SAN FRANCISCOŚChip equipment vendor KLA-Tencor Corp. Thursday (Jan. 19) announced three new wafer defect inspection systems that the company hopes will provide leading-edge chip makers with the process control ammunition they will need as the industry implements new technologies on multiple fronts.
The semiconductor industry has ambitious plans to develop and implement several big technology changes over the next few years, including extreme ultraviolet lithography (EUV), the transition to 450-mm wafers, 3-D packaging with through-silicon-vias (TSVs) and 3-D transistors, also known as finfets.
"The next five years could be the most challenging we have ever seen in terms of complexity," said Robert Cappel, senior director of marketing at KLA, who added that customers are also incorporating a host of new materials into the manufacturing process.
Cappel said the expected process technology hurdles are reminiscent of the period from 2000 to 2005, when the industry migrated to 300-mm wafers, switched to 193-nm ArF lithography and undertook under challenges. During that time, KLA experienced an increase in demand for process control technology as chip makers worked to spot and deal with new types of defects that previously weren't a problem, Cappel said. He believes chip makers will once again ratchet up the implementation of process control to help them implement all of these changes to their chip making processes.
"Moving forward, this is where we really see some significant challenges for our customers," Cappel said.
KLA's new suite of systems includes the 2900 Series broadband optical wafer defect inspection platform, the Puma 9650 Series narrowband optical wafer defect inspection system and the eS800 Series e-beam wafer defect inspection platform. Cappel said the new tools were designed with an eye to flexibility and increased throughput to help customers implement mix-and-match strategies for process control.
Cappel said it's difficult to tell how many process nodes that customers will be able to use the new tools for, but that KLA strives to make sure customers can use tools for at least two nodes. In the case of the 2900 Series, Cappel said customers are using the tool now for 28-nm and have shown a great deal of interest in using it at 22-nm. KLA believes the tool has the capability to go down to 18-nm, Cappel said.
"One of the things that we try to do, we really strive hard to make sure that it's dependable for multiple nodes," Cappel said. "We try to make sure that a product is good for at least two design nodes, and we push for more."