. This really is a milestone in an industry that moves so fast that most pieces of capital equipment seem to have lifespans shorter than that of a mayfly.
V93000 Steps Onto the Scene
Verigy introduced the V93000 in 1999. In those days I was running the engineering group at Electroglas, a big wafer prober company. Intel was our major customer and keeping them happy seemed to be my primary job function. We were called into a meeting and were shown the V93K probe card for the first time. It was a monster compared to typical probe cards.
A probe card is the electromechanical interface between a device tester (like the V93K) and the IC devices to be tested on a wafer. It is, in essence, a heavy-duty printed circuit board which routes signals from the device tester to a grid of microscopic needles (probes) which can then contact the connection points on an IC when it is still on the wafer and not yet packaged. Devices can be tested electrically and bad devices can be detected before they are diced up and placed into fairly expensive packages saving the manufacturer time and money.
The number of tester pins it has to connect to dictates the size of a probe card. For a long time, an 8-inch diameter probe card had plenty of real estate for connecting to the tester. With an 8-inch probe card one could route 128 test lines to the probe array and that seemed like enough for the time. 8-inch probe cards had been around for several years and all the wafer prober companies had built their systems around the expectation of mechanically interfacing to them. Verigy saw the future, however, and knew that with the transition of the semiconductor industry to 300mm wafers would come larger devices with higher pin counts.
V93000s Impact on the Semiconductor Industry
The V93K test head was massive. Its probe card was almost 12 inches in diameter and could handle more test pins which was very important to Intel since the future to them was bigger and faster microprocessors with many more connection points. The impact to Electroglas and every other prober company was the need to mechanically interface with the monster probe card. We were being told in no uncertain terms that our new model tool would have to accept the V93K probe card or Intel would not buy it.
It was an exciting time for me personally because I got to preside over and direct the system specification and design for a generational change of our tool. There were many challenges to grow a system, which had been dealing with 200mm wafers and 8-inch probe cards and make it handle 300mm wafers and 12-inch probe cards. Which core technologies could we keep and which had to go? How quickly could we produce a system? Would I ever see my family again? Verigy had made a bold move to a new standard in test and the knock-on implications rippled throughout the semiconductor industry.
Why is the V93000 Still the Top Choice
For more than 15 years, Verigy (now since acquired by Advantest in 2011) has pushed the envelope in the world of high-speed test. They increased the pin density of their tester and the top speed of the electronics again and again to keep the V93000 system fresh and relevant. Their commitment to innovation and the longevity of their flagship test system can be an example to us all.
The semiconductor industry is now poised to transition yet again to 450mm diameter wafers and exactly the same challenges face the whole test and processing equipment industry. If you are not critically examining your company’s offerings with an eye to 450mm you should be. If you could use a system-level architect who has been through this process numerous times to help specify and manage the development of your next big thing, perhaps we can help.