After a year-and-a-half delay, ASML last week shipped its first multi-e-beam inspection tool to a customer for qualification. Intended for ‘real-time’ defect inspection of IC manufacturing at the 5nm node and beyond, the Escan1000 will increase throughput up to 600 percent compared to single e-beam systems.
“As critical dimensions continue to shrink with each new technology, ‘killer’ defects are becoming smaller and smaller, reaching the point where many are no longer detectable with optical inspection,” says Gary Zhang, vice president of HMI Product Marketing at ASML. “Our new multi-beam inspection system is able to detect these smaller defects, while addressing previous e-beam throughput constraints to make it more suitable for high-volume manufacturing environments.”
ASML ventured into e-beam inspection when it acquired Hermes Microvision (HMI) (link in Dutch) in 2016. The rationale of the deal was that, together, the companies could speed up e-beam inspection by using the information from ASML’s existing assortment of computational and metrology yield-enhancing techniques to direct the e-beam to ‘hot spots’ on the wafer. This narrows the search area dramatically.
For high-volume manufacturing environments, single e-beam systems are still too slow, however. This why ASML and HMI set out to develop multi-beam tools: the Escan1000 has nine beams and future generations will have more.
The development of the first multi-beam system got delayed due to an IP issue. “Initially, we worked with Zeiss on multi-beam, but they were sharing relevant IP with another company, which made it impractical to share with us as well. We would have had to start a separate company to make that work. Instead, we decided to do it ourselves, even though that meant we had to start from scratch,” ASML CFO Roger Dassen explained the delay last January.