Semiconductor fab training to use VR

Semiconductor fab training to use VR

Business news |
By Nick Flaherty

A UK project is aiming to develop sophisticated training for semiconductor manufacturing using virtual reality (VR) models of equipment for the first time.

The project, led by SemiWise in Glasgow, includes UK 300mm fab operator PragmatIC Semiconductor and the NMI which represents the UK’s fab operators.

Building an advanced semiconductor fabrication facility typically incurs a cost ranging from $10 billion to $20 billion says the project, and there is no such facility in the UK. The expense of a single deep EUV stepper, at $500 million, exceeds that of an Airbus A380,

This creates a challenge of how to train individuals to work within a costly semiconductor fabrication facility without imposing a burden on vital resources within an existing facility or constructing a new educational one. This has been the subject of a consultation under the UK’s proposed semiconductor structure.

The Virtual Reality Semiconductor Fabrication Training Facility (VRSFT) being developed by SemiWise, PragmatIC and NMI will subcontract EDA tool developer Synopsys and training software developer Denova.

“We intend to craft an immersive VR model of a contemporary fabrication facility featuring lifelike representations of the equipment, which can be operated analogously to flight simulators,” said SemiWise.

It points out that the Airbus A380 flight simulator required several years and approximately €20 million in expenditure, while the project has £500,000 (€600,000) in funding.

To address this the project will use a Technology Computer-Aided Design (TCAD) process simulation tool called Sentaurus Process Explorer that can simulate the operation of crucial equipment used in semiconductor device manufacturing. Synopsys will provide the software from its TCAD R&D centre in Glasgow and will establish connections with key equipment manufacturers.

Equipment makers such as ASML in the Netherlands has already been using augmented reality for training on its equipment.

“This approach enables us to create an advanced training simulator without necessitating substantial initial capital investment and time allocation. We consider this approach to be one of the most effective means of training and up-skilling engineers for work in the semiconductor industry. This initiative will propel the UK to the forefront of semiconductor education, as to the best of our knowledge no comparable program exists anywhere in the world,” said Prof Asen Asenov, CEO of SemiWise, which is part of the Semiconductor Education Alliance set up by ARM.

Charles Sturman, CEO of Techworks, emphasised the significance of the project. “This project constitutes a vital component in ensuring the success of the UK Semiconductor Initiative. The UK possesses the potential to emerge as a global leader in semiconductor R&D and training, owing to its world-renowned universities and robust academic presence,” he said.

“As the sector innovates and develops new technology, like Pragmatic’s flexible integrated circuits, the global demand for skills will continue to grow. Virtual reality training has the potential to accelerate adoption of this technology, both in the UK and worldwide,” said Clare Hodcroft, Vice President of People at Pragmatic Semiconductor.;;;;

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