A system and method for detecting faults in wafer fabrication process tools by acquiring real-time process parameter signal data samples used to model the process performed by the process tool. The system includes a computer system including a DAQ device, which acquires the data samples, and a fault detector program which employs a process model program to analyze the data samples for the purpose of detecting faults. The model uses data samples in a reference database acquired from previous known good runs of the process tool. The fault detector notifies a process tool operator of any faults which occur thus potentially avoiding wafer scrap and potentially improving mean time between failures. The fault detector also receives notification of the occurrence of process events from the process tool, such as the start or end of processing a wafer, which the fault detector uses to start and stop the data acquisition, respectively. The fault detector also receives notification of the occurrence of a new process recipe and uses the recipe information to select the appropriate model for modeling the data samples. The fault detector employs a standard data exchange interface, such as DDE, between the fault detector and the model, thus facilitating modular selection of models best suited to the particular fabrication process being modeled. Embodiments are contemplated which use a UPM model, a PCA model, or a neural network model.