How to Ensure Quality in OEM Semiconductor Manufacturing

Semiconductor Wafer

Solving the problems of trace moisture measurement in semiconductor fabrication

The future for the semi-conductor chip market is looking bright. After the challenges fuelled by the Covid pandemic and a cost-of-living crisis – chip supply shortages, challenges with calculating demand – there are encouraging signs that the industry is beginning to emerge with a fresh longer-term impetus. This is driven by advances in technology, combined with widespread recognition by governments that semiconductors are vital for future technological development, economic security and growth. 

In Europe, the EU has introduced the Chip Act, while in America the CHIPS and Science Act 2022 has already been signed into law by the Biden administration. Both are intended to stimulate further growth in their indigenous semiconductor industries. The EU act, for example, is expected to unleash around €43bn of new private and public sector investment, helping to drive future research, expand manufacturing capability, provide greater supply chain resilience and create new jobs. 

Placing semiconductor manufacturing at the heart of a broader industrial strategy is key to supporting the development of markets that depend on ever-greater computing and digital power – 5G, IoT, AI, autonomous vehicles, smart cities and so on. It is also an important factor for meeting the changing needs of businesses and consumers. 

At the same time, we are seeing innovation in the design and production of semiconductor devices. This includes:

  • Research into the development of carbon nanotubes
  • Directed self-assembly block copolymers to reduce pattern-pitch below 10nm
  • 3DIC heterogeneous integration
  • The use of graphene and other novel compound materials, to create chips that occupy smaller areas with greater computing power and even less energy consumption.
  • Miniaturization places even greater demand on QA 

    As chip sizes decrease and become more complex, so manufacturing processes will need to become increasingly sophisticated, with ever tighter specification and production tolerances. In turn, this will place greater reliance on the performance of sensors and instruments that monitor and control process conditions, to minimize the risk of yields falling or entire batches of wafers being scrapped. 

    In particular, the exact purity of various specialized ultra-high purity gases used for the fabrication of semiconductors is critical to the success of each stage of the semiconductor production process, from deposition, lithography and etching, to doping, annealing and chamber cleaning.

    The key to detecting humidity to control quality

    Trace moisture content in process gases is a key factor that determines the efficiency, consistency and quality of the OEM production process, and thus potential yield values. Trace moisture causes a range of problems that can be difficult to detect; these include oxidization, the adhesion of photoresists, and the ability to characterize and predict the consistency of each process stage.

    Traditionally, detecting trace moisture using precision dew-point measurement has been problematic, requiring the use of complex – and expensive – moisture analyzers and analytical techniques. Many of these issues have been overcome with the development of relatively low-cost on-line ceramic metal-oxide dew-point sensors, which provide extremely accurate, fast-response instruments capable of detecting trace moisture levels down to a few parts per million in ultra-high purity gases. 

    The latest of these instruments, the Pura Advanced Online 2, can be supplied as a hygrometer or transmitter, for use by semiconductor OEMs at each stage of their production operation. The Pura offers exceptional levels of stability and repeatability, can measure dew point down to -120 °Cdp, is accurate to ±1 °C at -60 °Cdp, and provides a fast response to changes in process conditions. Additionally, the new sensor is available in intrinsically safe versions, with full ATEX, UKCA and IECEx approval. It is supported by our comprehensive technical, maintenance and calibration services and can also be supplied as part of our Sensor Exchange Program, designed to help OEMs minimize maintenance and downtime.

    Instruments such as the Pura Advanced Online 2 are vital for semiconductor OEMs, as they act as key instruments to ensure both the performance of existing production operations and, as chips become ever smaller and more complex, to facilitate future development and manufacturing growth.

    Learn more about our products for detectin trace impurities in semiconductor gases.

    We are the world’s leading experts in moisture monitoring and dew point measurement. We have eight different technologies covering all moisture applications, backed by unrivalled technical and customer support. To learn more, talk to one of our application specialists today.

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