Thanks to the constant evolution of electronic products, the demand for high-quality semiconductors and semiconductor devices is constantly on the rise. Today’s manufacturers can produce significantly more products at a faster rate, but quality control has likewise become an ever-present concern in a digital world that is increasingly becoming reliant on these devices. Thankfully, quality assurance methodologies like wafer testing help ensure that each semiconductor product that rolls out of a factory is good enough to be used in manufacturing high-performance electronics.
How Does Wafer Testing Work?
Before a semiconductor wafer is sent for die preparation, it is put into a device called a wafer prober. The device employs a probe card (basically a series of probes) that applies test patterns in order to verify if a wafer’s digital circuits are correctly fabricated and to check if they have any signs of defects. Wafer testing often requires the semiconductor’s circuits to pass through multiple tests, although some do not require going through all of the tests.
Even the slightest defects can render a semiconductor useless, or worse, compromise the entire device it will be installed in. To minimize the chances of factory defects, wafer testing relies on a very high degree of precision, usually with the margin of error measured in microns.
Ensuring Wafer Prober Precision
In order to achieve a high level of precision, wafer probers rely on a few specialized technologies. Here’s a quick rundown on what makes a wafer so precise.
High-precision Motion Solutions
In order to place the wafer and the probes in the right position for scanning, a wafer prober moves its parts using a series of high-performance XY tables and linear stages. These components are capable of making accurate and efficient movements that allow for the precision translation of probes, moving them exactly where they are needed no matter how small the specimen it is testing is.
To take full advantage of the motion solutions’ high degree of precision, the probe relies on engineers using advanced programming to specify where the wafer and the probe card should be positioned. Because the probe automatically checks the wafer according to pre-programmed test patterns, barely any human input is necessary, minimizing problems caused by human error.
Benefits of Precise Wafer Testing
Precise wafer testing helps companies and customers in several ways. The following are some of the most important reasons why precision is king when performing wafer testing.
1. Faster Production Times – Ensuring that each wafer functions as it should is essential to a manufacturing company achieving its performance goals. Higher throughput and efficiency means more money saved and earned for the company.
2. Waste Reduction – Because wafer testing is done before die preparation, it’s possible to tell if a product is defective even before the die packages are attached. Instead of having entire batches of completed but defective semiconductor products, it’s possible to prevent defective wafers from being completely assembled in the first place. The manufacturer loses fewer resources to faulty manufacturing, and there will be less waste that could otherwise just have ended as landfill waste.
3. Increased Reliability of Manufacturing Process – Manufacturing semiconductor products in large volumes depend on the reliability of the production process. It is the only way to achieve economy of scale, which is especially important as the demand for these products continue to increase. Furthermore, repairing faulty semiconductor products that have already been assembled and finalized is simply impractical. Therefore, the importance of precision in the production and testing stages cannot be overstated.
Wafer testing technology is evolving just as much as the electronic products that need well-made semiconductors. With enough time, wafer probes with more precise components and sophisticated mechanisms will be able to screen out semiconductors with an even narrower margin of error, at speeds even greater than today’s most efficient wafer probes.