As semiconductors grow increasingly complex, the need to efficiently ensure quality becomes more critical. A Japanese firm called Omron Corp. knows this inside and out. Over half of the company’s revenue comes from factory automation products, and it’s now eyeing an even more significant role with its forthcoming VT-X950 X-ray CT scanner.
Omron’s newest machine captures 3D images of chips on the production line with enough resolution to identify defects at a one-nanometer scale. The company claims the importance of its machinery will increase significantly in the coming years as advanced chipmaking technology continues to improve.
Improving Yield in Real Time
Yield is a significant metric that today’s top chip makers, including TSMC and Samsung, highly prioritize. However, most methods of ensuring chips are free of defects are slow and cumbersome. In many cases, a technician must pull chips from the production line to perform function tests that involve X-raying the units in a separate room, which can take up to an hour. CT scans, more commonly known for their role in the medical industry, are also essential for chip makers to ensure quality on their production lines.
Omron’s X-ray machine takes just 30 seconds to produce incredibly crisp images of chips as they are fabricated. Technicians can then monitor production in real time and spot defects. By identifying these issues earlier, the technicians can make adjustments and limit the number of faulty chips being manufactured. Omron’s VT-X950 is twice as fast as its original model, which several major chip makers have adopted.
In an interview, Omron’s general manager of inspection systems, Kazuhisa Shibuya, said, “The demand trend in the semiconductor industry is to make a wider variety of chips in smaller lots, but that would never be economically feasible without real-time CT scanning.”
Advanced Chipmaking Needs
Notably, the chip industry is in the midst of a transformation. Manufacturing technology is advancing rapidly, and many changes are being applied to traditional chip production. For instance, building chips with a three-dimensional structure, such as the gate-all-around architecture used by TSMC and Samsung, requires even more precise manufacturing than flat chips. The same is true for chiplets, another exciting advancement that many of the world’s top chipmakers have embraced to increase processing power without adding more transistors.
In a recent interview, Omida analyst Akira Minamikawa told Bloomberg, “The need for CT scans as part of semiconductor manufacturing is urgent. As the industry pursues die shrinking and chiplet technology, the level of bonding technology required has soared, especially in the last couple of years.”
Today’s cutting-edge chips are expensive to produce, and costs will only grow in the coming years. As such, manufacturers are encouraged to use real-time technology to monitor their production lines and decrease waste.
Fortunately for Omron, competition in the market is basically nonexistent. The company claims no other machine available today can produce the same high-quality images its VT-X950 captures in real time. So, for chipmakers that need a quick and capable inspection point that operates in real time, the new machine is not only the best choice but the only one. However, don’t expect this to last forever, as others will surely enter the fray as the importance of real-time monitoring for chip manufacturing increases.