Feb 16 (Reuters) – Switzerland-based microchip toolmaker Unisers said on Thursday it had raised $14 million in a funding round led by Intel Capital to build new-technology demonstrator machines for trials by major chip-fabrication customers.
The machines would offer a new level of performance in the difficult task of detecting extraneous extremely small particles that ruin chips in production, said Ali Altun, chief executive and founder of Unisers, started in 2019.
A tiny particle that lands on a silicon wafer, from which chips are made, can cause a chip to malfunction, though the problem may not be discovered until months later, at the end of a production process of thousands of steps.
So detecting particles soon after they contaminate wafers saves money.
As chips perform faster and their circuitry gets tinier, particles of ever smaller dimensions become a problem.
“We are the only company which can detect these extremely small, small, smaller than 10 nanometer particles on wafer,” Altun told Reuters.
The technology in the new machines is the first product from Unisers. Altun said the process put a special coating on wafers to make particles show up better when light was bounced off them.
While Intel Capital has invested to help get the technology to the market, its managing director, Jennifer Ard, said the semiconductor industry needed to work harder at avoiding contamination in its materials and factories, called fabs.
“Some of the ways that we’re measuring things within the fab, it’s coming to the point where we can’t use typical optical methods and others,” she said.
The technology of Unisers is also aimed at detecting impurities in materials, another source of defects.
Reporting By Jane Lanhee Lee; Editing by Bradley Perrett