Scheduling Cluster Tools in Semiconductor Manufacturing: Recent Advances and Challenges

Chun Rong Pan, Meng Chu Zhou, Yan Qiao, Nai Qi Wu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

87 Scopus citations


Cluster tools are automated robotic manufacturing systems containing multiple computer-controlled process modules. They have been increasingly used for wafer fabrication. This paper reviews the modeling and scheduling methods for cluster tools with both nonrevisiting and revisiting processes. For nonrevisiting processes, we focus on the modeling and scheduling problems of cluster tools with different constraints. Then, their solution methods are reviewed and compared. For revisiting processes, this paper first discusses the scheduling problem of some general manufacturing systems with revisiting. Then, the modeling and scheduling methodologies used to solve the scheduling problems of cluster tools with revisiting processes are reviewed. Future research directions and conclusions are finally discussed.Note to Practitioners-Semiconductor manufacturing systems are among the most advanced and complicated manufacturing systems. Their key equipment is highly automated robot-based cluster tools. With wafer residency time constraints, wafer revisiting, activity time variation, chamber cleaning requirements, and failure-prone process modules (PMs), it is very challenging to schedule and control them. This paper surveys their modeling and scheduling methods. Scheduling them requires one to schedule their robot tasks and processing activities simultaneously. Owing to wafer residency time constraints and the lack of buffers among PMs, it is difficult to conduct their optimal scheduling. This paper presents a thorough review of the state-of-the-art research results about modeling and optimal scheduling of clusters tools and indicates the future research directions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)586-601
Number of pages16
JournalIEEE Transactions on Automation Science and Engineering
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Control and Systems Engineering
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


  • Cluster tools
  • modeling and scheduling
  • semiconductor manufacturing
  • wafer fabrication


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