The Mobile Web in Semiconductor Manufacturing Operations
Richard A. Tyo, P.E.
While semiconductor manufacturing facilities have incorporated computerized monitoring and process control systems for years, recently developers of such systems have been reducing the cost of ownership and increasing usability by migrating to web-based user interfaces and leveraging commercially-available web technologies in their automation strategies. Typically, a hard-wired corporate intranet has provided the necessary interconnectivity required for system integration.
The mobile web presents the opportunity to free manufacturing operators, technicians, and engineers from the hard-wired intranet by conveying pertinent real-time data via wireless devices. At the same time, a number of challenges must be overcome to make the mobile web a reality in such manufacturing environments. These challenges include, but are not limited to:
- Security of proprietary data
- Sensitivity of manufacturing processes to electromagnetic radiation produced by wireless devices
- Sensitivity of wireless devices to electromagnetic radiation produced by the manufacturing equipment
- Seamless integration of wireless devices into the corporate intranet
- Efficient transmission and display of information originally targeted to "heavy clients" on the new handheld wireless browsers
- Commercial availability of lightweight handheld wireless devices capable of displaying rich content for long periods of time
- Availability of event-driven technology to permit paging and updating of wireless displays in real-time (without the wireless devices terminally "going to sleep" between events)
While some of these challenges are shared among the mobile web community as a whole, some are unique to a subset of users that include semiconductor manufacturers. For instance, mobile cell phone developers have historically been concerned with radio frequency radiation levels primarily as they apply to human health standards and minimum usable power required to communicate over typical cell coverage areas. On the other hand, the level of radio frequency energy typically radiated by today's cell phone is unacceptable near certain wafer fabrication processes. It is likely that such concerns would apply in other environments, such as near sensitive medical and scientific equipment.
Thus it is important that the community of mobile web developers be aware of such concerns. From a hardware perspective, this means using very low-power transmitters, selective receivers, modulation methods with inherent noise immunity and security, and relatively short communications distances - all at low cost. From the software perspective, this means understanding how to adapt developing standards to be able to use communications protocols and application software that support such hardware devices and integrate seamlessly and securely with more conventional web-based services. And from a systems perspective, all of this must be integrated into coverage areas that will allow a user to seamlessly move from (pico)cell to (pico)cell without encountering any disruption of service between the user and the backbone intranet and its connected applications.
One example of a technology with great promise in such sensitive environments is Bluetooth technology. Using low-power spread spectrum transmissions over short communications distances, this technology provides an inherent level of security and noise immunity for relatively low cost. Development of software standards, techniques, and applications that will allow this technology to be used to its fullest in the semiconductor manufacturing and similar environments is encouraged.
General Expectations from the Workshop
The results that we hope to obtain from participation in the workshop include:
- Better understanding of current and future trends of mobile web technologies and products that can be leveraged to improve efficiencies and lower costs in semiconductor manufacturing.
- Better understanding of emerging software standards for mobile web integration, and identification of gaps in those standards, especially as they relate to semiconductor manufacturing.
- The opportunity to make the mobile web development community aware of the needs of semiconductor manufacturers with respect to wireless technologies.