Info
Info
News Article

Productively Managing Equipment Relocations

Manufacturing consolidations have led to industry-wide change. When fabs open or close, relocating valuable process tools is a key consideration. As specialist NSTAR explains, making a move productive and efficient takes a trusted partner.

Over the past few years, the secondary market for 200mm semiconductor manufacturing equipment has been on a roller coaster ride. First the market declined, causing as many as two hundred 200mm fabs to close, resulting in an estimated 6,000 used semiconductor tools coming onto the market. This was followed by a resurgence in added capacity driven by new applications related to mobility, sensing and the Internet of Things (IoT) as well as refurbishment of 200mm fabs to leverage legacy node silicon and alternative materials process tools to build devices that do not require the capacity of 300mm wafers. Industry consolidation has further added to the number of high quality process tools moving across regions and to different countries.

Many plant owners are outfitting 200mm and other fabs with refurbished tool sets purchased on the secondary market. Considering that a large number of these tools are located at manufacturing facilities scattered across the globe, removing process equipment from a particular factory"”either to relocate the asset, resell it, or scrap the tool"”can be a monumental logistical nightmare if not handled correctly. This article discusses the complexity of semiconductor equipment relocation, using two case studies to illustrate best practices.

Decontaminating, decommissioning and relocating complex process tools is a highly specialized business that requires very specific skills, and considerable expertise. There are two paramount concerns: to protect the value of the asset, and, to ensure that the decommissioning and relocation is conducted safely. A third element"”time"”also drives some moves when relocating assets to another facility is done because the receiving fab operator needs the tool to be brought up to full capacity as rapidly as possible.

Semiconductor chips are built in fabs and foundries that use extremely sophisticated equipment requiring a variety of toxic gases, chemicals and high electrical power. The decommissioning and relocation process is built around safety as the primary concern. The process for de-installation starts with "˜fingerprinting' the tool so that its as-is condition is documented, recording the system functionality, the last qualification records and creating a ghost image of the tool software. Then, the system is decontaminated: chemical and physical hazards are removed, and any process gases or liquids are flushed/purged. The system is next disconnected from all utilities, all lines are capped or plugged, and any loose parts are individually labelled, wrapped and packed into shippable containers along with necessary documentation. Finally, the process tool itself is rigged, packed and crated for transport, and the site is remediated for any environmental impacts resulting from prior manufacturing operations.

At every step along the way, the de-installation process is documented; following proper safety protocols is critical. (For example, in some cases, the use of hazardous material suits and self-contained breathing apparatus are required.) The key to successful equipment relocation is meticulous planning, rigorous project management and adherence to best known methods (BKM), all with a strong overlay of "˜safety first.' Depending on the project size, teams should include a project manager, a safety manager and enough engineers/technicians to execute the project, along with any specialized equipment for loading, delivery and on-site setup if the tool is moving to a new operational location. The complexity of the project is also determined by whether the tool or tools are in a working fab"”if manufacturing operations are ongoing, the decommissioning and relocation project must be designed to not impact ongoing production.

Case studies
One recent case involved decontaminating, decommissioning, disassembling, moving out/crating, shipping, uncrating and installing over 70 semiconductor process tools, and ancillary and support equipment within live production environments across the globe at different integrated device manufacturer (IDM) locations. The IDM contracted M+W Group as the general contractor and NSTAR Global Services as the project management team to handle the relocation. It began with the de-install process in Israel and concluded with installation in Singapore.

The relocation team provided technical resources who liaised with the client's tool owners to provide a concise snapshot of the tools' fingerprint prior to decommissioning (which included functionality audits, making ghost images of hard drives, and last qualification records). Following the steps previously outlined, and using BKMs, the tools were disassembled and loose parts were individually labelled, wrapped and packed into shippable containers. Each tool travelled with a complete parts inventory assembled prior to crating, with all pertinent shipping documents provided.

At the time de-installation was taking place in Israel, the team was simultaneously preparing the receiving site facility in Singapore to reduce tool downtime, enable full integration and ensure a smooth transition of the production process. The same engineers and technicians who handled the de-installation performed the reinstallation to ensure continuity of tool knowledge. Most importantly, the entire project was achieved with zero safety incidents.

A second relocation case study involved moving tools from a deactivated facility, with tools destined for installation in multiple locations for reinstallation. One hundred semiconductor process/metrology tools required decontaminating, decommissioning and rigging-out from a facility in Taiwan that had closed and was no longer in production. This situation creates an entirely different set of challenges and site restrictions. The tool inventory had been sold to various companies and brokers with the understanding that a single general contractor (GC) would control the overall site management. The GC mandated that all documentation and discussions be conducted in Taiwanese. To facilitate these conditions, the company assigned a bilingual Asia project manager who assembled a team of Taiwanese resources comprising a safety officer, lead engineers, engineers and technicians. All team members were involved in daily meetings with the safety officer during the ongoing tool removal, and site walks were conducted three times a day. Throughout the project, safety protocols were strongly emphasized. Even under drastically different conditions, the project was successfully completed without incident.

Conclusion
As illustrated in this article, managing the logistics of semiconductor equipment relocation is an extremely complex process, with many and varied challenges that differ from one situation to another"”all depending on tool locations, conditions at both originating and receiving sites, government restrictions, etc. Relocating semiconductor equipment requires a specialized skill set, and should not be undertaken in an ad hoc manner. Rather, for optimal outcome in semiconductor, flat-panel display and solar manufacturing industries it is best to contract with a company specializing in equipment decommissioning, decontamination and relocation services such as NSTAR Global Services (M+W Group).



AngelTech Live III: Join us on 12 April 2021!

AngelTech Live III will be broadcast on 12 April 2021, 10am BST, rebroadcast on 14 April (10am CTT) and 16 April (10am PST) and will feature online versions of the market-leading physical events: CS International and PIC International PLUS a brand new Silicon Semiconductor International Track!

Thanks to the great diversity of the semiconductor industry, we are always chasing new markets and developing a range of exciting technologies.

2021 is no different. Over the last few months interest in deep-UV LEDs has rocketed, due to its capability to disinfect and sanitise areas and combat Covid-19. We shall consider a roadmap for this device, along with technologies for boosting its output.

We shall also look at microLEDs, a display with many wonderful attributes, identifying processes for handling the mass transfer of tiny emitters that hold the key to commercialisation of this technology.

We shall also discuss electrification of transportation, underpinned by wide bandgap power electronics and supported by blue lasers that are ideal for processing copper.

Additional areas we will cover include the development of GaN ICs, to improve the reach of power electronics; the great strides that have been made with gallium oxide; and a look at new materials, such as cubic GaN and AlScN.

Having attracted 1500 delegates over the last 2 online summits, the 3rd event promises to be even bigger and better – with 3 interactive sessions over 1 day and will once again prove to be a key event across the semiconductor and photonic integrated circuits calendar.

So make sure you sign up today and discover the latest cutting edge developments across the compound semiconductor and integrated photonics value chain.

REGISTER FOR FREE

VIEW SESSIONS

Info
×
Search the news archive

To close this popup you can press escape or click the close icon.
×
Logo
×
Register - Step 1

You may choose to subscribe to the Compound Semiconductor Magazine, the Compound Semiconductor Newsletter, or both. You may also request additional information if required, before submitting your application.


Please subscribe me to:

 

You chose the industry type of "Other"

Please enter the industry that you work in:
Please enter the industry that you work in:
 
X
Info
X
Info
{taasPodcastNotification}
Live Event