EtherCAT is well established in the semiconductor industry: twelve of the thirteen market-leading manufacturers of wafer-level production equipment are members of the EtherCAT Technology Group (ETG) and use EtherCAT in their machines and systems. Industry leader Applied Materials was a founding member of the ETG and is represented on the association's Board. Large semiconductor manufacturers are now prescribing EtherCAT for their new production facilities. EtherCAT is the SEMI™ standard, and the ETG's very active Semiconductor Technical Working Group has developed a whole range of industry-specific device profiles. Safety over EtherCAT has also found its way into the fabs.
Beckhoff is the inventor of EtherCAT and a pioneer in PC-based control and modular I/O components. No other manufacturer has more EtherCAT expertise or offers a greater variety of EtherCAT devices. TwinCAT is the gold standard for EtherCAT masters, and of course every EtherCAT device supplier uses the TwinCAT software as reference.
Beckhoff solutions are represented in the entire spectrum of the semiconductor industry: whether front-end or back-end, whether chips or photovoltaics, from wafer transport to assembly systems. Beckhoff has the right I/O modules, scalable controllers, powerful drive technology and compelling software solutions for all applications – naturally combined with EtherCAT, the “must-have” in this industry. It goes without saying that, as a reliable partner to the semiconductor industry, Beckhoff is also familiar with the special requirements of this industry, such as "Copy Exact".
Beckhoff technology highlights for the semiconductor industry
Special acceptance in the semiconductor industry: EtherCAT is SEMI™ standard
Beckhoff launched the EtherCAT technology in 2003. The EtherCAT Technology Group () was established with the support of 33 founding members, including Applied Materials. Since then ETG has been dealing with the standardization and maintenance of the technology. With more than 6,000 members (as of October 2020), ETG is now the world's largest industrial fieldbus user organization. In 2005, the Safety over EtherCAT protocol supplemented the EtherCAT specification with the capability to transmit safety-relevant data. The protocol is particularly lean in its implementation, but completely independent of the communication system used (black channel). In 2007 EtherCAT became the IEC standard and the SEMI™ standard. 2011 saw the launch of ETG's Semiconductor Technical Working Group, in which users and manufacturers develop and maintain special device profiles for the semiconductor industry in 11 task groups. This not only guarantees the openness of the system, but also demonstrates its high acceptance in the semiconductor industry. To this day the EtherCAT specification has never been changed, only extended in a compatible manner. This means that today's devices can still be operated in networks dating back to 2003, so there are no versioning problems.
In 2016 the extension set a further milestone with the transfer of EtherCAT communication and supply voltage (2 x 24 V) on a standard Ethernet cable. This concept became the basis for machines without control cabinets. In 2018 a big step towards higher transfer rates was taken with . The integration of the existing EtherCAT device range is a main requirement. Among other things, the branch concept was introduced for this purpose.
is by far the fastest industrial Ethernet technology. Added to this is the outstanding synchronization accuracy in the order of nanoseconds. Of course, all applications in which control or measurement tasks are performed via the bus benefit from this. Thanks to the significantly reduced response time, all applications in which switching conditions occur are also more efficient. In addition, the EtherCAT system architecture reduces the load on the controller: with the same cycle time, CPU load reductions of 25 to 30% are typical compared to other bus systems. Used correctly, the EtherCAT performance leads to higher accuracy and higher throughput and thus lower costs.
With EtherCAT it is not the bus system that determines the network topology, but the system structure. No switches or hubs are required, which means there is no limit with regard to cascading. With EtherCAT there are practically no restrictions in terms of the bus topology: line, tree, star, and any combination thereof are possible, with almost any number of nodes. Thanks to automatic link detection, nodes and network segments can be disconnected and reconnected during operation, even at another point in the network. For line redundancy, the line is complemented to form a ring. On the master side, in addition to software only a second Ethernet port is required for this purpose; slave devices support redundancy in any case. This also makes it possible to replace devices during operation.
Simple and robust
Configuration, diagnostics and maintenance are significant cost factors. The EtherCAT Ethernet fieldbus greatly simplifies these tasks: if desired, EtherCAT assigns node addresses automatically, without the need for manual intervention. Low bus load and a peer-to-peer setup maximize electromagnetic compatibility. Any faults are not only reliably detected, but also precisely located. This shortens the time required for troubleshooting. Deviations from the planned layout are immediately detected by means of a target/actual comparison on system startup. The outstanding EtherCAT performance also comes in handy for the configuration: in contrast to other systems, no network tuning is required. And thanks to the large bandwidth, the system can easily cope with additional TCP/IP traffic. Since EtherCAT itself is not TCP/IP-based, there is no need to manage MAC or IP addresses, nor a need for IT experts to handle switch or router configuration.
Functional safety as an integral part of the network architecture can easily be achieved with Safety over EtherCAT (FSoE). The technology is tried and tested, as evidenced by the fact that TÜV-certified devices have been available since 2005. FSoE meets the requirements of SIL 3 and SEMI™ S2 and is suitable for both centralized and decentralized safety controllers. Thanks to its black channel approach and a particularly compact safety container, FSoE can also be used on other buses. The integrated approach and the lean protocol result in low system costs. Non-safe control systems may “listen in” and evaluate the safety-relevant data.
Safety over EtherCAT: functional safety as an integral part of the network architecture
Safety over EtherCAT (FSoE, Fail Safe over EtherCAT) defines open, safe transmission and enables much more flexible safety solutions than conventional hardware interlocks. The technology certified by TÜV is internationally standardized in IEC 61784-3 and meets the requirements of IEC 61508 up to SIL 3 as well as the SEMI™ S2 Guideline. In Safety over EtherCAT, the transport medium is regarded as a “black channel”; the FSoE protocol can therefore be transferred via any communication technology, i.e. EtherCAT or Ethernet, and also via standard fieldbus systems such as CAN or wireless connections. FSoE ideally complements the open EtherCAT technology and guarantees high-performance transfer of control and safety information via the same communication system.
Benefits of FSoE in the semiconductor industry:
- Meets higher safety requirements with SIL 3 than conventional hardware interlocks; at the same time, it is much more flexible:
- changes in software instead of hardware: faster prototyping
- analog signals can also be safely evaluated and used
- for drives: safe speed reduction instead of switching off and restarting
- transfer via any media
- Functional safety can be integrated into existing control architecture without having to replace the controller with an expensive safety controller.
- The existing control system can “listen in” – i.e. it can respond to safety-relevant signals and situations as required and communicate these to the user or to the fab network.
- FSoE is the fieldbus safety standard supported by the largest number of component manufacturers.
Beckhoff product highlights for the semiconductor industry
I/O expertise for the semiconductor industry: the EtherCAT plug-in modules
As a specialist for PC- and EtherCAT-based automation solutions, Beckhoff helps to reduce costs in the semiconductor industry with the EtherCAT plug-in modules from the EJ series: compact, high-volume I/O modules replace application-specific I/O boards, while signal distribution is handled by easy-to-develop passive circuit boards. At the same time, the system integrates functional safety and small drive controllers, thus opening up new possibilities for more compact and simpler yet more flexible designs.
The EJxxxx EtherCAT plug-in modules are electronically based on the well-known EtherCAT I/O system and their design allows them to be directly attached to a circuit board. The circuit board is an application-specific signal distribution board that distributes signals and power supply to individual application-specific plug connectors. Costly manual single-wire assembly, as is common in conventional control cabinet construction, is a thing of the past thanks to ready-made cables and cable harnesses. Unit costs are lowered and the risk of incorrect wiring is reduced to a minimum by coded components.
Plug and work
The EtherCAT plug-in modules are based electronically on the well-known EtherCAT Terminals, whose broad variety of signals they also provide, including functional safety (FSoE, TwinSAFE). Even drive controllers for servomotors and stepper motors up to 200 W are available in this design. The electromechanical design enables the modules to be plugged directly into an application-specific signal distribution board with outsourced wiring level. This PCB distributes signals and power supply to individual application-specific connectors. The combination of I/O modules, signal distribution board and pre-assembled cables implements the Plug & Work idea consistently.
The EJ modules are extremely compact, measuring just 12 x 55 x 66 mm. Compared to the EtherCAT Terminals they are almost 50% smaller by volume, thus optimizing the machine footprint. In conjunction with coding holes in the signal distribution board, coding pins on the underside of the EJ modules offer the option of providing protection against incorrect connection. The risk of errors can thus be considerably reduced during assembly and service.
Optimized for the semiconductor industry
The EJ plug-in modules and the plug level for sensors and actuators can be placed flexibly on the signal distribution board. A signal distribution board can be developed by the user, a service provider or by Beckhoff as a custom solution. It is also possible to integrate the EJ modules into a very compact housing, which can be placed even in the smallest installation space available in the tool.
The modular coupler for housing feed-throughs can be connected to external RJ45 sockets for EtherCAT connection and to optional ID switches for address setting. The connected components can thus be freely positioned on the signal distribution board and simply serve as housing feed-through for external connection or address setting. In combination with the plug-in power supply modules for the E-bus supply, the E-bus current can be supplied specifically by two different performance classes 2.5 A () and 12 A ().
The circuit boards of the EJ system provide a prefabricated and pluggable EtherCAT I/O system that perfectly meets the requirements of the semiconductor industry: compact design, significantly fewer unused I/O channels than with previous solutions thanks to the modular approach, integration of functional safety and drive technology as well as reduced system installation time and testing effort. And all this with high-quality electronics from one of the leading I/O manufacturers!
TwinSAFE: the open and scalable EtherCAT safety solution
The integrated TwinSAFE safety solution is the logical continuation of the open, PC-based Beckhoff control philosophy. Thanks to their modularity and versatility, the TwinSAFE components fit seamlessly into existing EtherCAT control systems.
The TwinSAFE system enables integration into all applications, thereby contributing to breaking down the previously strict separation between “safety” and “non-safety” through system integration in all environments. At the same time, TwinSAFE offers impressive flexibility and scalability. All safety functions can be integrated into any conceivable control architecture: from stand-alone control systems, small control systems and “conventional” solutions to distributed control systems and software control systems that can meet even the most complex requirements. Machine manufacturers and system integrators thus get a tailored safety package that exactly meets their requirements. Unnecessary costs for incorrectly dimensioned safety solutions are avoided.
Thanks to the flexibility of Safety over EtherCAT (FSoE), the actual machine controller does not have to be designed as a safety controller: the safety application is executed in TwinSAFE logic-capable components, of which a wide range is available. The TwinSAFE system also offers a suitable selection of safe input, output, and mixed components, so that the solution can easily be adapted to specific requirements. The TwinSAFE system can meet all requirements, from application in control cabinets in the form of EtherCAT Terminals, to application directly in the field in the form of EtherCAT Box modules, through to application in series machines in the form of EtherCAT EJ plug-in modules.
In the field of drive technology, too, solutions without safety functionality are hardly conceivable anymore. Beckhoff therefore started integrating safety functions into its drive systems at an early stage – in both standard and compact drive technology. In the field of engineering, Beckhoff has already merged the safety-related and non-safety-related tool landscape. All applications can be configured and programmed with the universal tool palette. The TwinCAT Safety Editor is a freely-definable editor that facilitates the implementation of a safety application with the aid of certified function blocks. The certified application manual offers optimum support in the design and implementation of a safety application.
Machine manufacturers and users benefit from Beckhoff's comprehensive and long-standing safety expertise. The complete safety know-how is available in-house at Beckhoff and can be called upon by customers in each individual TwinSAFE solution. Here, too, the focus is on the principle of openness. The Safety over EtherCAT (FSoE) safe communication protocol is internationally certified and does not impose any restrictions whatsoever on the transmission medium.
Your benefits from full integration:
- consistency: everything from one source
- simple networking: all information is available in an integrated system
- adaptability: easily adaptable to current and future requirements through modularity and scalability
Flexibility in finding solutions with TwinSAFE:
- comprehensive software support
- high-performance safety controls in various designs
- safety components for different environmental conditions
- safety components in various granularities for optimal adaptability
- Thanks to SIL 3, users are also optimally equipped for future requirements.
Beckhoff measurement modules: the right device class for any application
With its continuously expanding measurement technology portfolio, Beckhoff covers the full range of measurement technology requirements in the semiconductor industry: from second-cycle to the kHz range, from measurement of voltage and current to vibrations and force measurement. IP20 components read the sensors from the control cabinet. The high-end measurement modules of the ELM device series are seamlessly integrated into the EtherCAT I/O system and also cover those process-critical measuring channels for which the standard analog technology in the EL terminal system is not suitable. The measurement modules of the Basic line are designed for capturing highly dynamic processes with high measuring accuracy, and simultaneously across all channels and modules. The Economy line is designed to capture less dynamic processes. Integrated 24 V sensor supply and 24 V power contacts reduce the wiring effort in the control cabinet. With its enormous temperature stability of 100 ppm in the temperature range typical for control cabinets, the Economy line even outperforms the Basic line. The typical signal forms found in the semiconductor industry are of course available. Both product lines support proven EtherCAT features such as the Distributed Clocks time stamping in the ns format and bus diagnostics.
Beckhoff measurement technology: the right device class for any application:
- recording of operation and diagnostic data in a database or in the cloud
- reliable data analysis
- improved diagnostics
- increased system availability; longer service life
- lower maintenance and system costs
Individual product transport with the eXtended planar motor system
XPlanar combines many advantages of conventional transport technologies in one system and adds a floating effect to product transport. This results in a wide range of new options for handling wafers and other products within a tool and also between several machines: Since the system works contactless, no abrasion occurs.
Similar to automated guided vehicle systems, the user benefits from the freedom of movement of the object carriers: parts can be transported to any location via any route. XPlanar combines this flexibility with the dynamics of conventional linear motors and offers added value through cycle-time-optimized linking of individual production steps. XPlanar significantly simplifies individual production steps, because the degrees of freedom and accuracy familiar from robotics can also be used here for product transport. The concept of product positioning during processing is applied to the transport system. The floating effect replaces all mechanical guide components and drastically reduces cleaning and maintenance costs.
Principle of operation
XPlanar consists of a planar motor which, like rotary motors, consists of several stationary, energized coils (tiles), and movable permanent magnets (movers). In contrast to rotary motors, both the coils and the permanent magnets are arranged two-dimensionally in a plane. The tiles are the electrically active parts of the system. The outstanding current control of the coils makes the movers float above the tiles. The robust housing of the tiles contains all the components required for controlled floating in a compact installation space. The movers are electrically passive and particularly resistant to wear. No external systems for position detection of the movers or additional power supply units are required. In addition to tiles and movers, the only other component required for operation is a Beckhoff Industrial PC with corresponding software (TwinCAT). TwinCAT specifies the movements of the movers and avoids collisions between them.
Flexible parts transport without abrasion
The movers transport each part through the machine on individually defined routes. Individual production steps can be linked with each other as required, making rigid station sequences a thing of the past. The movements of the individual movers are completely decoupled from each other: the products may overtake each other, and they can be discharged or buffered, e.g., for cooling, without affecting the production flow. Simultaneous production of different formats is possible thanks to the availability of different mover sizes in one system.
Exceptional dynamics and robotic precision qualify XPlanar as an efficient positioning system for processing different batch sizes and product variants. The movers navigate complex XY geometries, which are defined individually for each product.
- individual and decoupled product transport
- simultaneous production of different formats
- precise positioning during machining
Application-specific machine layout
XPlanar offers users revolutionary freedom in designing individual machine layouts. The XPlanar tiles can be laid freely in a plane. Suitable geometries can be selected with hardly any restrictions. Rectangular arrangements, circles or tree-like structures can be realized. The machine design entirely follows the function required by the user. The size of the XPlanar system always matches the requirements. Overhead avoidance saves valuable production space.
Minimum cleaning and maintenance effort
XPlanar is characterized by minimal cleaning and maintenance effort. No mechanical components are used to connect the tiles and the movers. In contrast to conventional transport systems, no guide rails, rollers or lubrication systems are required. The time required for regular maintenance intervals is reduced to a fraction, which significantly increases system availability. The absence of mechanical components simplifies system cleaning, which is an additional benefit. All tile and mover surfaces are smooth and easy to reach. For use in particularly demanding environments, the XPlanar tiles can be covered with stainless steel, glass or plastic to protect them from aggressive cleaning processes. The floating properties of the movers are not affected.
- no wear-prone mechanical components
- easy cleaning
- Can be covered with stainless steel, glass or plastic.
Efficient and high-torque
Semiconductor manufacturing systems usually have many servomotors and stepper motors, each with relatively low power. Conventionally these are controlled by special drive controllers. Beckhoff enables this functionality to be integrated directly into the modular I/O stations. This saves space and reduces complexity.
For the low voltage range up to 48 V DC Beckhoff offers a modular system for compact servo and stepper motor drive solutions. Together with the motor series, the EtherCAT plug-in modules, servo terminals or the series EtherCAT Box modules form an extremely small, highly dynamic servo axis that is suitable for precise positioning applications with One Cable Technology (OCT) and multi-turn absolute value encoder. The safety-related function STO (Safe Torque Off) is offered as an option for compact drive technology.
The and stepper motors can be operated in conjunction with the EJ70xx plug-in modules or the EL70xx Bus Terminals in IP 20 or with IP 67 EtherCAT Box modules as an adjustable axis, optionally with or without feedback. The AS2000 stepper motors are characterized by a high degree of protection and integrated connection technology.
Decentralized and versatile
The series combines the servomotor with an integrated high-efficiency servo drive. As an EtherCAT slave, the AMI8100 can be placed directly on the machine without control cabinet and without upstream I/O level, whereby compact machines without control cabinets can be implemented. The monitoring is indicated by the integrated status LEDs. The safety-related function STO (Safe Torque Off) is offered as an option for compact drive technology.
The linear actuators are equipped with an integrated 48 V servo drive and can be installed decentralized in the machine. The integrated absolute encoder eliminates the need for additional limit switches or external measuring systems for operation, making integration even easier.
Planetary gear units for compact drive technology and stepper motors
The low-backlash economy planetary gear units from the series, in straight and angled versions are with a variety of transmission ratios an economical solution for all mechanical engineering requirements. They are optimally matched to the Beckhoff AM8100 and AS2000 products. Special series planetary gear units are available for the AS1000 stepper motors.
A comprehensive and optimally matched range of accessories complements the compact drive technology portfolio. The products provide optimum support for machine manufacturers in the selection and commissioning of suitable hardware components for their drive solution.