Control software for thin film etch systems

Project Description

The Problem
A leading semiconductor equipment manufacturer in USA had a thin film etch system for plasma etching 100 mm – 200 mm wafers. The equipments in this product line were operated by a PC based application, developed using a non-standard control software development tool. As this was not a well-established and standard development platform, the software suffered from several inherent functional limitations and was also difficult to maintain and enhance. With this in mind, the company wanted to redevelop the control software afresh on a new environment, retaining all the present functionality. However, the objective was to develop the application in a more traditional programming language like C/C++ and make it independent of operating system, as much as possible, so that it can be ported easily on Windows and Linux or other UNIX platform.

The Solution
The entire software was re-architected in C++ on Qt. The workflow based design of the existing application was carefully studied and migrated along with all the HMI screens. I/O modules, that the tool support inherently, for instrument communication over serial line as well as with the PLCs through Modbus over TCP/IP, was re-developed. The software was capable of handling all the functionalities of the existing software like controlling the basic etching operation, recipe creation, storage and loading, equipment maintenance like manual and automated rate of rise testing, RF calibration, purging, system configuration etc. Additionally, the software also implemented complete SECS / GEM protocol support, by which the etching devices can be controlled from any external PC acting as SECS host.

The software also supported data logging in different formats and provided interfaces with 3rd party charting and data analysis tools. The programming platform being Qt, the application could be ported easily from Windows to Linux platform, without practically any additional development effort. Finally the response time of the new application was also significantly better over the existing one.

The ported application was a great value addition to the customer due to its increased flexibility and ease of enhancement and maintenance.

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