The Next Generation Of Fingerprinting Technology

Identifying and tracking impurities before they make it onto the wafer.


We used to think of fingerprinting as simply placing your finger on an ink pad and then rolling it on paper to obtain an identifiable mark that would distinguish you from everyone else on the planet. In today’s world, fingerprinting has evolved to take on another, broader definition. According to, fingerprinting can also mean “any unique or distinctive pattern that presents unambiguous evidence of a specific person, substance, disease, etc.”

In the semiconductor industry, “fingerprinting” represents a broad-spectrum material characterization that identifies all the components and contaminants of a material throughout the supply chain. Every product created contains many raw materials and intermediate solutions, and when a final product is completed, each product is unique and complex with its own distinct fingerprint.

Figure 1. Fingerprinting within the semiconductor industry.

Why fingerprinting?
As critical-defect sizes shrink, the defects’ volume fraction decreases exponentially. In many cases, typical Certificate of Analysis (CoA) tests are not sensitive enough to measure defect sources. Even if this level of purity could be measured with tests commonly reported on a CoA, there would be no means of understanding and analyzing the impurities’ composition. Fingerprinting allows identification and tracking of impurities throughout the manufacturing process and the supply chain before they make it onto the wafer.

Fingerprinting investigation gives insight into where impurities originate, enabling the material to be understood from the ground up. This knowledge also allows suppliers to use fingerprinting on their own products, to further decrease critical defects at every stage of the manufacturing process and create better products for the end consumer.

How does fingerprinting work?
Fingerprinting implementation in manufacturing involves multiple steps:

  1. Understand the material process
  2. Identify key testing parameters
  3. Develop a new process, fingerprint, and build a standard of control
  4. Continue to use fingerprint data for supply-chain management, excursions, and change management.

Figure 2. Fingerprinting implementation steps.

Fingerprinting of the future
As features continue to shrink, they will become even more sensitive to defects and impurities. Existing CoA testing will not be enough to meet the growing need for high-quality products, thus creating a larger market for fingerprinting. Fingerprinting supports every step of the semiconductor manufacturing industry, in that it determines raw material impurities, helps develop new methods, validates quality products and establishes baselines for new materials.

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