Raymond W. Grimm, President & CEO
The development of massive, advanced node Integrated Circuits (IC)—incorporating billions of transistors with large die sizes, high power consumption, and an increased parallelism - has substantially increased the complexity of test. Semiconductor testing companies face many challenges developing probe cards that can test these ICs efficiently, handling the high current transitions and the power consumption that comes while probing. Creating test hardware and equipment that can fulfill all IC testing requirements has become increasingly difficult and often leads to complicated probe card design considerations for signal integrity, power delivery, and mechanical structure.
Demand for efficient probing technologies that can effectively validate IC device performance is at an all-time high and so is the focus on the customer’s cost of ownership. Which is why semiconductor IC design and manufacturing companies enlist the help of Nidec SV TCL, an innovative, solutions-driven company that provides advanced MEMS probes and high-performance probe cards along with printed circuit board and substrate design. Since its establishment in 1994, Nidec SV TCL has continually developed and provided the most cutting-edge testing technology while building a global manufacturing and support system that is unmatched by the competition.
In 2017, after being acquired by Nidec-Read, a semiconductor division of the Japan-based Nidec corporation, Nidec SV TCL was able to expand its already extensive product line to include innovative MEMS probes and MEMS probe cards. Unlike any other MEMS probe on the market today, Nidec SV TCL’s MEMS solutions are highly flexible and customizable for specific probing applications. Nidec SV TCL has made a significant investment in MEMS probe technology simply because MEMS probes are the only way to get the 50,000 range probe densities required for AI engines, cloud computing and complex processors. In addition to the proprietary design and state-of-the-art functionality, Nidec SV TCL MEMS probe cards are also easily repaired, which customers can perform effortlessly in-house.
Along with high pin count requirements, Nidec SV TCL MEMS probes can be customized to effectively test a client’s IC under high power and multiple power domain circumstances. And because these MEMS probes are adaptable, they can subsequently be tailored to the test environment with a simple software modification. Additionally, with greater pin counts it can become highly problematic for suppliers of traditional buckling beam MEMS probes and their users to detect and repair damaged pins in cases of test failure. This often results in long lead times for repairs, increased down time, and significant cost of repair. However, by utilizing the Nidec SV TCL MEMS probe solution, the repair process is significantly shortened and easily done by the customer internally.
When semiconductor designers and manufacturers configure and develop their extremely complex ICs, which are often designed for multiple purposes and in different regional entities, a great deal of focus is put on test program development and how these programs will be deployed. As a result, whether it is a design house, IDM, or OSAT, Nidec SV TCL is working with many customers that are taking advantage of their customizable MEMS solutions and years of test expertise. In one example, a client approached the company with a challenge to develop a high pin count solution that could test their advanced processors. Nidec SV TCL’s technical staff discussed the client’s power requirements and offered a hybrid probe head option with a mix of differing probe diameters. This revolutionary solution allowed for a combination of high current and non-high current probes in order to handle the elevated current transference with lower power consumption. And due to the flexibility of the MEMS probe, both probe types utilized in the probe head still maintained the same probe force, stroke and probe length. The IC’s circuit complexity would also result in a long repair cycle in case of a failure event. Users would be able to perform their own repairs with ease and the repair cost of such probe cards was significantly lower than the $300,000-$500,000 per month that the client was accustomed to spending.
In addition to the development of cutting-edge IC device testing solutions, Nidec SV TCL aspires to provide complete test environments, offering not just wafer level test solutions, but integrating the back-end functions of the IC process at the package, substrate, and board level. Leveraging parent company Nidec-Read’s capital equipment technology leadership in substrate, board level, test, and optical inspection, and in conjunction with Nidec-Read’s technical team, Nidec SV TCL is working to develop and offer its customers an efficient full turnkey solution that can reuse hardware to lower the overall cost of testing a chip. Nidec SV TCL is also launching a substantial engineering effort on reducing the cost of test with reusable parts all the way down to the probe, which is unique in comparison to other technologies on the market today. This process also helps with the multiple design spins early in the product life cycle that can change a probe card’s architecture. Instead of building multiple cards, the goal is to create a technology that is reusable without having to throw away all the parts. Renewable, recyclable, and reusable parts is key to offering customers a lower cost of ownership from the initial chip release, through reiteration of the chip, to high volume production, whether it be through time-saving or reduced hardware costs.
Nidec SV TCL is dedicated to providing its customers with modern semiconductor testing solutions that can validate devices with maximum efficiency and minimum cost. The company’s technologies, blended with the commitment to our customers, make Nidec SV TCL an industry leader, positioned and ready to meet the technical and manufacturing challenges of the future.