SUNNYVALE, Calif. -- GW Associates Inc. here has struck an agreement to sell 300-mm wafer fab connectivity software to Axcelis Technologies Inc. for use in ion implantation and rapid-thermal processing (RTP) tools. Axcelis will use the GWconX300 software to offer standard communications interfaces to automated material handling systems (AMHS) and other systems in 300-mm fabs.
The deal underscores how far the 300-mm movement has gone to address chip-manufacturing concerns, according to Jack Ghiselli, president of GW Associates. "The risk of a tool being refused by a chip maker because it does not interface flawlessly with the AMHS is too costly in 300-mm," said the founder of GW Associates, which was acquired last month by Asyst Technologies Inc. (see May 22 story).
Ghiselli said 300-mm tool suppliers are looking for new software packages that take the weight off their shoulders in product development while still being able to meet strict requirements for next-generation production fabs.
GW Associates claims to hold an 80% market share in off-the-shelf fab equipment communications systems that comply with existing SEMI Equipment Communications Standard (SECS) and General Equipment Model (GEM) formats. But a new round of competition for 300-mm standard connectivity software is now underway between GW Associates and a number of new, aggressive suppliers.
Unlike 200-mm wafer equipment, the new 300-mm tools are required to interface directly to AMHS gear for handling of heavy 300-mm wafer carriers and expensive substrates, noted GW Associates. The company said this is now a mission-critical element in wafer fab frontend processing lines, and compliance with new communications standards is becoming key requirement for tool vendors.
"Advanced automation and robust process control are critical to leading-edge manufacturing, and are increasingly important as we approach the 300-mm era," said David Duff, director of marketing for ion implantation and RTP products at Axcelis in Beverly, Mass. "GW's ability to implement and validate full compliance with our customers' 300-mm automation needs results in faster ramp up to volume production, and ultimately higher levels of customer satisfaction," he added.
In May, GW Associates introduced GWconX300 phase III to provide 300-mm factories with all the communications features needed in volume production, including E90 substrate tracking, E40 control job and E94 process job.