New technologies like 5G or IoT and progress in Big Data handling have increased the demands on the performance of semiconductors. As the requirements are becoming more complex, so is their production. As a result, maintaining or improving the quality and yield of production and packaging processes have become even more challenging. Conventional approaches to process control – such as using optical and displacement sensors in combination with electrical testing – cannot keep up with these demands. Here, measurement of dynamic force with piezoelectric sensors has proven to be an effective method to control production processes. A closer look at how piezoelectric sensors work shows how they help overcome the challenges in semiconductor production.
The applied process force is a critical factor in manufacturing semiconductors, both in front-end processes such as wafer grinding, polishing, CMP or de-lamination, and in back-end processes including lead frame stamping, die, wire and wafer bonding, sealing, or sorting. Deviations in the applied force during these processes mean mechanical stress and can lead to quality issues. Therefore, force measurement is an essential parameter for achieving tighter process control and avoiding mechanical stress caused, for instance, by tool wear, changing material behavior, and machine malfunctions in semiconductor production processes. It enables users to correlate force signals to specific product quality parameters.
Capabilities of piezoelectrical force measurement
In the past years, force measurement with piezoelectric sensors has shown to be a highly efficient monitoring method, controlling and optimizing semiconductor production. The operation principle is based on the piezoelectric effect, which postulates that piezoelectric (PE) materials such as quartz crystals generate an electrical charge signal in response to a mechanical load. Most importantly, the charge is linearly proportional to the applied force. The high linearity allows for highly accurate measurements in wide measuring ranges: the high-resolution sensors are designed for measuring ranges from 0.1 N to 100 kN. Another advantage is that the PE effect occurs in the direction of the force, in relation to the force and diagonally as a shear effect. Therefore, PE sensors can be integrated into a machine in various ways. Due to their rigidity, they are highly responsive to rapid force changes. Overall, its features make PE sensors highly suitable for many challenging measuring applications.
The piezoelectric measuring chain: proceedings and device selection
PE sensors are not used as single measuring units; and instead, they are part of an industrial measuring chain into which they can be seamlessly integrated. In such a chain, the PE sensor measures the force. A charge amplifier converts it and provides the programmable logic controller (PLC) or industrial PC with an electric signal equal to the measured force (see figure 1).
Figure 1: PE load washer sensor with charge amplifier and programmable logic controller