Getting the measure of semiconductor production

Advances in optical metrology equipment are helping the semiconductor industry increase productivity and reduce downtime, finds Keely Portway


he global semiconductor industry is set to grow by $90.8bn from 2020 to 2024 according to a report, with one of the biggest drivers

being the use of semiconductor packaging technology. Research firm Technavio’s forecast

would demonstrate a 4 per cent CAGR over that time. But, with hundreds of steps over several weeks involved in the manufacturing process of semiconductor wafers, this particular growth does not come without its challenges. Should there be any defects early in the

process that are missed, then all of the subsequent time and cost-heavy work will have been in vain. According to Jean-Francois Pichot,

sales director at 3D measurement system provider Precitec: ‘The goal for these companies is to avoid producing bad parts. To do this, they need to undertake a quality inspection to avoid losing time and money caused by bottlenecks,’ he said. ‘In the semiconductor industry, time

really is money. The more wafers they make per hour, the more revenue, and the materials they use are extremely expensive, so they do not want to have to scrap bad parts.’ That is why optical metrology equipment is now an essential tool in semiconductor production. | @electrooptics

The little things According to the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), device feature sizes are projected to decrease to less than 5nm in the next two years. This means, said the IEE in its International Roadmap For Devices And Systems: ‘Scaling as we know it is expected to soon reach its physical limits, or get to a point where cost and reliability issues far outweigh the benefits. The use of complex 3D structures fabricated using new materials and processes with ever decreasing dimensions is also projected to accelerate within the next years.’ This means that metrology solutions must continually evolve and develop to accommodate an increasingly wider variety of technologies, said the IEE. What’s more, because instruments routinely measure near and at atomic scale dimensions, their manufacture requires an understanding of these materials’

‘Scaling as we know it is expected to soon reach its physical limits, or get to a point where cost and reliability issues far outweigh the benefits’

June 2021 Electro Optics 19


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