material has been , and what's been done to it. I've worked in both portions of the industry.

The physical automation portion which consists of the Automated Material Handling System (AMHS), which physically moves material around the factory. Typically the 300mm standard breaks this down into Interbay, which moves material within one processing bay, and can deliver material to the process equipment, and IntraBay which moves material from one portion of the factory to another (such as from incoming inspection to lithography)

The diagram at right shows a third portion, entitled the tool interface, in which the intrabay automation system hands off the material to the equipment.

In a 300mm fab (like the ones you see in some of the Intel commericals) the tool interface is set by a standard. The wafers to be processed are contained in FOUP's (Front Opening Universal Pods) The FOUP's are tranferred to the tools using OHT's (Overhead Tracks, more common) or AGV's (Automated Guided Vehicles, less common)

AMHS systems for Semiconductor facilities are made by the following companies.

PRI-Automation (Factory Systems Division) - Now Brooks Automation


The host control (shown in the above diagram as the Factory Software) portion of a factory automation system consists entirely of process control software, in which material and processes can be tracked as products move through production. 

This is actually the more important portion of the factory automation system because it allows material to be tracked through the fab, reduces the possibility of misprocessing, and allows optimization of equipment usage. In addition the newest innovation is what's known as Advanced Process Control, using the results of one process step to dynamically effect other processes. In essence these systems called Material Execution Systems (MES) usually serve as a key aspect of many Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solutions for manufacturing faculties.

A partial list of vendors for Semiconductor Material Execution Systems (also known as a Factory Host)

FACTORYworks™ (Brooks Automation)
WorkStream™ (Consilium - Applied Materials)
Promis™ (PRI) [now owned by Brooks!]
Poseidon™ / SiView™ (IBM/ITS)

LG CNS - of course this is the team that does the automation work for LG.
ProcessWORKS™ (Adventa Control Technologies Inc)

Example Description of SiView Standard - IBM's solution


The standard interface which almost all semiconductor Fabrication equipment supports is known as SECS/GEM, which stands for Semiconductor Equipment Communications Standard, General Equipment Model. And is defined by a few standards (E5, E30 etc…) published by SEMI, a loose affiliation Semiconductor Equipment and Materials vendors.

For more information on the automation standards click here.


I guess it wouldn't be right to say all this stuff without the disclaimer that many of the companies mentioned on this page no longer exist, the company iteself may have been bought, the product which they made either abandoned, renamed, or integrated with other products.

I should put in a plug for APC as well, it's a sub-system of Material Execution Systems. A company I worked for briefly was working on was developing a large scale system to implement APC, which stands for Advanced Process Control. I think it should really stand for Active Process Control, as it's a way to constantly tweak a process so that it can be maintained within higher tolerances.

For more trends in the industry click here