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A Letter from Ali Salehpour: Serving—And Sustaining—The New Normal in Semiconductor Manufacturing

Senior Vice President and General Manager, New Markets and Service Group

Ali Salehpour

For decades, "normal" in our industry meant predictable upturns and downturns based on cyclical launches of PC platforms. Not anymore. Today the new normal is marked by growing demand for chips driven by diverse automotive, artificial intelligence, virtual and augmented reality, and Internet of things applications.

To meet this demand, new fabs are opening and existing ones are repurposing around the globe. Some are greenfield projects; other fabs are expanding or relocating to increase production. Still others are looking for ways to manufacture chips for the latest technologies, often using legacy tools. What all of these fabs need is expert support so they can sustain−and thrive−in the new normal.

This issue of Nanochip Fab Solutions explores many service solutions Applied Global Services (AGS) provides to help customers do that. AGS solutions come as market research firm Gartner Inc. predicts that the industry’s revenues will exceed $410 billion this year for the first time ever.

With more than 20 new fabs in various stages of development, manufacturers need planning experts who can help with faster, more efficient startups. This issue features the FabVantage™ Consulting group’s new early-stage fab-planning offering, designed to do exactly that. The service helps customers plan manufacturing operations before tools are installed, using customer-defined, weighted criteria and simulations to create fab and tool operational curves for bottleneck and non-bottleneck tools.

For companies planning to relocate production tools within a fab or to another fab, an AGS solution offers Factory Transition Service™ (FTS). AGS provides technical experts and other labor; prioritizes the delivery of necessary parts; and speeds the green-to-green times to keep fab relocation projects on time and on budget.

Effective spares management is crucial in an era when busy fabs cannot afford downtime or disruptions. Our centerfold article spotlights discussions with AGS Spares and Parts Engineering executives regarding new, modern offerings being developed to better serve customers in challenging, fast-growing global markets. For example, our Forecast Parts Management (FPM) model enables customers to collaborate with us in developing forecasts of the parts and quantities needed over a given period. According to David Lee, managing director of spares marketing at AGS, this "supply-chain partnership" benefits both sides by assuring customers of supply at the right cost while giving AGS better visibility into the critical components that make our customers successful.

As fabs increasingly move toward wafer-level packaging, 3D architectures and smaller technology nodes, they must take advantage of automated and predictive technologies to meet productivity goals. This issue introduces new Applied SmartFactory® EngineeredWorks™, which includes out-of-box dispatching rules, automation workflows, simulation models and reports. Using these out-of-the-box tools, customers can cut deployment times by more than 50% compared to custom deployments.

AGS has long been involved in efforts to reduce energy waste in subfab equipment by incorporating a hot standby idle mode. Now the Applied Materials iSystem™ controller supports a sleep mode that reduces the resource consumption of subfab equipment to much lower levels. A featured article explains how the resulting savings can amount to as much as $5,000 per tool per year.

Future trends are also included in this issue of Nanochip. We explore potential applications for flexible, curved and foldable displays and electronics made with thin-film manufacturing techniques. We also examine the rise of Industry 4.0 and the advent of 5G. These transitions, along with emerging technologies like wideband gap devices and vertical stacking technology, will culminate in smaller, more powerful system- in-package (SIP) solutions that place even more demands on our industry.

But that’s okay. Because as Applied Materials celebrates its 50 years in business, our tool and service expertise has never been greater, and our commitment to customers has never been stronger. We’re confident about meeting the challenges of the new normal in our industry. And—as you’ll learn from the pages that follow—you should be too.