Singapore plant breaks the mould with high-tech and safe manufacturing | Manufacturing Asia
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A drone shot of GlobalFoundries' expanded facility. /GlobalFoundries Media

Singapore plant breaks the mould with high-tech and safe manufacturing

GlobalFoundries’ expansion facility sets up an advanced system capable of transporting wafers without requiring manual labour to minimize risk for workers.

GlobalFoundries’ expanded factory in Singapore put up an advanced technology called an overhead automated material handling system. What it does is promote a safe working environment, pacifying concerns about the perceived hazards of manufacturing jobs that often deter potential talent.

Dan Steele, senior director of Global Environmental, Health Safety and Security Operations at GlobalFoundries Singapore, said they automated repetitive tasks by investing in robots, thereby freeing up employees from tedious work.

The overhead automated material handling system can perform 110,000 front-opening unified pod (FOUP) moves daily.

“Much of manufacturing today has moved beyond the kind of labour-intensive, low-cost production that informs traditional stereotypes of manufacturing,” explained Steele in an interview with Manufacturing Asia.

For further employee protection, Steele said the firm has invested in advanced detection capabilities for hazardous gases. The work environment is monitored on a real-time basis, and employees are evacuated if such gases are detected.

“Our gas detection limits are set at tighter restrictions far below the required level based on authority guidelines,” Steele said.

He said they also have an environmental safety team that conducts regular fire drills and emergency response training to prepare employees to respond to emergencies.

Near campus

The 23,000-square-meter expansion fabrication plant was built near GlobalFoundries’ campus in Woodlands Wafer Fab Park.

“Being situated next to our existing facilities also enables us to easily tap into and share resources across fabs,” said GlobalFoundries Singapore Senior Vice President and General Manager Tan Yew Kong.

“Choosing this location over setting up in a separate green field also aligns with our global expansion strategy and how we continue to build incremental capacity at our existing sites for greater economies of scale,” added Tan.

The company invested US$4 billion (S$5 billion) to set up the plant, which opened in September 2023. Over 1,000 high-value jobs will be opened, with 95% of the talent needed including equipment technicians, process technicians, and engineers.

The expansion facility also has other Industry 4.0 technologies such as AI deep learning wafer pattern recognition, an in-house invention that “helps to increase productivity through AI deep learning and pattern recognition to auto-classify and spot defects in wafers, reducing human hours required to do the same task,” said Tan.

It also has a Machine Learning Predictive Maintenance, which is used to “determine when a tool is due for maintenance based on real-time parameters, which will help minimize downtime, improve wafer quality, extend production time, and predict potential tool failures.”

Another Industry 4.0 tech is the AI Computer Vision Tool Fingerprint Search, which can recognize and match wafer defects with tool fingerprints and makes it easier to narrow down to the errant tool in question. It speeds up troubleshooting, which then minimizes downtime and any quality event exposure.

Factory goals

The expansion fab will produce an additional 450,000 wafers (300mm) yearly, increasing GlobalFoundries Singapore’s overall capacity to over 1.5 million wafers (300mm) each year.

Steele said the expansion facility was also designed to produce environmental performance. The facility implemented technologies that will raise overall energy efficiency and water recycling rate from reusing and recycling water to phasing out fossil fuels.

“Both the Administration and Manufacturing buildings earned Green Mark Gold status from Singapore’s Building and Construction Authority,” said Steele.

The factory uses electricity-driven heat pumps to heat water, which eliminates exhaust emissions and reduces overall energy demand.

There are also advanced abatement systems on manufacturing tools within the facility, including a thermal oxidizer system designed to treat volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the exhaust. This is expected to reduce the concentration of VOCs ranging from 90% to 99.5%.

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