The patent's assignee is
News editors obtained the following quote from the background information supplied by the inventors: "In the semiconductor fabrication industry there are a number of circumstances unique to this particular field that make the maintenance and repair of semiconductor fabrication equipment a challenge. In general there is a need to minimize downtime of the fabrication equipment as the capital costs are unusually high, thus repairs and maintenance should be planned and brief.
"Further, semiconductor fabrication equipment is also typically customized to each particular application, thus it is seldom that two pieces of equipment are built with identical components. An added complication is that many semiconductor fabrication equipment components may look similar to the untrained eye, however subtle differences may result in the system working as designed or not working at all. These conditions may result in maintenance technicians installing the incorrect component, culminating in increased downtime of the equipment.
"An added complication is that poorly trained third party vendors are often used for general maintenance and repair to minimize maintenance costs. Poorly trained technicians may have a more difficult time recognizing subtle differences in components and may not access the appropriate technical guides to perform the repair correctly. These conditions may result in installation of incorrect replacement components, or the incorrect installation of the correct components, culminating in increased downtime of the equipment.
"There are a number of replacement component marking schemes that can be used to label components so they may be identified correctly. There are also online platforms that can be used to order components. In addition there are a number of manuals and online resources showing components within a machine, installation processes, recipe manuals, etc. While these systems exist, they are not available in a mobile platform available to the technician on-site, and they are not integrated in a serviceable way to insure the correct component is installed on the correct piece of equipment using the correct process. Additionally, none of these systems integrate a preventative maintenance program that tracks the life of the components so they may be replaced before catastrophic failure occurs."
As a supplement to the background information on this patent application, VerticalNews correspondents also obtained the inventors' summary information for this patent application: "Methods using direct component marking for enhanced preventative maintenance systems and for the repair of semiconductor fabrication equipment are described. In some embodiments a replacement component may be marked with a unique identification and data about that component may be associated with that unique identification. In further embodiments, a semiconductor fabrication tool may also have a unique equipment identification and data about that tool may be associated with that unique identification.
"In an embodiment, a preventative maintenance system may be used to associate a particular component with a particular semiconductor fabrication tool. A terminal may be used on-site to read the equipment identification and the replacement component identification. The terminal may retrieve associated data from a database for the component and/or the semiconductor fabrication tool. In some embodiments the component may be installed and the terminal may receive input corresponding to the usage rate of the semiconductor fabrication tool. The terminal may generate an alert corresponding to an upcoming maintenance requirement associated with the component so it may be replaced before its predicted failure.
"In other embodiments, before the component is installed, the terminal may perform a compatibility assessment of the component and the semiconductor fabrication tool and/or may provide information aiding in the replacement of the component.
"In further embodiments, the preventative maintenance system may be used to capture electronic data from the semiconductor processing tool, provide real time access to technical guides, service history, and/or trouble shooting tips, and provide automated transfer of files between a service entity and a client.
"In some embodiments, the preventative maintenance system can provide directly marked component tracking. This can include, for example, directly marking components with unique component numbers and providing streamlined component ordering through the preventative maintenance system.
"These illustrative embodiments are mentioned not to limit or define the disclosure, but to provide examples to aid understanding thereof. Additional embodiments are discussed in the Detailed Description, and further description is provided there. Advantages offered by one or more of the various embodiments may be further understood by examining this specification or by practicing one or more embodiments presented.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE FIGURES
"These and other features, aspects, and advantages of the present disclosure are better understood when the following Detailed Description is read with reference to the accompanying drawings.
"FIG. 1 is an example method for incoming components according to some embodiments;
"FIG. 2 is an example method for a preventative maintenance process according to some embodiments;
"FIG. 3 is an example method for repair and compatibility assessment according to some embodiments;
"FIG. 4 is a schematic diagram of an embodiment of a service entity system connected to a client system according to some embodiments.
"FIG. 5 is an example method for a preventative maintenance process according to some embodiments.
"FIG. 6 is an example method for a repair and compatibility process according to some embodiments.
"In the appended figures, similar components and/or features may have the same reference label. Further, various components of the same type may be distinguished by following the reference label by a dash and a second label that distinguishes among the similar components. If only the first reference label is used in the specification, the description is applicable to any one of the similar components having the same first reference label irrespective of the second reference label."
For additional information on this patent application, see: Chang, DC; Schauer,
Keywords for this news article include: Electronics, Semiconductor,
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