SOURCE: International SEMATECH Manufacturing Initiative

November 28, 2005 11:00 ET

ISMI & Key Software Suppliers Confirm Interoperability of Interface A Solutions

AUSTIN, TX -- (MARKET WIRE) -- November 28, 2005 -- The semiconductor equipment communication standards known as Interface A can interoperate effectively when different solutions are mixed in a fab-like environment, according to characterization recently conducted by International SEMATECH Manufacturing Initiative (ISMI) and four software suppliers.

At ISMI's e-Manufacturing Lab, representatives of four major suppliers of Interface A software -- AIS/Siemens, Asyst Technologies, Cimetrix, and HCL Technologies -- collaborated with ISMI engineers to "mix and match" each other's renditions of the emerging interface.

"Overall, compatibility among the versions was excellent," said Harvey Wohlwend, manager in ISMI's e-Manufacturing initiative. "Most of the issues we found related to different approaches for utilizing XML/SOAP technology, which is new to the semiconductor industry."

Wohlwend called the effort "a great success in improving deployment readiness" and said ISMI is pleased the e-Manufacturing lab served its intended purpose, in this case to collaborate pre-competitively while still protecting the participants' intellectual property. The learnings from this effort will be published in a white paper as guidance for ISMI member companies and the industry.

Interface A, based on XML Web services, provides microchip manufacturers with access to more complete and useful data for key applications, such as equipment diagnostics and advanced process control. The interface is rapidly emerging as a high-speed data highway enabling new opportunities for productivity improvement.

Software producers may differ in their approaches in constructing the interface, potentially leading to incompatibility among different versions. Seeking to head off traditional software integration challenges, the four suppliers agreed to work together with ISMI on interoperability profiling. ISMI provided the software supplier engineers with workstations, a network, and detailed knowledge of the usage scenarios and the test methodology.

"Each came with an Interface A implementation on an equipment simulator, as well as a sample client for communicating with the implementation," said Lance Rist, who organized the profiling effort for ISMI. "The major goal was to have supplier A's equipment communicate with Supplier B's client, supplier B's equipment communicate with supplier C's client, and so on."

"This was a proactive move by ISMI and we were quick to sign up," said Dave Faulkner, executive vice president of sales and marketing at Cimetrix. "The interoperability characterization will save countless headaches at the fab, and demonstrates the resources available to assist the industry in adopting new technologies."

"We thank ISMI for the opportunity to participate in this important event that takes forward the development of an industry wide solution," said Divakar Maddipatla, corporate vice president and head of Global Semiconductor Practice, HCL Technologies. "It is encouraging to note that HCL iDA interoperates with solutions from other leading vendors. This represents an opportunity for the industry to adopt a standards-based solution to solve one of the most pressing problems in factory automation."

Jim Holliday, vice president of software marketing for Asyst said, "The opportunity to exercise software in this innovative and unbiased testing environment will undoubtedly lower the challenges and risk of industry adoption for Interface A. The identification and correction of connectivity issues prior to deployment on a tool or within a fab will yield faster integration, deployment and ROI. Asyst welcomed the opportunity to participate and is extremely pleased with the entire process and end results."

Engineers used the EDA Evaluation Method created by ISMI to confirm basic connectivity and interoperability. They focused on basic messaging, using typical scenarios to complete normal tasks.

"EDA [Interface A] provides a high potential for cost reduction and time saving in the area of equipment integration," said Eckhard Schöbel, vice president of research and development for AIS Automation. "To establish a product such as EDA worldwide, it is essential to ensure compatibility among products of different suppliers. The independent ISMI lab is a facility for doing this efficiently. This innovative kind of environment is an important base for the successful worldwide rollout of EDA products. Our expectations tool have been met well and accurately."

According to Wohlwend, "There was excellent cooperation among the participants, with a desire to understand the issues and work them out." He added that engineers then gathered for a debriefing session, with the first comment being, "When can we do this again?"

"This effort fostered a spirit of cooperation within the semiconductor software industry," Wohlwend said. "As a result, the Interface A specifications and implementations are ready to move to factory deployment -- and that's a tremendous service for ISMI member companies."

ISMI is a global alliance of the world's major semiconductor manufacturers, dedicated to reducing cost per wafer, and ultimately cost per die, through cooperative programs focused on manufacturing effectiveness. The consortium conducts programs in manufacturing infrastructure, methods, standards, and productivity, with the aim of reducing the costs of producing finished wafers and chips and driving solutions to major productivity challenges. ISMI is a wholly owned subsidiary of SEMATECH of Austin, TX.

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