Laser micromachining firm 3D-Micromac has introduced the microPREP 2.0 laser ablation system for high-volume sample preparation of metals, semiconductors, ceramics and compound materials for microstructure diagnostics and failure analysis (FA).
Built on a highly flexible platform with a small table-top footprint, the microPREP 2.0 allows for easy integration into FA workflows. Developed jointly with Fraunhofer Institute for Microstructure of Materials and Systems (IMWS), the microPREP 2.0 complements existing approaches to sample preparation such as focused ion beam (FIB) micromachining, offering up to 10,000 times higher ablation rates and therefore an order of magnitude lower cost of ownership (CoO) compared to FIB. As the first stand-alone, ultrashort pulsed laser-based tool for sample preparation, the microPREP 2.0 brings additional unique capabilities, such as enabling large-area and 3D-shape sampling to allow for more comprehensive testing of complex structures.
Sample preparation - an enabling step for semiconductor failure analysis
Cutting and preparing samples from semiconductor wafers, dies and packages for microstructure diagnostics and FA is an essential but time-consuming and costly step. The primary method of sample preparation used in semiconductor and electronics manufacturing today is FIB micromachining, which can take several hours to prepare a typical sample. FIB only allows for very small sample sizes, and precious FIB time is wasted by "digging" excavations needed for cross-sectional imaging in a scanning electron microscope or making a TEM lamella. Reaching larger depths or widths is severely restricted by the limited ablation rate.
3D-Micromac's microPREP 2.0 significantly accelerates these critical steps, bringing sample preparation for semiconductor and materials research to a new level. By off-loading the vast majority of sample prep work from the FIB tool and relegating FIB to final polishing or replacing it completely depending on application, microPREP 2.0 reduces time to final sample to less than one hour in many cases.
"This award-winning tool brings unprecedented flexibility into sample prep. We at Fraunhofer IMWS are facing the need for targeted, artifact-free and most reliable preparation workflows to be able to serve our industry customers with cutting-edge microstructure diagnostics. Made for diverse techniques like SEM inspection of advanced-packaging devices, X-ray microscopy, atom probe tomography, and micro mechanics, microPREP was developed jointly with 3D-Micromac to close gaps in preparation workflows," said Thomas Höche, Fraunhofer IMWS.
Last month, 3D-Micromac and Fraunhofer IMWS received the prestigious TUV SUD Innovation Award for their collaboration on the development of microPREP 2.0. The annual prize honors successful cooperation between small and medium-size enterprises and research institutions. It is administered by TUV SUD, a leading technical service corporation serving the industry, mobility and certification segments.
Key benefits of microPREP 2.0 include:
- Much higher ablation rate compared to FIB (by several orders of magnitude)
- Up to an order of magnitude lower CoO compared to classical FIB workflow
- High degree of automation due to recipe-based, ergonomic user interface
- Extremely high energy densities can be focused in very small areas (allowing for operation in the multi-photon absorption regime needed to machine at-wavelength-transparent materials and enabling stable process windows)
- Virtually no structural damage from local heating due to the platform's very short pulse lengths (pico-second range)
- Providing larger-sized samples with micron-level precision—enabling multi-site FA on whole chip or package areas in a much shorter period of time and a multitude of workflows delivering samples for various FA techniques
- Enables the creation of samples with complicated/3D shapes to enable more comprehensive analysis of certain structures, such as through silicon vias (TSVs) or even complete systems-in-package (SiP)
- Laser processing without elemental contamination
microPREP 2.0 can be used for a variety of semiconductor sample preparation applications, including: in-plane geometries and bulk samples; cross-sections; box milling (such as for diagnostics of electrical connections and 3D chip-level structures); and full line cut (for complex investigations of complete devices). Samples can be moved between microPREP 2.0 and FA tools using the same pin stubs and holders, which provides even greater ease of use and time savings.
"The growing complexity of microelectronics manufacturing is driving the need for faster, more reliable and cost-effective, and artifact-free sample preparation techniques at the micron scale," stated Jan Klinger, chief sales officer at 3D-Micromac. "Building on our extensive expertise in laser micromachining, 3D-Micromac can now offer an optimal sample preparation solution for this market. By off-loading the coarse and time-consuming task of sample preparation to a simple and fast support tool, microPREP frees up our customers' time to focus their efforts on fab-critical issues like trouble-shooting process and yield problems."