Ordering a Wet Bench Station for Your Specific Process Requirements

Semiconductor manufacturing requires many process steps that must be followed and controlled in a very precise manner. Process requirements can include cleaning, etching, developing and stripping. Handling the aggressive chemicals means special attention has to be given to safety and disposal. The physical characteristics required in the production line have to be considered as well. Special features such as recirculation, heating, additional process control and degree of automation can be ordered.

Not all semiconductor equipment manufacturers can offer a complete line of wet bench stations incorporating the latest technology and using their own software. The many options and differing process requirements mean that almost every installation is customized to some extent. An experienced supplier who can provide advice and deliver the best systems is needed for achieving optimal results.

Physical Requirements Affect the Ordering Process

The three types of physical factors influencing the wet bench equipment specifications are the available space, wafer size and wafer throughput. Limited space for new installations or a requirement to integrate with an existing system may mean that compact stations are required. The baths must be able to accommodate the wafer size proposed for the application. Throughput is governed by the number of cassettes that can be processed per bath, the number of stations, the estimated process duration and the estimated downtime for replacing chemicals, maintenance and other process-related factors.

Space limitations are often critical. Factors that can reduce space requirements are what functions a station can execute and whether some functions, such as rinsing and drying, can be combined or need separate spaces. Chemical delivery systems can take space or might be placed remotely or behind the productions line. Such questions can be explored with a qualified supplier.

Throughput is often a critical variable affecting profitability. Automatic transfer of wafers between stations and automatic process control may save time. How the process is controlled, for example in a piranha “feed and bleed” type of operation, may affect how long a chemical bath can be used without changing the chemicals and may also affect downtime for maintenance. Often advanced technology from a leading supplier can increase throughput.

Wet Bench Equipment, Controls and Accessories Have to Support the Process Chemistry

Wet bench processes such as RCA clean, KOH and Piranha use highly aggressive chemicals. The equipment has to resist the corrosive substances and feature safeguards to keep operators secure. Some processes, such as silicon nitride etching, have to have special controls. Processes using especially dangerous chemicals such as hydrofluoric acid require additional safety measures.

Equipment for specific wet bench processes can include the following:

  • Quartz baths for cleaning etching and stripping applications. High temperature recirculating or constant temperature baths.
  • Teflon tanks for etching applications. Heated, recirculating and ambient temperature.
  • Silicon nitride wet etching bath. Special control features for silicon nitride removal with phosphoric acid.

Semiconductor fabrication facilities, research labs and universities that require wet process equipment first have to make sure that prospective suppliers can provide equipment with the special features needed. Heating control accuracy and precise calculation of dosages is essential for high quality output and a low product failure rate. Suppliers who manufacture, assemble and program their own equipment can be relied upon for complete after sales support and service.

Modutek Can Help

Modutek has worked closely with semiconductor fabricators and has extensive experience in providing semiconductor manufacturing equipment. The company assembles its own systems in their San Jose California facility and company specialists program their own software and controls. Modutek has state of the art wet bench stations and has pioneered improvements for processes such as silicon nitride removal and Piranha etching. With its in house expertise, the company can analyze customer requirements and propose the best solutions.

Reviewed and Approved by Douglas Wagner
President & CEO, Modutek Corporation

Selecting Silicon Wet Etching Equipment for Your Application

Silicon wet etching equipment is required in the manufacture of semiconductor components and selecting the right equipment is essential for maintaining facility performance and excellent product quality. The products produced from these facilities range from relatively simple electronic parts to complex components with intricate microstructures and an electronic/physical structure interaction. These varying requirements mean that most systems have to be customized for the specific application.

Selecting wet etching equipment along with related accessories and controls may require expert help because the system parts have to be closely integrated and seamlessly take the silicon wafers through many fabrication steps. Precision dosages, accurate temperature control and exact timing are important for consistency. Manufacturers who assemble their own equipment and program their own software will be able to give the most useful advice on system selection.

Getting the Right Tanks and Baths

Tanks made of different materials and with different options support different chemical processes. Quartz baths are used for cleaning with processes such as RCA and SPM while Teflon tanks are used for etching applications such as KOH and TMAH. Stainless steel tanks are for solvent baths and all the tanks have to be made from high-quality materials that reduce contamination.

Tank features that are specific to various processes can include heating, cooling and re-circulating. Chemicals are heated to speed up etching and cleaning but the temperature has to be tightly controlled to ensure etching is precise and repeatable. Sub-ambient filtered etch baths are used with buffered oxide etch (BOE) and can operate in a 10 to 60 degree Celsius temperature range. Recirculation keeps the temperature constant and can include filtering.

Silicon nitride wet etching is a special case because the baths need a two-tier control system that avoids temperature bumps from the addition of water to the phosphoric acid used in the process. Control measures are needed to maintain the water acid ratio by adding small amounts of water while ensuring that the water immediately mixes with the acid. If an application requires nitride etch, this type of control feature is essential.

Automation Can Improve Throughput and Yield

Automation of different process steps can make the process run exactly as desired and allows operators to program variables with excellent results for subsequent batches. Wet benches can be operated manually, semi-automatically or with full automation. Manual control lets operators set process parameters and calculate chemical doses before starting and monitoring the process. In semi-automatic operation, many of the process steps are carried out robotically but still under the control of the operator. Full automation runs the entire process.

Automation impacts the performance of silicon wet etching equipment in several ways, including the following:

  • Reduced human error.
  • Reduced chemical use
  • Increased etching accuracy
  • Improved etch rates

These factors become especially important with semiconductor products in which components are densely packed or which have intricate microstructures. Better control of temperatures, dosages and timing means product defects are fewer, yields are higher and product quality is improved. Running the same automated program again results in excellent repeatability. Reducing operator interaction with harmful chemicals increases safety and employee job satisfaction.

Modutek Provides Industry-Leading Silicon Wet Etching Equipment

Modutek can provide silicon wet etching equipment for all common wet bench processes and has the expertise to customize systems for specific customer applications. All equipment is assembled in house at the San Jose, California facility and the software is designed and programmed by the company’s specialists. Modutek has extensive experience in semiconductor manufacturing equipment and can help customers select the best silicon wet etching systems to satisfy their requirements.

Reviewed and Approved by Douglas Wagner
President & CEO, Modutek Corporation