Company and its history
SEMICAPS began in 1988 when lecturers from the National University of Singapore (NUS) founded the holding company to commercialise products based on technologies that were developed at the Centre for Integrated Circuit Failure Analysis and Reliability (CICFAR). Back then, this Singapore high technology company specialises in electron, ion, photon, and X-ray beam technologies and associated techniques for the failure analysis (FA) of semiconductor devices. We commercialised the image capture and enhancement accessory for a scanning electron microscope and sold about 400 units of these worldwide.
Our technical staff has strong backgrounds in these technologies, computer hardware and software; complemented with an in-depth appreciation of the application requirements of the industry. Currently, we have about 30 staff in offices located in Singapore, Taiwan and USA.
Presently, SEMICAPS is the world’s leading company in the area of high resolution infra-red laser scanning microscopes. These microscopes are used by advanced semiconductor companies for:
a) design-debug analysis of new integrated circuits (ICs)
b) yield improvement analysis for early semiconductor wafers, and
c) failure analysis of customer returns.
Our key advantages over our competitors include:
a) the ability of our microscopes to resolve linewidths below 100 nm, thereby producing the highest resolution images, and
b) the ability of our analytical wafer prober (SEMICAPS 5000) to allow hard-docking and direct-probing with standard commercial testing equipment; catering for probe-cards of over 5000 pins and testing speeds of more than 1 Gbps.
SEMICAPS celebrated its 25th Anniversary in 2014. Singapore’s Minister for Trade and Industry graced the occasion and in his speech said that Singapore needs more companies like SEMICAPS. The company’s R&D work has resulted in awarded 7 patents with 2 more pending. For their significant achievements the SEMICAPS team has been awarded the President’s Technology Award in 2009.
The SEMICAPS Group consists of:
1) SEMICAPS Corporation Pte Ltd - the holding company,
2) SEMICAPS Pte Ltd - our R&D company which designs and manufactures our equipment, and
3) Inscope Labs Pte Ltd - a service laboratory that exploits the equipment developed by SEMICAPS.
The main shareholders of the company are Mrs Jennifer Phang (wife of our late founder, Professor Jacob Phang), staff and management, and private individuals.
The design and manufacture of semiconductor failure localisation microscopes is our core business. We sell these internationally to large customers like Intel, AMD, Qualcomm, TSMC, Micron, UMC, NXP and GlobalFoundries. Half the top 20 semiconductor companies use our machines. Our subsidiary, Inscope Labs also provides a wide range of laboratory services using our equipment.
SEMICAPS has its R&D, manufacturing and HQ in Singapore. It typically generates yearly revenues of around $10 million which leads to profits of between $0.5 million and $3 million. This is expected to improve in the future as our equipment become more widely accepted internationally and as the semiconductor technology node progresses towards 14 nm and 10 nm.
Presently, our main products include the:
a) Laser Timing Probe (LTP) - An instrument which allows the waveform at a selected point inside a semiconductor device or IC to be measured without a physical probe, by using a laser;
b) Scanning Optical Microscope (SOM) System - A multi-laser scanning optical microscope system for the active localisation of integrated circuit defects by using static power alteration and dynamic tester-based techniques; and,
c) Photon Emission Microscope (PEM) System - A highly sensitive passive fault localisation system for the localisation of integrated circuit defects using panchromatic imaging and spectroscopy.
The SEMICAPS Laser Timing Prober (LTP) serves a need among semiconductor manufacturers to assess timing and speed path issues in integrated circuits (IC). It is widely understood that bulk silicon (Si) is transparent to near infrared (NIR). The LTP takes advantage of this transparency. A continuous wave (CW) laser beam is scanned over the backside silicon of a semiconductor device while the device is operated under test vector loops of interest. The reflected beam is amplitude modulated (AM) by the switching gates in the IC. Although the AM is very small, it is linear with the gate voltage and can easily be detected with standard AM demodulation techniques. An analysis of the AM in the time domain can reproduce voltage waveforms occurring within the switching circuitry, while analysis in the frequency domain can quickly identify regions within the circuit that are operating at a known target frequency. For single point measurements in the time domain, the reflected signal is displayed with a digitising oscilloscope, while a frequency map can be produced thought an FFT software option or a spectrum analyser. Typically used in product Design and Debug functional areas, the LTP takes over where previous generation timing tools become unsuitable.
The SEMICAPS SOM is a scanning optical microscope used for fault localisation of integrated circuits using the laser induced phenomena. It is an integrated computer-centric system designed for maximum ease of use and flexibility. The system is optimised for high laser power delivery, sensitivity and spatial resolution. The open architecture of the system allows the application of current (OBIC, SCOBIC, LIVA, TIVA, SEI, OBIRCH and pulsed laser) and future laser induced techniques. The modular design facilitates customisation according to user requirements. The system uses a 1064nm and a 1340nm laser. The 1064nm laser is capable of electron-hole pair generation through backside silicon while the 1340nm laser is a high resolution thermal probe which allows localised heating. The laser multiplexer provides seamless selection, attenuation and blanking of the two lasers. SEMICAPS microscope module is custom designed to provide maximum flexibility for the optical components required for various techniques. Included in the microscope module is a motorised detector selector, two 3-position optical component turrets and a 5-position objective turret. The system comes with an auxiliary signal port, which has a proprietary hardware averager capable of 1 million sample averaging.
The SEMICAPS PEM is a highly-automated, computer-controlled, failure analysis microscope for localisation of defects in semiconductor devices. It is capable of quickly locating leaky junctions, contact spiking (due to ESD), latch-up, oxide breakdown, and other current leakage phenomena that produce light and near-infrared emissions. System sensitivity plays a pivotal role in photon emission techniques and is imperative for the detection of faint emissions. SEMICAPS recognises this important and essential requirement and we offer a high performance, highly sensitive system.
The LTP, SOM, PEM or any combination of these is usually built into one of the SEMICAPS platform configurations. These are outlined below.
a) 1000 series: This model is our earliest design; an upright standalone system which is still being used in many semiconductor FA laboratories worldwide.
b) 2000 series: Launched in 2002, this is an improved version over the 1000 model in that it allows an automated integrated circuit (IC) tester to be docked with our equipment, thus enhancing the FA capability.
c) 3000 series: This configuration allows an IC tester to be docked with the device under test while an inverted microscope probes the device from the backside. This system is compact and is compatible with front-side probing.
d) 4000 series: This is an inverted system that can be used in a stand-alone analytical configuration or docked to an automated tester. It is one of the industry's most advanced global fault isolation tools designed to meet the demanding requirements of design debug, product engineering, yield enhancement, and failure-analysis applications.
e) 5000 series: Our latest design, this has been launched in the USA late last year. It is the world’s first FA Wafer Prober that can be docked with any standard production tester, making it possible to shorten the yield enhancement cycle time for test engineering wafers from weeks to days. The value of successfully achieving this can run into millions of dollars for each type of new semiconductor device being produced.
SEMICAPS also supplies options and accessories associated with the main equipment. For example, our solid immersion lens (SIL) provides significantly higher magnification and resolution. These lenses can be fitted into our equipment and are especially useful when working on advanced small node devices. The pulsed laser system allows our SOM to achieve far better sensitivity in order to detect very weak signals caused by small faults. This patented option allows the SEMICAPS SOM to outperform all our competitors.
SEMICAPS is further developing the SIL lens that currently is already the best in the world. Today, this is capable of imaging resolutions of smaller than 100 nm (i.e. 0.1 micron).
Another R&D project involves a highly specialised cooling attachment for semiconductor FA testing and analysis. The equipment is required to be able to lower the temperature of the IC gates in operation while they are undergoing FA on our LTP or SOM, removing up to 300W of heat while maintaining 10 deg C on the semiconductor device.