Semiconductors are a key component in almost all modern electronics, including various kinds of communication, computing, IOT, automotive and control technologies. Pivotal develops GFC systems, an integral component in the production of semiconductor devices. These GFC systems control the flow of gas into process tools used in the production of ICs.
The Executive Team at Pivotal Systems has decades of experience in the semiconductor industry working at the leading process equipment companies. They came together realizing that the singular goal of the largest global semiconductor manufacturers and global equipment companies was to enable the manufacture of better semiconductor devices per hour of production. “We all understood that speed and repeatability of existing gas flow control systems were restricted to a certain limit, while the technology segment was all ready for innovation,” says John Hoffman, CEO of Pivotal Systems.
Pivotal’s GFCs help solve key semiconductor manufacturing issues through a proprietary hardware design, which is underpinned and driven by an internally developed and proprietary software operating system. This helps provide complete control and real-time measurement solution to its customers. It is used by Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) in both deposition and etching process tools supplied to Integrated Device Manufacturers for application in the semiconductor manufacturing process. Moreover, GFCs also enable Integrated Device Manufacturers (IDMs) to retrofit existing process tools installed in semiconductor fabrication plants.
Pivotal’s GFCs has hardware components such as gas inlet, internal volume, pressure transducer, Pivotal valve technology, and gas outlet into process tool production chamber. The control valve uses nanotechnology to deliver industry-leading accuracy in gas flows and can be controlled to the nanometer and at the millisecond, which allows the device to make adjustments in real time to deliver the required gas flow into the production tool. This volume, together with the pressure transducer, measures the change in pressure, enabling accurate monitoring of gas flows in real-time. This measurement methodology avoids the need for recalibration of the device, as well as providing the user with meaningful information regarding real-time flow accuracy. These core hardware features are supported and driven by Pivotal’s proprietary GFC application software which runs on a real-time Linux operating system.
GFC constantly monitors the rate of flow, pressure and temperature of gases and Pivotal’s software processes this information against the expected gas flow. The outcomes of each gas flow are updated into the GFCs ‘lookup table’ creating a feedback loop to adjust the valve position depending on variations in the GFCs operating condition. This learning process ensures the quantity of gas delivered into the process tool is accurate and repeatable throughout the manufacturing process regardless of changes in the operating conditions, such as downstream pressure of the gas. As the data gets recorded from each process run, the system compares it against the expected results. This enables Pivotal software to provide the IDM and OEM with actionable data insights allowing them to identify performance inhibitors including gas leakage points, upstream pressure issues, temperature control issues and other facility-level issues such as upstream contamination, or if the line is running low or contains the incorrect gas. Moreover, Pivotal has developed its GFC to be interoperable with the major OEMs from a system programming language perspective. The ability of Pivotal’s GFCs to operate across different OEM products can reduce the inventory of spare gas flow devices that an IDM needs to maintain at each facility.
While the company’s in-house software team is focused on continuously optimizing and improving the software platform, Pivotal also maintains the ability to deliver ongoing software updates capable of delivering these incremental improvements to process manufacturing performance without any change to the hardware required.