MANUFACTURING APPARATUS AND
INFORMATION PROCESSING SYSTEM
FIELD OF THE INVENTION AND RELATED
This invention relates generally to a semiconductor device manufacturing apparatus. More particularly, the invention is concerned with a host system for controlling and operating 10 a production machine or machines used in the manufacture of semiconductor device products, and a production machine and a device manufacturing method adapted to process a process request form such a host system in an optimized manner. 15
The price of a semiconductor manufacturing apparatus for use in the manufacture of semiconductor device products is increasing, due to recent enlargement of LSI integration density or enlargement of silicon wafer diameter to 300 mm, for example. Reduction of manufacturing cost is, therefore, 20 strongly desired.
In the production field, many attempts have been made to unify the monitoring and control over production machines to improve the machine operation efficiency and to thereby reduce the cost. 25
A typical arrangement for monitoring and controlling production machines is an on line work system which is based on a superior host system, called a master controller. This is achieved by simple communications such as start and end, for example, made between a host system and produc- 30 tion machines, and mainly it accomplishes the confirmation of an operation state of the production machines and the production machine control over sequential operations as programmed beforehand.
FIG. 1 illustrates an example of a system structure includ- 35 ing a host system and production machines. Denoted in the drawing at 11 is a host system for monitoring and controlling semiconductor production machines 13,14 and 15. Denoted at 12 is a job database for storing and controlling a file group, called job files, including process procedures corre- 40 sponding to the processes to be performed. Denoted at 16 is a process request to be applied from the host system 11 to the production machine 14, in this example. Denoted at 17 is a signal (notification) of process end, to be applied to the host system 11 from the production machine 14. In the arrange- 45 ment shown in FIG. 1, the host system 11 picks up a file for the process to be performed, out of the job files stored in the job database 12, and selects a particular one of the production machines 13-15. The host system then transfers the job file to the machine upon receipt of on-line instructions, to 50 apply a process request 16 to the machine. The production machine then performs a production process in accordance with the setting in the job file. When the process is completed, it applies a process end notification 17 to the host system 11. Thus, the process procedure in the unit of a job, 55 is completed.
For efficient production machine operation, it is important to predict the processing time of the production machine. However, in the semiconductor manufacture, even in a particular production machine, there is a possibility of 60 changing the procedure in detail in accordance with the process for the product to be produced. As a result, the processing time may be different with different lots, prepared for respective processes. Therefore, it is very difficult to predict the processing time exactly. Conventionally, the 65 prediction of processing time has to rely on experiences of operators.
Japanese Laid-Open Patent Application, Laid-Open No. 45929/1996, discloses processing time prediction wherein the processing time is predicted and displayed, prior to the production process, in accordance with the setting which differs with processes.
In this method of calculating the processing time in accordance with the content of the process, the processing time is predicted on the basis of setting items corresponding to the process to be performed. However, for example, there is a possibility that an automatic maintenance operation or correction operation is performed in accordance with the situation or condition inside a production machine. The predicted processing time may therefore differ from the actual processing time. Further, generally, the process items prepared by a user are set in relation to a production process to be performed, and optimization of the operation may be insufficient. For, as an example, a process which may operate well if executed periodically may be requested successively.
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
It is an object of the present invention to provide a semiconductor manufacturing system, a data processing system and/or a device manufacturing method, by which the state of operation of a production machine can be correctly predicted and monitored for on-line control of the same, to thereby improve the efficiency of operation of the production machine in a semiconductor manufacturing process and to thereby increase the productivity of a production factory.
In accordance with an aspect of the present invention, there is provided a semiconductor device manufacturing system, comprising: a production machine operable, in a predetermined process step and in response to acceptance of a process request applied on-line, to perform a process in accordance with the process request; process accepting means operable to accept process requests successively; and calculating means for predicting, by calculation, a required time necessary for completion of a process corresponding to a process request accepted by said process accepting means, said calculating means further being operable to predict, by calculation, a required time necessary for completion of a process corresponding to a second process request, prior to acceptance of the second process request by said process accepting means.
With this arrangement, the operation of the production machine can be monitored and controlled efficiently.
In accordance with another aspect of the present invention, there is provided an information processing system connected, on-line, to a plurality of semiconductor device production machines, comprising: file transmitting means operable to transmit a setting file to each of the production machines; request transmitting means operable to transmit a prediction calculation request to each of the production machines; selecting means for selecting, out of the production machines, a production machine which may be optimum in consideration of the results of a prediction, applied from the production machines, in regard to a required time necessary for completion of a predetermined process; and request applying means for applying a process request to the selected machine, and also for applying a request to each of the remaining production machines to delete the setting files already transmitted to them.
With this arrangement, the operations of the production machines can be monitored and controlled efficiently.
In accordance with a further aspect of the present invention, there is provided a device manufacturing method