Improving Wafer Processing with Automated Equipment

Fully and semi-automated wafer processing equipment can help improve wafer output quality by providing consistent chemical processing dosages and timing, however these settings must be first be determined. One way to find optimal process settings is to operate in manual and then in semi-automated mode where settings can easily be adjusted. This is especially true of new process development where the exact parameters are not known. Wafer fabrication facilities can first try out initial settings in manual mode and tweak or “fine tune” them to obtain the desired output. Using semi-automated stations to run the parts of the process that are finalized while making additional adjustments gives optimal results. These can then be made permanent in a fully automatic station.

Steps for Improving the Fabrication Process

Although the overall process is known and the chemicals to be used are set, a new fabrication process may initially not work as desired. Perhaps the etching is not at the expected speed, or the results are not consistently reliable. While the effects of changing chemical concentrations and timing for bath exposure are known, the optimum variables for the specific process have to be found.

After an initial run, the problem areas can be identified and variables such as chemical dosages and timing can be adjusted. Skilled and experienced operators can carry out the fabrication steps and make changes easily on a manual station. In manual mode, the operator is completely in control and nothing happens unless the operator initiates the action. Such control can be important when determining initial settings for a new process.

Once the major parts of the new process work as expected, there may still be minor adjustments necessary to achieve targets such as faster processing, better quality output or reduced chemical use. For such adjustments, use of a semi-automated station saves time. Instead of carrying out all the steps manually, the semi-automated station can run the parts of the process that don’t need adjusting. These parts will run reliably without operator intervention, as programmed and without deviation from the correct set points. The operator can then focus on the final adjustments to optimize and then utilize fully automated wafer process equipment

Subsequent Tailor Made Full Automation

Once the parameters and variables for the desired yield and performance have been determined, a tailor-made software and automation package can be assembled. This package, in a fully automated station, reproduces the custom settings of the manual and semi-automated process steps and uses them to consistently produce the desired results. Carrying out the fine tuning of the process on manual and semi-automated stations first allows the fully automated station with the optimized settings to scale up to full production right away. The tailor-made solution for a specific new process can immediately produce the desired yields and process characteristics.

For semiconductor fabrication facilities that often bring online new processes, using manual and semi-automated stations to fine tune the process and develop a tailor-made solution can be an attractive alternative to optimization on a fully automated station. Full automation is still desirable for production runs because of the greater reliability, accuracy and reproducibility that such stations deliver. Once the optimized software and automation package is running production on a fully automated station, the station will produce consistently high-quality output, high yields, low defect rates and use chemicals efficiently.

Modutek can work closely with each customer to determine the best way of optimizing new processes. The company’s full line of wafer processing equipment including manual, semi-automated and fully automated wet bench stations lends itself to this kind of optimization to produce ideal outcomes. Wafer fabrication facilities that consistently optimize new processes can lower overall costs and improve facility performance. Contact Modutek for a free quote or consultation on selecting the right equipment to support your manufacturing process requirements.