A new company has introduced a 65nm wafer inspection tool with new technology that it says not only achieves higher sensitivity and throughput than competitive tools, but does so at lower cost.
The Negevtech 302 tool combines bright-field and dark-field wafer inspection technologies into one platform. The design is enabled by a patented process called "Step&Image" 2D imaging that uses short pulsed UV laser illumination and a large, two-dimensional focal plane assembly to create die-sized images at a high rate. The focal plan assembly enables a large field of view, which improves throughput and reduces costs.
Gadi Neumann, managing director of Negevtech Ltd., told WaferNews that the Step&Image 2D technology "can detect all defects in wafers. It's the only one of its kind." Chipmakers have been using separate light field and dark field inspection tools, Gadi added; the 302 combines both technologies into one tool.
Negevtech claims that the 302 improves cost of ownership (COO) by a factor of ten. This dramatic cost improvement is produced by a combination of higher throughput, the replacement of two tools with one, a smaller tool footprint (up to 50% less), and, surprisingly, a lower purchase price. Part of the reason for the low price, said Neumann, is that the bill of materials for the machine is low compared to competitive tools.
The Negevtech 302 is designed for entry at the 90nm node, and optimized for the next generation 65nm node. Three tools currently are installed for beta testing, two in the US and one in Europe, at "leading semiconductor manufacturers." The beta tests will evaluate tool performance for microprocessor, DSP, and DRAM production. Neumann said that the company is "on the verge" of installing a fourth tool. The company's goal is to have seven tools installed at seven fabs by the end of this year, according to Neumann.
Negevtech's management is quite familiar with the semiconductor industry. Neumann launched a wafer inspection company, Orbot Instruments, Ltd., which was acquired by Applied Materials in 1997. Another member of the management team, David Alumot, co-managing director, co-founded Orbot, where he invented and developed the WF 710 wafer inspection system. Alumot later joined Opal, where he led the development of the SEMVision, which is claimed to be the first fully automatic defect review system. Opal also was acquired by Applied Materials in 1997.—K.F.