PDF Solutions provides yield-improvement technologies and services to the IC-manufacturing industry to lower manufacturing costs, improve profitability, and shorten time to market. One of the company’s newest solutions is the eProbe series of e-beam tools used for inline electrical characterization and process control. These tools combine an SEM (scanning electron microscope) and an optical microscope and have the unique ability to provide real-time image analysis of nanometer-scale features. The eProbe development team selected National Instrument’s (NI’s) LabVIEW to control the eProbe system and brought in JKI—a LabVIEW consulting company, Xilinx Alliance Program member, and NI Silver Alliance Partner—to help develop the system.
PDF Solutions eProbe e-beam tool combines an SEM with an optical microscope
In less than four months, JKI helped PDF Solutions attain a 250MHz pixel-acquisition rate from the prototype eProbe using a combination of NI’s FlexRIO module, based on a Xilinx Kintex-7 FPGA, and NI’s LabVIEW FPGA module. According to the PDF Solutions case study published on the JKI Web site, using NI’s LabVIEW allowed the PDF/JKI team to implement the required, real-time FPGA logic and easily integrate third-party FPGA IP in a fraction of the time required by alternative design platforms while still achieving the project’s image-throughput goals.
LabVIEW controls most of the functions within the eProbe that perform the wafer inspection including:
Controlling the x and y axis for the stage
Sampling and driving various I/O points for the electron gun and the column
Controlling the load port and equipment frontend module
Overseeing the vacuum and interlocking components
Directing and managing SEM and optical image acquisition.
JKI contributed both to the eProbe’s software architecture design and the development of various high-level software components that coordinate and control the low-level hardware functions including data acquisition and image manipulation.
Although the eProbe’s control system runs within NI’s LabVIEW environment, the system’s user interface is based on a C# application from The PEER Group called the Peer Tool Orchestrator (PTO). JKI developed the interface between the eProbe’s front-end user interface and its LabVIEW-based control system using its internally developed tools. (Note: JKI offers several LabVIEW development tools and templates directly on this Web page.)
eProbe user interface screen
Once PDF Solutions started fielding eProbe systems, JKI sent people to work with PDF Solutions’ customers on site in a collaboration that helped generate ideas for future algorithm and tool improvements.
For more information about real-time LabVIEW development using the NI LabVIEW FPGA module and Xilinx-based NI hardware, contact JKI directly.