Standard analytical practice in the semiconductor industry depends on fast, efficient and reliable sample preparation prior to FESEM. “In lens” imaging technology and orientation mapping (EBSD) demand sample surfaces free of physical damage and residual contamination. An integrated preparation tool has been developed that incorporates the functionality necessary for argon – oxygen plasma cleaning, ion beam etching (IBE), reactive ion beam etching (RIBE), reactive ion etching (RIE), and ion beam sputter coating (IBSC). Control, monitoring and sequential automation of the processes is accomplished through a novel combination of software and hardware. FESEM results for Al and Cu based microelectronic materials will be discussed, as well as EBSD results for bulk metals. Improvements in throughput and subsequent materials characterization will be demonstrated.

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