Failure analysis plays an important role in yield improvement during semiconductor process development and device manufacturing. It includes two main steps. The first step is to find the defect and the second step is to identify the root cause. In the past, failure analysis mainly focused on the first step, namely how to find the defect for a failure; because in the previous generations of technology, once the defect was found, its root cause was relatively easy to be understood. As the current advanced semiconductor technology has become tremendously complicated, especially 3D devices, like FinFET, a defect found by failure analysis can be substantially transformed from its original defect by subsequent processes and can be totally different from its origin in size and shape. Thus, sometimes, the second step, identifying the root cause for a defect becomes more challenging and takes more time than the first step. With combination of failure analysis and inline inspection, it enables us to establish the relationship between the failure analysis defect and an in-line defect. This can link the defect for a device functional failure to its source layer and process step more quickly, leading to fast root cause identification. In this paper, the methodology was validated by fast identification of the root causes for three case studies in the latest FinFET technology.

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