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executiveview by Robert Cappel, Senior Director of Corporate Marketing, KLA-Tencor Optical & E-Beam inspection address smaller designs

SEMICONDUCTOR MANUFACTURERS are implementing new patterning techniques and structures to produce smaller, faster devices for consumer electronics. At sub-20nm design nodes, innovative process control is required to optimize fab processes and ensure optimal yields.

Metrology and inspection tools serve as the key “check and balances” branch of IC manufacturing, enabling faster learning cycles and improved ramp-to-revenue schedules. By finding design, patterning or process issues early, fabs can maximize yield and device performance, while reducing costs and risks.

The real industry work horse for defect inspection has always been optical inspectors. As design nodes shrink and critical defects become smaller, it’s worth exploring whether e-Beam inspection should move to a more prominent role in a fab’s inspection strategy.

Let’s consider today’s manufacturers who must find small defects very quickly over large areas. Suppose we scale a 10nm defect to the size of a coin and disperse hundreds of coins across an area the size of California—representative of a 300mm wafer. Currently, broadband plasma optical inspection is the only technology capable of finding all the coins across a range of surfaces over this entire area in an hour. It would take the e-Beam tool over a year to inspect the entire area; or, it could inspect a very small area in an hour, missing critical

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information such as the overall distribution of coins or critical areas where they are located. Lacking this information, a fab could miss a major yield excursion, resulting in hundreds of millions of dollars in lost profit.

Innovations in optical technologies such as a laser-pumped broadband light source, optics as complex as those used in steppers, selectable apertures and high-speed sensors produce the sensitivity required to find small defects on advanced devices. The combination of these technologies provide inspection flexibility and capability that cannot be found in other optical or e-Beam inspectors, enabling critical defect detection on the widest range of process layers.

Additional innovations have made optical inspection smarter: NanoPoint provides ultra-focused inspection of critical patterns that serve as early indicators of design or process issues.

Since optical inspection couples critical defect sensitivity with the speed required for monitoring wafer and lot variations, it will continue as the dominant defect inspection approach. E-Beam will continue to play a complementary role, supporting optical inspection set up and detecting defect issues related to electrical problems, such as opens, shorts and reliability issues. With this strategy, IC manufacturers can quickly identify yield and reliability issues, ensuring successful and fast product ramp.

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