Mobile Robots are the perfect match to fabwide OHT-system to automate low-throughput-areas

(Picture Source: Globalfoundries)

The “Internet of Things” and the growing digitalization in all areas of life continuously increase the demand for semiconductors. Not only the rising complexity in manufacturing, but also declining availability of experienced production staff pose a new set of questions for Fab owners. Singapore’s semiconductor industry is facing the challenge of developing from a labour-intensive to a technology-oriented value creation, in which pushing for better automation is of central importance to ensure productivity and competitiveness.

Automated material handling processes in today’s semiconductor factories are mainly based on standard transport systems. In 300mm Fabs these are almost entirely overhead hoist transport systems (OHT), whereas in 200mm environments (and those with smaller wafer diameters) the lots are either moved completely manually or with roller-based conveyor systems. All these standard solutions for lot transport are designed for high throughput in low product mix, but lack the necessary flexibility in terms of layout and scalability. If production requirements change, existing standard transport systems can only be adapted at great expense due to extensive work on the infrastructure, e.g. rigid rail systems. 

A large automation gap opens up especially in low throughput areas (like test or quality assurance), in areas with lower ceiling heights and in spaces that were not originally intended for production. And just imagine the integrated handling of non-productive material like test wafers, opening up completely new perspectives in efficiency!

Mobile Robot HERO®FAB 300 handles in different heights from 200 to 1,500mm

Fully free-moving platform: Ultimate maneuverability thanks omni-directional drive technology

Special solution: Mobile Robot for Wet Transport

Smart Manufacturing Requires Flexible Automation

A promising solution to overcome the limitations described above is the introduction of Autonomous Intelligent Vehicles [AIV], which combine an autonomous material transport with automated tool loading. These mobile robots are capable of independently transporting high-value payloads (e.g. wafers, reticles) to any destination in the factory without the need for adding mechanical infrastructure. The absence of any rails, magnetic strips, and laser markers enables unbeatable flexibility in the layout of the production machinery (which is constantly changing due to fast technology and product change cycles) and scalability in terms of the required throughput. This makes these autonomous systems the ideal companions to meet the challenges of Industry 4.0 in semiconductor factories.

The German automation specialist Fabmatics is one of the pioneers in developing safe and reliable mobile robots for the use in ultraclean production environments. Founded in 1991, the company has been successfully implementing customer-specific automation projects for more than 25 years. Companies like BOSCH, Infineon, Globalfoundries, Siltronic and Taiwanese Foundries trust in the mobile handling systems from Fabmatics, called HERO and SCOUT. On top of this, the German experts tackle the most challenging customer requests like wet transport. Fabmatics developed a very unconventional, completely new mobile robot which is equipped with an ”aquarium” of 60 litre capacity to transport wafers to polishing machines and to load/unload them without allowing the liquid to spatter out.

In the “Advanced Manufacturing“ Webinar of the SSIA Automation Supplier Day on July 9, 2020, Fabmatics will speak about possible applications of mobile robots and share their 25 years of experience on further ways to close automation gaps in 300 and 200mm Fabs.


Claus Kleilein

Joseph Soo