SAN FRANCISCO - For years, Applied Materials Inc. and KLA-Tencor Corp. have been butting heads in the inspection market.
The feud reached a boiling point not long ago, when Applied entered the reticle inspection market to take on KLA-Tencor. San Jose, Calif.-based KLA-Tencor is the dominate player in photomask inspection.
Initially, Applied generated some buzz, as it reportedly cracked the account at Intel Corp. And it appeared that KLA-Tencor was on its heels in the arena.
Most of the noise was just hype. Applied ''has not made a dent in the mask shop,’’ said Brian Trafas, chief marketing officer at KLA-Tencor. ''They have a few systems in the fab, but it’s a small share.’’
Indeed, there appears to be two markets for mask inspection. Traditionally, the tools have been installed in the mask shop. But more recently, these systems are moving into the fab to inspect masks during the pre-production process.
In the fab, mask inspection is key to detect the so-called haze affect. 193-nm immersion lithography enables smaller devices, but it sometimes causes unwanted haze or crystal growth on the mask. This is the result of lithography exposure and photochemical reactions on the mask surface.
The presence of contamination on a reticle during device manufacturing can be catastrophic, since a defect on the reticle has the potential to generate a defect in every die on every wafer printed from that reticle.
To detect haze and other problems, Applied, KLA-Tencor and NuFlare sell mask inspection tools for fabs and mask shops. For years, KLA-Tencor has been in both segments, but now it wants to redo the favor and put Applied on its heels.
At Semicon, KLA-Tencor introduced the TeraFabHT reticle inspector and eDR-5210S wafer defect review tool. These new tools are designed to address the accelerating problem of reticle contamination in leading-edge foundries and other fab environments, according to KLA-Tencor.
The TeraFabHT reticle inspection system features improvements to the previous-generation TeraFab, including KLA-Tencor's STARlight mode. The new tool claims to have an increased detection sensitivity and throughput compared with previous-generation system.
It provides the inspection of single-die, multi-product masks and leading-edge mask types. The eDR-5210S e-beam wafer defect review system features high resolution and connectivity to the TeraFabHT. It provides the characterization of printing variability of reticle-induced defects across the wafer.
KLA-Tencor's TeraFabHT reticle inspection system and eDR-5210S wafer defect review tool can be purchased as new systems or as field upgrades from the previous-generation inspection and review toolset. The tools are backed by KLA-Tencor's new service network, dubbed KlearPoint, a client-server real-time tool monitoring system.