With the device dimensions moving towards the 1X node, the semiconductor industry is rapidly approaching the point where 10 nm defects become critical. Therefore, new methods for improving the yield are emerging, including inspection and review methods with sufficient resolution and throughput. Existing industrial tools cannot anymore fulfill these requirements for upcoming smaller and 3D features, since they are performing at the edge of their performance. Scanning probe microscopy (SPM) has the ability to accurately measure dimensions in the micrometer to nanometer scale. Examples of applications are surface roughness, channel height and width measurement, defect inspection in wafers, masks and flat panel displays. In most of these applications, the target area is very large, and, therefore, the throughput of the measurement plays an important role in the final production cost. Single SPM has never been able to compete with other inspection systems in terms of measurement speed, thus has not fulfilled the industry needs in throughput and cost. Further increase of the speed of the single SPM helps, but it still is far from the required throughput and, therefore, insufficient for high-volume manufacturing. Over the past three years, we have developed a revolutionary concept for a multiple miniaturized SPM heads system, which can inspect and measure many sites in parallel. The very high speed of each miniaturized SPM unit allow the user to scan many areas, each with the size of tens of micrometers, in a few seconds. This paper presents an overview of the technical developments and experimental results of the parallel SPM system for wafer and mask inspection. © 2014 SPIE.
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