Dr. Jerry Broz, SVP of Technology Development
Typically, in advanced semiconductor wafer, device, and package testing, ensuring clean electrical contact is a significant challenge as the test operations always involve the generation of debris that can significantly impact data quality and integrity. This challenge is especially pronounced in high-volume semiconductor manufacturing environments, where the yield metrics are continuously monitored to ensure operations are not paused or stopped owing to contamination related deviations from the device performance specification limits. To combat this issue, yield management products that eliminate contaminants and debris have become an integral part of the semiconductor industry. However, today, some integrated circuit manufacturers and test-floors still do not maximize overall test effectiveness to attain the complete benefit of their testing systems. This is sometimes because of low yielding designs or test program issues; however, more often it is related to environmental factors or performance requirements which increase the need for consistent and efficient test hardware cleaning.
Addressing these challenges with its innovative and proprietary product portfolio of highly engineered cleaning materials and turnkey solutions is Nevada-based International Test Solutions (ITS). “Backed by our robust intellectual property and unparalleled expertise of our engineering team, ITS product lines enable the next level of optimized in-situ cleaning performance,” says Dr. Jerry Broz, Senior Vice President of Technology Development at International Test Solutions.
Co-founded in 1998 by Gene Humphrey, who is currently the President, ITS has continually spent over two decades striving to incorporate evolving capabilities into its technology portfolio and gaining a deep understanding of advanced customer application requirements. Today, the company has developed three innovative product families—Chuck Cleaning Wafer (CCW), Probe Card Cleaning (PCC), and Test Contactor Cleaning (TCC)—to address the test challenges faced by their customers.
“Our patented processes for in-situ probecard and socket cleaning materials, enable the best possible performance and efficiency for sub-micron particle removal using structurally functionalized surface features,” states Dr. Broz. For example, the company’s advanced socket cleaning units (TCC) are built with polymer cleaning balls that mimic the ball-grid-array (BGA) layout of a microprocessor module, thereby facilitating a highly efficient cleaning action for fine pitch devices.
Currently, only a few integrated device manufacturers (IDMs) with expansive technological and operational scale are actively pursuing advanced next-node silicon wafer scaling according to Moore’s Law to attain device performance. Despite undertaking these steps, IDMs still fall prey to contamination-based equipment downtime, which is very costly and time-consuming. As an antidote to this problem and to enable efficient on-demand and preventative cleaning, ITS offers its CCW turnkey front-end product, which effectively removes submicron particles and reduces chances for unscheduled maintenance. At the same time, to help IDMs, foundries, and off-shore assembly and test (OSAT) suppliers with performance testing of built integrated circuits (ICs), ITS has engineered PCC products that can remove and collect adherent contamination from probecards to assure high yields, increase throughput, extended lifetime, and lower overall test costs. And in the final test operations, ITS’ TCC products ensure that test sockets and contractor elements are contaminant-free, helping them meet throughput, quality, and data integrity requirements as well as maximize reliability of the final assembly.
With such unmatched capabilities, ITS has ignited several success stories since its inception. In one instance, the company worked closely with an automotive semiconductor device manufacturer to help them drive consistency into their existing wafer yields for high-value microcontroller devices. With the production scale of several million devices, the customer was spending exorbitant IC test costs with a conventional approach. Fortunately, ITS’ probe-card cleaning materials and optimized practices aided the client in increasing their yield by two percent while reducing their downtime by approximately 30 percent. “Upon implementation of our cleaning solutions, the overall test-floor capacity was dramatically increased with a substantial decrease to the overall cost of test,” adds Dr. Broz.
Over the last six months, ITS has leveraged the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic to expand its online footprint and establish the ITS Web Academy to educate customers on the emerging semiconductor applications and best-in-class cleaning/testing processes. The company prides itself in the experience of its engineering and sales teams as they provide a competitive edge to the company in today’s increasingly digitalized operations. Looking ahead, Dr. Broz predicts ITS will play a critical role within the accelerating semiconductor business sectors through world-class technological innovation, education, and execution. From a geographical standpoint, ITS is perfectly poised to expand its highly experienced technical sales and distribution network in the U.S., Europe, South East Asia, and the Pacific-Rim. The company has recently invested heavily in research, product development, and manufacturing operations in Reno, Nevada. ITS is also planning to innovate newer capabilities in process improvement by focusing on novel technologies and pursuing industry-leading R & D to continuously evolve its capabilities and maintain a deep understanding of most advanced customer application requirements.