PEER FACTORY Acceptance Tester (PFAT)
Build and run complete test automation scenarios to validate equipment automation
PEER FACTORY® Acceptance Tester (PFAT™) is a scenario test designer. Semiconductor OEMs use it to build and execute holistic test automation scenarios to ensure equipment meets factory requirements.
SEMI standards compliance testing with CCS Envoy™ has become a routine part of most fabs’ and OEMs’ equipment quality assurance programs. But standards testing alone does not ensure equipment will run successfully in production. As standards evolve and fab-specific implementations diversify, automation conformance has become increasingly difficult and costly for both fabs and OEMs.
PEER FACTORY® Acceptance Tester (PFAT) is the first test solution in the industry that addresses these issues. PFAT has been developed as a highly configurable, SECS/GEM simulation tester for validating equipment automation. With a graphical test designer and real-time results tracker, PFAT allows the user to quickly design tests that simulate any fab’s operational scenario and pinpoint test failures.
- PFAT’s easy to use drag-and-drop user interface enables engineers to quickly create reusable and extendable test sequences. PFAT allows users to build a library of tests that can be later linked to form an entire equipment test suite. Engineers can then rapidly create or customize a test suite for various operational scenarios based on existing system tests in their library.
- PFAT addresses the challenge of testing permutations of equipment and communications errors, as well as associated recovery scenarios. Configurable values within tests and test suites let you run the same tests for a variety of conditions with minimal effort.
- PFAT is an advanced SECS/GEM simulator, enabling fast and easy creation of complex fab automation scenarios.
Perform dynamic simulation tests
PFAT contains a variety of features that increase the productivity of test engineers, shorten fab acceptance time, and increase equipment reliability in production.
For new equipment orders, both fabs and OEMs have the same goal: get the equipment into production quickly and running at the highest possible performance. However, as automation standards evolve, equipment designs become more complex and fab-specific implementations diversify; automation conformance has become increasingly difficult and costly for both fabs and OEMs. As a result, the industry is demanding additional testing capabilities to complement established methods.
Configurable test capability
Automation testing is a two-step process: standards testing and scenario testing. The first step, done primarily by the OEMs using CCS Envoy™, assures fabs that their equipment is meeting the SEMI automation standards. Many fabs will run their own CCS Envoy tests, particularly for equipment entering the fab for the first time, while some fabs even maintain Automation Capabilities Management (ACM) programs where they work closely with the OEM to ensure compliance. Although testing with CCS Envoy has become a routine part of most OEMs’ quality assurance programs, it alone doesn’t ensure that the equipment will run successfully in production. Discovering these problems after the equipment has shipped results in costly field support calls and software updates for OEMs as well as a delayed ramp into production for the fab.
As a result, a second QA step—testing against the fab specific operational scenarios—is more frequently being performed by fabs or required of OEMs. Previously automation engineers at both the fabs and OEMs have created their own testing tools using standard programming languages or SECS-based scripting products such as PEER Group’s SECSIM Pro®+. These approaches can be effective for testing basic communications, but lack the ability to create and execute production-equivalent scenario tests that account for complex and parallel equipment software interactions, timing differences, data validation, as well as hardware and software failures that are necessary to assure software reliability. These methods also make it difficult to re-use, adapt and manage test libraries from tool-to-tool (for a fab) or fab-to-fab (for an OEM).
Both fabs and OEMs desire an easily configurable test product designed specifically for equipment automation software quality assurance to complement CCS Envoy. Having a common approach to automated software testing that can be used from controls development through quality assurance and through to factory acceptance reduces the effort and investment required for increased software reliability.
PEER FACTORY Acceptance Tester
PEER FACTORY® Acceptance Tester (PFAT) is a highly configurable host simulation product. With its graphical test designer and real-time results tracker, users can quickly design tests that simulate the fab’s exact tool operational scenarios and pinpoint test failures. Fabs can accelerate test development across their entire equipment list. Likewise, OEMs can re-use operational scenarios across several fabs.
PFAT’s integrated testing environment incorporates user-developed or third-party software applications into PFAT test scenarios, combining SECS communication testing with data analysis, dynamic data selection, hardware simulation, triggering timing differences and error scenarios, and any other SQA process. PFAT enables an automated, unified approach to equipment software testing, giving the user the ability to test the equipment much closer to real factory conditions within the context of a single automated test.
PFAT reduces testing time
Quickly create test sequences with PFAT’s easy-to-use drag-and-drop user interface; no programming experience is needed. Design simple tests in just a few minutes and a normal lot processing test in less than an hour. Easily create a variety of complex tests, such as marathon production runs containing repetitive, nested, or parallel test execution paths, conditional execution based on the results of other tests, or advanced error detection. Executing tests is faster too. Execute tests as a group in the background for long-running tests or view the test sequences in real time, providing quick feedback that is especially useful for test prototyping. Generate comprehensive reports that provide visibility into tool quality, pinpoint equipment errors, and also easily collaborate and share test plans between users or between a fab and OEM.
Faster fab acceptance
With 50-75 equipment models arriving to a new fab, automation engineers need an expedient way to ensure that incoming equipment will pass all automation tests and move into production quickly. Likewise, OEMs must test and adjust their equipment to meet the automation specifications of 50-75 fabs over the typical lifespan of an equipment platform. PFAT allows users to build a library of system tests that can later be linked or embedded within other tests to form an entire equipment test suite. PFAT’s flexible test structure lets you encapsulate common functionality in reusable test sequences that can then be integrated with customized tests to capture non-standard, fab-specific or tool-specific differences.
A fab test engineer, for example, can rapidly develop a test suite for a new incoming equipment model based on existing system tests in the test library. OEM engineers can do the same when faced with a new fab customer. With most of the system tests having already run successfully, engineers on both sides are confident that the new equipment model will move into production with few automation problems.
In addition, PFAT’s collaboration mechanisms help fabs and OEMs resolve integration issues quickly. Engineers responsible for test design and execution can share test scenario files, annotated images and log file packages that describe tool behavior and communicate failure points to help troubleshoot key issues that occur during tool testing and deployment. Similarly, management can use results reports to review quality statistics for a tool that are critical for quickly understanding tool shipment readiness or production readiness for the fab. These collaboration utilities make it much easier for fabs and OEMs to align quality assurance programs and conduct effective troubleshooting.
Increased tool quality
Obtaining the highest possible equipment reliability requires testing all the permutations of the equipment. Since variations for equipment configurations are unlimited—varying process types, wafer flows, processing and loading positions, and third-party components from different manufacturers—fully testing equipment reliability is a complex challenge. Testing “normal” operation using a SECS interface reveals only a small percentage of failure rates and does not fully exercise the equipment software. With PFAT, you can build a side communications channel with the equipment control software (ECS) or hardware simulators to expand your test scope and generate alternate scenarios that impact the automation interface, such as triggering hardware failures, introducing alternate timing sequences, or analyzing equipment data. Results or data from these other applications can be reintroduced into PFAT and used to alter the execution flow of the test.
PFAT is only product on the market today which is specifically designed to do comprehensive production testing of SECS-based equipment for production readiness. Both high-volume manufacturers and their suppliers use PFAT to find and solve problems on their equipment in order to accelerate installation, increase equipment reliability and avoid costly repairs in the field.
“PFAT enables us to quickly build and execute fab-specific tests that mimic our customers’ production environments, and to run such tests repeatedly and automatically to evaluate the robustness of our equipment controller. PFAT can help us improve our overall equipment performance and reliability.”
Senior R&D and Software Director