Much Smarter Manufacturing

How AI, ubiquitous connectivity, and sensors everywhere are reshaping manufacturing of chips, and nearly everything else.

By: Ed Sperling, Semiconductor Engineering (as published on Semiconductor Engineering)

Smart manufacturing is undergoing some fundamental changes as more sensors are integrated across fabs to generate more usable data, and as AI/ML systems are deployed to sift through that data and identify patterns and anomalies more quickly.

The concept of smart manufacturing — also referred to as Industrie 4.0 in Europe, for the fourth industrial revolution — emerged from the World Economic Forum meeting in 2016 as a high-level goal for improving manufacturing efficiency through the use of new technology and better communication. Since then it has reached well beyond that initial concept, incorporating a growing portion of the semiconductor supply chain and adding more consistency and insights into manufacturing.

The semiconductor industry has been pushing in this direction even before there was a label. Over the past few years, equipment makers have been adding more sensors into equipment and various manufacturing processes. Chipmakers also have begun adding feedback loops from sensors in the field back to the manufacturing process to be able to pinpoint problems earlier in the manufacturing flow.