In order to foster the competitiveness of the European semiconductor industry, 35 European partners have formed the joint research project IMPROVE (Implementing manufacturing science solutions to increase equipment productivity and fab performance). The project runs from 2009 to end of 2011 and targets an increased productivity of semiconductor manufacturing as well as reducing costs and processing time.
The European IMPROVE joint research project includes software enterprises, semiconductor companies with production sites in Europe, chip fab equipment providers and academia from Austria, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy and Portugal. Infineon Technologies has a leading role among the chip manufacturers and coordinates the activities of the German partners. The project results will strengthen the European semiconductor industry by the enhanced efficiency of the production sites, offering the opportunity to create new jobs.
The functionality of new chips leads to high complexity in their fabrication along with longer production times due to additional processing steps and development times. Making a complex chip requires an average of 550 individual process steps, which take approximately 12 to 16 weeks. The typical production run is 50 to 100 wafers after which manufacturers have to reset production tools for the next product. This makes a minute condition monitoring and predictive maintenance essential in order to stay competitive. The monitoring of semiconductor production tools and processed wafers over the whole fabrication line, combined with innovative data-analysis strategies will maximize the output of high-quality wafers.
The IMPROVE project has a total budget of approximately Euro 37.7 million, half of which is carried by the partners. The other budget half is publicly funded by the European Commission and by national funding of the participating nations through the joint undertaking of the European Nanoelectronics Initiative Advisory Council (ENIAC) as part of the sub-program “SP4 Nanoelectronics for Energy & Environment”. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) supports the project with Euro 3.5 million within the funding program “Informations- und Kommunikationstechnologie 2020 (IKT 2020)”.
The IMPROVE project partners are semiconductor and chip plant manufacturers and software suppliers such as AP Technologies (Germany); Atmel (France); Austria Microsystems (Austria); camLine (Germany); CNR-IMM (Italy); Critical Software (Portugal); Infineon Technologies (Germany); InReCon (Germany); Intel (Ireland); iSyst (Germany); LAM (Italy); Lexas Research (Ireland); Numonyx (Italy), PDF Solutions (France), Probayes (France); STMicroelectronics (France), Straatum (Ireland) and Techno Fittings (Italy).
Academic partners are CEA LETI (France); Dublin City University (Ireland); Ecole des Mines de Saint Etienne (France); Fachhochschule Wiener Neustadt (Austria); Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Systems and Device Technology (IISB, Germany); GSCOP (France); Italian National Council of Research (Italy); LTM CNRS (France); the German Universities of Augsburg and of Erlangen-Nuremberg and the Italian Universities of Milano, of Padova and of Pavia.