The Zero Defects Program is testament to Brewer Science’s commitment to material reliability. It’s a program unprecedented in the industry, and requires total oversight of design, metrology, and supply chain development. Its intricate process requires an “all hands-on deck” approach to improvement. While it is challenging, it is a worthwhile endeavor as the products produced are flaw- and defect-free, something that is required for the industries we serve. Our materials are used in life-saving, society-changing devices, where the smallest flaw can lead to defects in the intended applications, rendering the device useless. We take this responsibility with great care and found a simplistic way to share with you the three key steps to our Zero Defects Program.
Quality Material Selection
We build quality into every stage of our processes to deliver consistent materials and methods to provide our customers solutions for the products needed today and in the future. We do this by taking a proactive approach to defect reduction in the supply chain. Proper selection of materials requires a process called fingerprinting to work towards parts per quadrillion purity.
Fingerprinting and Excursions
Fingerprinting allows us to have complete characterization of the raw material, therefore making it is easier to substitute in a uniform matter and ensure the quality grade will not influence the end product. We take the key characteristic from the fingerprint and perform a daily routine inspection of all new incoming lots for production and look for an excursion, when the specifications shift out of their analytically defined ranges. When there’s an excursion, we go back to the complete fingerprint and compare all characteristics. This process spans further than just excursions management or deviation of quality – it is also used for continuous improvement activities and development program.
Parts per quadrillion purity
Material purity within the industry is being pushed to unprecedented levels for many reasons, including extending the life of the products, and also ensuring the functionality of products within a wide range of applications. Currently, we are parts per trillion (PPT) working towards parts per quadrillion (PPQ). This means that we look for defects on a level that is mathematically written as one part per 1,000,000,000,000 (1012) parts, and a value of 10−12. The amounts are so tiny they defy comprehension. The Los Angeles Times found an interesting way to visualize it, stating “Detecting one part in a billion is like finding proof that a packet of sugar has dissolved in an Olympic-sized swimming pool. One in a trillion--a quantity only 1/1,000th as large--would be like detecting less than a single grain of sugar in the same pool.” Therefore, being able to detect defects on such a small scale requires careful computation and tracking using cutting-edge methods of metrology. However, concerns remain over additive tolerances and mixing pure materials with suppliers’ products that may not be as pure. Therefore statistical analysis has played a significant role in measuring what level of “pure” a material can handle before it loses its characteristics. An impurity can be required for certain reactions, thus understanding the material, and balancing that knowledge with the models and research of polymer chemists, is critical.
Metrology is the science of measuring, characterizing, and analyzing materials. Within metrology, there are several technologies used to detect material defects on the scale of parts per trillion or less when necessary. Our approach to characterizing materials has been rigorously refined to give us the ability to measure and define our materials in a way that continues to surpass the expectations of our customers. Brewer Science utilizes both chemical and physical metrology to refine our processes and products to reduce defects.
Chemical testing requires evaluating how consistent the material is. We evaluate the raw materials and analyze if they change. We understand the product formulations and the product chemistry to see if we need to account for changes in the final product. We use impurity markers, known as fingerprinting, to classify the chemicals in our analytical labs.
Physical testing assesses how the material performs. We evaluate if it performs as expected and look at the final product for any imperfections. A standard methodology is post-coat defect analysis, which involves coating silicon wafers with our product and looking for any flaws in the coating, down to as small as 20 nm. We size, count, image, and classify the defects by type to create a defect baseline. We are currently exploring new technologies to advance our capabilities and understanding to take materials to new measures, passing parts per trillion (PPT) and aiming for parts per quadrillion (PPQ).
Supply Chain Development
The Advanced Quality Control and Supply Chain Management process at Brewer Science is rooted in the goal of having an in-depth understanding and relation across the supply chain, from sub-suppliers to customers, to improve quality and minimize disruptions. This can be achieved through the various capabilities within Brewer Science’s Process Control System, including the evaluation of process tolerance and process variation, control limit ratios, supply chain functions, advanced product quality planning (APQP) method application, and excursion response. These functions allow us to perform data analysis that is required by some customers, but benefits all customers, through better management of our supply chain.
Brewer Science has developed a cross-functional supply chain team that not only works together with supplier development to increase the quality of materials, but also helps mitigate risk and increase sustainability.
Monitoring the supply chain involves the continuous activities of three main functions: development, monitoring, and sourcing. Development includes engaging with suppliers to improve quality systems. Monitoring ensures supply chain health and provides feedback for necessary changes. Sourcing involves working with new and existing suppliers to continuously improve materials. Brewer Science builds upon this fundamental approach of supply chain monitoring by applying APQP methodologies to this process.
Applying APQP methodologies to supply chain development ensures the voice of the customer is clearly understood and translated into requirements and technical specifications. The focus of APQP is the utilization of tools and methods for mitigating the risks associated with change in the product or process, which simultaneously supports the early identification of change resulting in exciting innovation!
During the initial stage of planning and sourcing, responsibilities include searching, defining initial specifications, setting up nondisclosure agreements, and establishing pricing. The next step of APQP depends on whether we are developing a product or a process.
For product development, the tasks include failure mode effects analysis (FMEA), initial specification requirements, wafer testing, and formulating quality samples.
During a process development, tasks such as process failure mode effects analysis (PFMEA), pre-launch control plan development, and capability and capacity validation happen. Next, the product or process is validated through sending a qualification batch to customers, finalizing a production control plan, Gauge Repeatability and Reproducibility (GR&R) testing, and Statistical Process Control (SPC) evaluation. These processes are essentially statistical mathematical systems for monitoring, controlling, and improving a process or product. Lastly, production stage occurs after customer approval is provided and transfer to manufacturing is finalized.
Further application of the Zero Defects Program
Through our commitment of reducing defects from the start with thoughtful material selection, metrology tracking, and collaboration in the supply chain we lead the way in EUV underlayer materials. EUV will play a critical role in the evolution of technology and enabling the continuous advancement of the semiconductor roadmap.
Douglas Guerrero, Senior Technologist at Brewer Science, explores the evolution of anti-reflective coatings in his paper, Extending Lithography with Advanced Materials. Among the many innovations EUV makes possible, there is one glaring limitation; defect reduction is not only critical, it is absolutely necessary.
To make EUV economically favorable, we must ensure zero defects throughout the entire supply chain. Therefore, for the successful implementation of EUV, we are evaluating every step of the process, from material selection and design, to metrology, and supply chain development, to ensure everyone is on track with the commitment to zero defects.
Learn more about how our Zero Defects Program can help you achieve your technology goals by scheduling a meeting with an expert.