Semiconductor Market - A Perfect Fit for Time Sensitive Networking

By Thomas Burke

Global Strategic Advisor

CC-Link Partner Association

June 16, 2023


Semiconductor Market - A Perfect Fit for Time Sensitive Networking

Semiconductors are the building blocks of modern electronic devices. They are used in everything from smartphones to laptops, cars, medical equipment, and even space exploration. The continuous advancement of semiconductor technology drives innovation across industries, allowing for the creation of new and improved products.

In addition, the semiconductor industry is a significant contributor to the global economy. It is a highly profitable industry, generating billions of dollars in revenue each year. It also provides employment opportunities to millions of people worldwide. This also makes the semiconductor market a very competitive market, where accuracy, speed, cost, and maintenance impact the revenue margins and viability of manufacturers.

Motion control is a critical aspect of semiconductor manufacturing. Precise and accurate motion control is necessary for the precise positioning of wafers, masks, and other components during semiconductor fabrication processes. Some of the challenges in motion control for the semiconductor industry include accuracy and speed as mentioned before, but also vibration control and noise reduction that can impact the precise positioning of material. The coordination of many factors, even environmental factors, such as temperature, humidity, and electromagnetic interference can affect quality. Motion control systems need to be designed to operate reliably in these environments without affecting the quality of the final product.

Device vendors serving this sector can extend their current product offerings and take advantage of cutting-edge new technology to drive their customers’ success even further while growing their market share. It is crucial, in this high-tech sector, for companies to offer advanced, highly competitive solutions that can address the semiconductor industry’s current as well as future challenges and needs.

Advanced Communications Enable Advanced Quality, Precision, and Performance

Producers of chips and other electronic equipment need to ensure maximum precision and accuracy, operating under stringent and often isolated, environmental conditions to deliver high-quality products. Effective track and trace systems that can monitor the movement of resources and goods across factories as well as the entire supply chain are also needed. To succeed in this, it is crucial to set up a network that, in addition to high speed and deterministic performance capabilities, can also support higher enterprise-level systems for robust material tracking and tracing throughout the entire production line. Ultimately, what semiconductor manufacturers require is a network technology to enable the highly effective convergence between the operational technology (OT) and information technology (IT) domains.

Ethernet with Time Sensitive Networking (TSN) is a Game Changer

TSN is ideal to address these needs, as a technology that was developed to enhance industrial Ethernet so that it could merge disparate types of data traffic. In effect, thanks to TSN functions, it is possible to support real-time and deterministic automation communications along with Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) communications. More precisely, by providing guaranteed data transport with bounded low latencies, networks based on TSN are able to transfer best-effort traffic as well as mission-critical data in a timely manner, over a single cable.

TSN technology delivers these benefits by leveraging new Ethernet chip technology that delivers advanced time synchronization, traffic shaping, and scheduling methods for traffic prioritization, as set out in the IEEE 802.1 Ethernet standards. In particular, the new clock synchronization can support high-speed, extremely accurate and deterministic operations on the shop floor. This is especially important in motion control applications, so prevalent in fab applications. At the same time, traffic prioritization enables the network to feed different systems with either real-time traffic or best effort traffic. New TSN-based Ethernet switches are all that is needed for the integration and isolation of high-performance traffic in the enterprise.

Given these key benefits, the positive impact that the application of TSN to automation products can have in driving up the competitiveness of users as well as developers is clear. More precisely, vendors offering TSN-enabled solutions can meet current and future market needs while advancing the performance of their devices.

Smart Manufacturing is a Focus for Semiconductor Manufacturing

Smart manufacturing is an approach that uses data analytics and machine learning to optimize the semiconductor manufacturing process. It enables real-time monitoring and control of the manufacturing process, leading to improved yields, reduced costs, and faster time to market.

TSN enables the integration of both IT and OT networks, exposing more devices and their data for analysis. With more data, manufacturers can monitor various aspects of the manufacturing process in real-time. This includes data on equipment performance, product quality, energy consumption, and environmental conditions. By analyzing this data, manufacturers can identify potential issues, deviations, or inefficiencies and take proactive measures to address them promptly. More data allows manufacturers to implement predictive maintenance strategies. By collecting and analyzing data on equipment performance, including sensor readings, temperature, vibration, and other relevant parameters, manufacturers can predict when equipment is likely to fail or require maintenance. This helps minimize downtime, optimize maintenance schedules, and reduce costs associated with unexpected breakdowns.

Access to more data enables advanced quality control and defect detection capabilities. By analyzing data from various sensors and inspection systems, manufacturers can identify patterns, trends, and anomalies that may indicate potential defects or quality issues. This allows for early intervention, reducing scrap, rework, and product recalls.

More data provides manufacturers with insights into process optimization opportunities. By analyzing data across different stages of the manufacturing process, manufacturers can identify bottlenecks, optimize workflows, and streamline operations for improved efficiency and productivity. More data enables manufacturers to implement data-driven continuous improvement initiatives. By analyzing historical and real-time data, manufacturers can identify trends, patterns, and areas for improvement. This facilitates data-based decision-making, allowing for the implementation of process optimizations and efficiency enhancements over time.

Manufacturers will Benefit from Equipment with TSN-Based Products Inside

TSN-based Ethernet network technology is crucial to helping vendors deliver truly future-oriented solutions. When vendors opt to use TSN in their products, they can offer TSN functions and enable new levels of performance with their customers. One example of a protocol that is TSN-ready today is CC-Link IE TSN. This is the first open industrial Ethernet that combines gigabit bandwidth and TSN. As a result, in addition to traffic synchronization and scheduling, the technology also supports today’s Ethernet speeds such as 1Gbps transmission rates. This is key to facilitating the prompt, simultaneous transfer of large volumes of IT and OT data from different assets.

CC-Link IE TSN was also designed to provide a broad development ecosystem. Thus, vendors can leverage the tools that are best suited to address their specific needs, in terms of end product performance as well as time, resources and investment. Thanks to these features, automation specialists that leverage CC-Link IE TSN can maximize the opportunities available in the semiconductor sectors, helping to drive the industry forward.

Thomas J. Burke is Global Strategic Advisor for the CC Link Partner Association (CLPA). Tom also serves as Global Director of Industry Standards for Mitsubishi Electric to lead the strategic development and adoption of networking standards, including the adoption of Mitsubishi Electric’s open networks solutions. Tom is also the Global Directory of Industry Partnerships for ICONICS, providing leadership to increase market share of ICONICS’ leading-edge product portfolio.

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