Micross

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How Clean Is That Surface? How Do You Know?
Keywords: Surface cleanliness, Analytical methods, Reliability
Surface cleanliness can be simply defined as absence of foreign material or anomalous surface physical or chemical conditions that deteriorate expected process or product performance. Pristine surfaces are essential for both affordable yield and reliable function of electronic systems and devices. Poor cleanliness ranges from cosmetic problems that look bad but don't affect form, fit, or function to highly local and exceedingly subtle conditions that kill yield or cause product malfunction. A wide variety of optical, electrical, chemical, and physical methods alone or in combination are available to assess cleanliness. This paper surveys more than two dozen materials analysis methods that can be applied to assess cleanliness of surfaces. The methods are arbitrarily grouped into three levels. Level I includes methods that are usually presumptive or qualitative, fast, easy, cheap, and can often be conducted real-time on the manufacturing floor by operators with minimal training. Level II includes methods that normally require submitting samples to a reasonably well-equipped in-house or commercial analytical support laboratory, that can provide quantitative and molecular or element-specific information for a moderate cost, and which are normally conducted by specifically trained technicians or scientists. Level III includes advanced methods that generally require submitting samples to specialty analytical laboratories, methods that are often technically complex and relatively expensive, that require instrumentation costing 100K$ to over 1M$, and that require scientific specialists to conduct the testing and communicate the results. The paper is a good starting point for those responsible for manufacturing, process yield, and product quality and reliability, to choose an appropriate method or methods for material- or process-specific cleanliness issues.
Robert K. Lowry, Consultant
Electronic Materials Characterization
Indialantic, FL
USA


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