Electron Microscopy at MASER

In 2008, FEI Company installed three advanced electron and ion microscopy systems at MASER Engineering B.V.: an FEI Quanta™ 3D FEG, an FEI Nova NanoSEM™ and an FEI Tecnai™ G2 F20 XTWIN STEM.

Below you can read the "Customer success story" FEI Company published a few months after the installation of the three systems at MASER Engineering. The original document can be downloaded here (in pdf).


FEI Company - Customer success story

FEI logo small.jpgWith FEI solutions, MASER Engineering, one of Europe’s leading electronics service labs, completes some projects eight times faster while working with ever-smaller devices.

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Keeping Pace in the Innovation Race

With FEI solutions, MASER Engineering completes some projects eight times faster while working with ever-smaller devices.

“The Tecnai and the Quanta 3D FEG give us the ability to do detailed material and failure analysis on specific features of nanoscale devices.” – Kees Revenberg, Managing Director

MASER Engineering (MASER) is one of Europe’s leading electronics service labs, and it offers an array of services to support the semiconductor industry. Founded in 1993 by two microelectronics engineering specialists, MASER has grown 20 fold by offering top-quality device qualification as well as materials and failure analysis. Few industries innovate faster than the semiconductor industry, and the devices that MASER analyzes get smaller each year. MASER depends on solutions from FEI to help keep pace with industry advancements. Using an FEI Quanta™ 3D FEG, an FEI Nova NanoSEM™, and an FEI Tecnai™ G2 F20 XTWIN STEM, MASER has been able to:

  • Conduct analysis that requires both milling and imaging twice as fast as previously possible.
  • Complete routine projects as much as eight times faster than before.
  • Prepare for the next generation of device technology expected to be 45 nanometers and smaller.
  • Characterize very small features on devices with accuracy and precision.

The Challenge
A few years ago, 180 nanometers was considered small for a semiconductor device in use in mainstream products. Today, it’s 90 nanometers. Some of MASER’s customers will have 65 nanometer devices in production in early 2009, and a few are planning 45 nanometer offerings in the near future. With devices in general use shrinking rapidly, MASER needs equipment with imaging and analysis tools powerful enough to characterize its customers’ products effectively.

But purchasing advanced equipment is a significant investment—and MASER wanted more than just added power in return. It also expected expanded capabilities, long-term usability, and improved productivity. Kees Revenberg, managing director of MASER, explains, “The industry’s roadmap is clear: the devices we work with keep getting smaller. It’s our goal to do more than keep up. We want state-of-the-art equipment that puts us well ahead and lets us deliver our services more efficiently.”

MASER has a long history of working with FEI. So when the company needed more advanced equipment for imaging, TEM sample preparation, and failure analysis, it evaluated solutions from FEI. The fact that FEI’s solutions delivered the features required was only part of the reason MASER chose to trust the company again.

Revenberg explains, “FEI has given us good support and prompt service for a long time. We had one of our previous FEI machines for 12 years. FEI has kept it in excellent condition, even though some parts became increasingly hard to find. As we considered making an investment in more powerful machines, FEI’s track record of support and our relationship of mutual trust were important.”

The Solution
Since adding three new FEI solutions to its arsenal, MASER has seen its capabilities and efficiency increase. Ideal for characterizing devices smaller than 90 nanometers, the Nova NanoSEM is a field emission gun (FEG) scanning electron microscope (SEM) that supports imaging in a low-vacuum and low-voltage environment.

“The Nova NanoSEM has expanded our ability to provide efficient services to the growing nanoscale fabless semiconductor market,” says Revenberg. “Using the NanoSEM, we can analyze semiconductor layer stacks efficiently and with less distortion than older systems.”

The characterization and failure analysis of nanoscale devices often requires site-specific cross-sectioning along with high-resolution 3D imaging. Combining FEG SEM capabilities with a focused ion beam (FIB), the Quanta 3D FEG enables precise milling of cross-sections and imaging within the same machine. According to Revenberg, this offers distinct advantages. He says, “Before we had to transfer samples between equipment to mill and visually characterize a cross-section. It’s twice as fast and efficient to use one machine for both.”

The Quanta 3D FEG also plays a key role in sample preparation for MASER’s FEI Tecnai G² F20 XTWIN scanning transmission electron microscope (STEM). Advanced failure and materials analysis of semiconductor devices often requires imaging within a powerful STEM, but first MASER uses the Quanta 3D FEG to identify, extract, and prepare a site-specific sample within the machine’s vacuum chamber. MASER’s engineers then view and analyze the sample with the Tecnai.
“The Tecnai and the Quanta 3D FEG give us the ability to do detailed material and failure analysis on specific features of nanoscale devices,” notes Revenberg. “With them, we can address extremely complex requests from customers.”

The Result
Since adopting its new solutions from FEI, MASER is seeing significant time savings on routine projects for clients. As an example, Revenberg points to a recent analysis of an LCD panel. “Using the Quanta 3D FEG, we were able to extract and prepare a sample for analysis in the Tecnai very quickly,” he says. “Before, the sample preparation and lift-out would have taken at least a day. We did it with our new solutions in about an hour.”

While MASER is improving routine analysis capabilities with its FEI solutions, the company places an even greater emphasis on the returns it expects from its investment. “Customers are definitely impressed with the range of our test equipment,” says Revenberg. “The Quanta 3D FEG and Nova NanoSEM are ideal long-term workhorses for many of our analysis and testing needs. And with STEM HAADF resolutions in the 0.18 nanometer range, the Tecnai’s capabilities should deliver excellent value into the future, even in the rapidly evolving world of semiconductors.”

About MASER Engineering
Based in Enschede, the Netherlands, MASER Engineering is an independent provider of test and diagnostic support to the electronics industry.

With help from FEI solutions, MASER Engineering is meeting the rapidly growing need for semiconductor failure and materials analysis.