Rob Marcelis (BE Precision Technology ‐ The Netherlands), “H3D Profiler for Contact Less Probe‐Card Inspection”:
Probe cards require inspection since they are consumables subject to wear. Changes in probe position or shape can damage the semiconductor devices they are testing. As probe cards increase in size and probe count, the probe cards themselves are becoming more expensive to test in terms of test time and complexity. Each new test system typically requires an expensive “motherboard” for the probe card metrology tool to simulate the mechanics of the tester and provide electrical interconnect to the card for electrical testing.
Jose Horas (Intel Mobile Communications ‐ Germany), “28nm Mobile SoC Copper Pillar Probing Study”:
Intel Mobile Communications (IMC, previously Infineon Wireless) has started to switch from tin-silver (SnAg) solder bumps to copper pillars (CuP) with SnAg caps for attaching their die to packages. Since the bumps and pillars are formed on the wafer prior to testing of the devices the wafer probe process must accommodate both. CuP offer several advantages over SnAg bumps: tighter pitch (now at 120 µm and able to scale smaller versus 150 µm for SnAg bumps), lower substrate costs due to relaxed design rules, and lower assembly costs (easier to under fill).
As the number of probes on probe cards increase due to greater parallelism, driven by the desire for one touchdown testing and the future transition to 450 mm wafers, the total force required to probe a wafer increases if there is no reduction in the force per probe. This wafer prober chuck needs to apply the required force by pushing the wafer against the probe card typically held in place by the structure of the prober. With 200K probes on a 450 mm wafer each requiring 5 gF this is approximately equal to 1 ton (2205 lbF) of applied force. To reduce these force requirements wafer chuck and prober structure, Advantest and JEM have Continue reading “IEEE Semiconductor Wafer Test Workshop 2012 – Session 5 (Tuesday)”
Larry Levy (FormFactor, Inc.), “Is Parametric Testing About To Enter a Period of Growth and Innovation?”:
Upwards of one thousand facilities perform parametric wafer testing (based on 2009 market data) with over a third of these using obsolete test equipment. There have been no really new testers in several years – Agilent still has their 40xx series and Keithley has their S530 tester. And several companies have exited the market and some companies (including Keithley) are no longer supporting older models of testers. Since parametric testing remains an essential process, this has forced a high number of these facilities to use obsolete equipment or find other approaches. A few companies are going as far as using an Advantest 93000, a significantly more expensive and highly sophisticated digital tester, for parametric test. [Updated to clarify Keithley’s status.]
Tommie Berry (FormFactor, Inc.), “Actual vs. Programmed Over Travel for Advanced Probe Cards”:
As the number of probes on a probe card increase, the total force required to compress these probes – know as probe force – is increasing. With high force the actual over travel (AOT) – also know as overdrive – of the probe is often significantly different than the programmed over travel (POT) programmed in the prober. Even though memory test engineers with very high probe count cards have Continue reading “IEEE Semiconductor Wafer Test Workshop 2012 – Session 2 (Monday)”
This year’s IEEESemiconductor Wafer Test Workshop started on Sunday June 10th with a pleasant surprise. Due to a welcomed but unexpected wave of seventy walk-in registrations, there was insufficient seating at the opening dinner. Thankfully the hotel staff quickly adjusted to accommodate these additional guests. Attendance and interest in this year’s workshop was clearly up.
Jerry Broz, general conference chair, welcomed everyone with a brief overview and presented prizes for the first annual golf tournament. We then quickly proceeded with business as Matt Nowak (Senior Director, Advanced Technology, Qualcomm CDMA Technologies) provided the keynote “Emerging High Density 3D Through Silicon Stacking (TSS) – What’s Next?” Mr. Nowak discussed the increased amount of hype within the 3D semiconductor packaging market in the last year with everyone announcing something. And Thru Silicon Vias (TSVs) technology has already been in high volume production for image sensors for several years now but at a significantly lower density than for 3D packaging.
Limitations imposed by extreme temperature, extreme pressure, and toxic materials combined with a typically slow deposition rate make it is difficult to economically run these processes on an industrial scale for high volume manufacturing. But what if there was a process that Continue reading “Green on the Industrial Scale”
If we were focused on just these two parameters, we could be talking about horses, cars, or airplanes. But throw in density, endurance, and price and it is a horse race of different color. Not only does the winning technology have to balance speed and power, it needs to pack more functionality per area at a lower cost than existing solutions. Along with the endurance to last ten or more years.
Traditional burn-in systems hold multiple printed circuit boards (PCBs) with one or more devices in burn-in sockets to provide temporary electrical interconnect to a device under test (DUT). These PCBs and sockets are known as “burn-in boards”. And the systems in which they are loaded are “ovens” that permit temperature stressing, sometimes at both hot and cold temperatures, while stimuli are supplied to the chip. The purpose of “burning-in” a device is to screen for infant mortality in an accelerated manner.
Michael Huebner, FormFactor, “A Hot Topic: Current Carrying Capacity, Tip Melting and Arcing”:
Power consumption per dynamic random-access memory (DRAM) is increasing to as high as 400 mA or more under normal test conditions. At the same time the number of DRAMs being tested in parallel – and sharing the same power supply – is increasing. Therefore, the risk of current damage to probes is increasing.
Stevan Hunter, ON Semiconductor, “Use of Harsh Wafer Probing to Evaluate Various Bond Pad Structures”:
Recent product needs such as bond [pads] over active circuitry (BOAC), the use of copper (Cu) wire bonding, increased wafer probe touch downs (as many as 6 TDs), and the desire for greater device reliability has driven the need for more robust bond pads to survive wafer probing.
One method for checking for damage to the device from the probing process is via the “Cratering Test”. They etch off the top aluminum (Al) metallization layer of the pad to visually inspect for damage in the underlying titanium-nickel (TiN) barrier metal layer. If there is a problem they can spot a “crater” in the metal. They continue etching to remove the TiN layer to look for additional damage in the layer(s) below.
As the final presenter at this week’s IEEESemiconductor Wafer Test Workshop (SWTW), I outlined how critical it is to understand the true cost of a product’s architecture in “Probe Card Cost Drivers from Architecture to Zero Defects“. Without a proper understanding of these costs – especially for fully custom high technology products such as wafer test probe cards – it is impossible to maintain a sufficient gross margin. Gross margin is essential to maintain the health of a company and to fund the research & development required for innovation.
Yes, there were a few in the audience who appeared pleased since they are confident that their products are on the right path. There were others who may have been upset based upon their company’s direction. I would argue that a proper diagnosis – regardless of how disturbing – is essential to drive the proper cure.
There is plenty of opportunity in the test market and reasons for optimism. The key to long term prosperity is to really understand the fundamentals of the business and not be blinded by the technology.
I thank those who stayed for the entire conference and welcome your thoughts below. And I will be posting more about the conference (including my summaries) in the next few weeks.
At Tuesday’s IEEE Nanotechnology Forum, Phil Metz, Director of Business Development for SolFocus, discussed their technology in his presentation “SolFocus Concentrator Photovoltaics – An Introduction“. Though I enjoyed learning about their concentrator photovoltaic (CPV) technology (the presentation was appropriately focused for the audience), I had a greater appreciation for their integrated system approach including the economics. This was evident in the non-technical details he shared. As an early adopter with a residential photovoltaic (PV) system, I was surprised when comparing systems beyond the core technology.
Both CPV and PV systems convert the energy radiated from the sun to direct current (DC) power. Most “grid tie” systems then use an inverter to convert the DC power to alternating current (AC) power which is then fed into the power grid. Beyond these basic similarities, there are large differences in technology, complexity, and economics between the systems.
Gert Hohenwarter, GateWave Northern, Inc., “Hidden Performance Limiters in the Signal Path”:
For high frequency signals, designers typically pay attention to avoiding coupling to adjacent signal lines to prevent cross talk. However, they need to look at many other areas of the design including coupling to power or sense lines, signal impedance mismatch, resonances, and the power distribution/delivery system (PDS). Coupling and mismatch may lead to resonances which reduce the operating speed or reduce the switching margin. These areas may also increase crosstalk increasing noise levels and also reducing switching margin. In addition, problems in the PDS may also reduce operating speed or switching margin. Continue reading “IEEE Semiconductor Wafer Test Workshop – Signal Integrity – Session Five (Tuesday)”
The 20th annual IEEE Semiconductor Wafer Test Workshop (SWTW) started this evening. Rumor has it that attendance is over 240 this year which is a vast improvement over last year’s 160 or so attendees. At the peak the conference had almost hit 600. Things started off well with a reception where I had the chance to catch up with many industry friends and colleagues.
Joel presented an overview of inkjet technology and how they are applying it to printing circuits. They have developed a process that allows them to inkjet a catalytic ink which after UV curing allows the electroless (e-less) plating of copper. Given the choice of inkjet systems from scanning formats where the print head moves to fixed heads where the material moves past the head they have a wide range of potential substrate sizes and formats to choose depending on the end application. Continue reading “IEEE Consumer Electronics Society – Conductive Inkjet Technology”
College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering (CSNE). Not organized around traditional degrees (ME, EE, Chem-E, etc.) but around nanoscience, nanoengineering, nanobioscience, & nanofinance.
Due to R&D increasing as a percentage of revenue, very few companies will be able to continue making the investments in process development on their own. Therefore, over time there will be a migration to 2 or 3 technology clusters (or “camps”) worldwide.
Early in his career at Ampex he did the product planning for and led the team that introduced the VCR. In 1970, they partnered with Toshiba to manufacturer the units. He then illustrated with multiple examples, how we lost our ability to innovate and to remain competitive when we “off shored” the production of a given technology. This is also the subject of his book Winner Take All: How Competitiveness Shapes the Fate of Nations.
You can always learn something by hearing top notch presenters speak both in terms of content and style. And even after traveling the world, you may find hidden gems in your own backyard…
This evening I attended a local celebration for IEEE‘s 125th Anniversary. This was structured as a reception (code word: “networking”) followed by several keynote speeches.
First up on the program was a presentation to SRI (formerly known as the Stanford Research Institute) to recognize the 40th anniversary of the first transmission on the the ARPANET (the predecessor of the internet). At that time there were just four nodes: SRI, UCLA, UC Santa Barbara and University of Utah. A large number of the original engineers were on hand to have their achievement recognized. Continue reading “IEEE 125th Anniversary Celebration”