CyberOptics: New Partnership Shows Promise for Semiconductor Industry


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Nolan Johnson checks in at electronica 2022 with Sean Langbridge, European sales director for CyberOptics, to discuss details of the recent merger between CyberOptics and Nordson and the partnership’s potential benefits for customers, especially regarding solutions geared toward enhancing the accuracy of test and inspection in advanced packaging. The company’s unique optical technologies, including its MRS sensors and AI² software, are already saving customers hours on the line; with Nordson’s X-ray capabilities in the mix, CyberOptics sees some very compelling technological solutions on the horizon.

Nolan Johnson: Let’s just start off with the recent news, which was a bit of a surprise—CyberOptics is now under new ownership?

Sean Langbridge: Yes, we are. We’ve been acquired by Nordson Corporation, and CyberOptics will now become part of Nordson’s test and inspection division. Really positive news for everyone within CyberOptics. We’re now part of a larger organization with more resources and greater customer reach—suffice to say we’re looking forward to this partnership.

Johnson: Will operations stay independent at this point?

Langbridge: Initially, yes. There are plans for integration, but we will take that slow; right now, we’ll continue as usual from both a development and customer relationship point of view.

Johnson: What has CyberOptics been doing recently?

CyberOptics_SQ3000.jpgLangbridge: Our main development focus for the last two or three years has been advanced applications in both the SMT and back-end semiconductor industries. We’ve released a large number of new sensors, including high-precision 3D sensors, for metrology-based applications in SMT and semiconductor. We’ve also released three new machines. We have one of them here at the electronica 2022 show, including the SQ3000+. This is a very high-resolution 3D AOI system, and its main application focus is mini LED, specifically micro LED and advanced packaging. Let me give you an overview of the components: this is a 5-micron lateral resolution 3D sensor with 0.1-micron height resolution—a real high-precision system.

Johnson: Is that enough resolution to do semiconductor work?

Langbridge: It’s enough to do packaging inspection and most packaging applications. The semiconductor process is split into three segments—front end, mid end, and back end—and this system is mainly focused on back-end semiconductor—the stage of the process after the dye has been attached to either the lead frame or the substrate and wire bonded or encapsulated. It’s that process, the packaging process, that’s where the focus is.

Johnson: How much overlap are you finding between PCB-level applications and the development work you’re doing in semiconductor?

Langbridge: We’re starting to see what could be called the “convergence” between advanced SMT and back-end semiconductors, a kind of merging of the two areas. Because of that, we do see some more overlap now. With some of the exotic components we see in development now, like the stacked chips, system in package, 3D chips, fan in, fan out, wafer level packages—that’s where we’re seeing the convergence. They’re in back-end semi and front-end SMT.

Johnson: As we look at advanced packaging and then also advanced SMT—that sweet spot for your applications—is it all about visual acuity? Or are there other things that you’re working on within the CyberOptics equipment that would be good news for customers?

Langbridge: I would say the most important aspects from an optical inspection point of view are, of course, the optical resolution and the accuracy—the ability to accurately detect and measure small features, especially on reflective surfaces. I think this is the value add that CyberOptics provides our customers today. We have unique technology—MRS technology, or “multiple reflection suppression” technology. MRS inhibits erroneous measurements from reflective surfaces such as wafers, so the value add we provide now optically is high-precision, high-resolution sensing capability.

For some of the emerging new packages, inspecting and measuring them using an optical solution is very difficult because they’re embedded, or hidden, or stacked vertically. You need some other form of inspection, most notably X-ray, and so I think this is where the tie-in with Nordson could be very exciting for the future. Nordson has X-ray capability in test and inspection, both in-line and offline. And if you combine that with our optical capabilities, then you could develop a very compelling solution for the future that combines the best of both those technologies. I think that could be something we consider in the future.

Johnson: That reflection suppression is not only useful for silicon wafer type applications; in the traditional SMT space, especially if you’ve got exotic surfaces, that could be very useful.

Langbridge: Yes, exactly. The MRS technology is embedded in all our senses, whether they are focused on the SMT application or wafer level, and it provides a huge advantage across all applications. You have very reflective, very varied surfaces, even within SMT. Different color substrates, for example. These can also produce erroneous measurements, which MRS obviously eliminates, so it has value across all our senses and applications.

Johnson: Any anecdotal details you can share from customer success using this technology, particularly with highly reflective surfaces?

Langbridge: Yes, we have one customer based in Italy that manufactures test probe cards. They have a very reflective test probe card application, wafer-based, and we’re using the combination of our MRS technology in the sensor and our modeling technology, which is AI², or “autonomous image interpretation.” This is a very clever method of modelling the appearance of various features, and here we’re detecting contamination and lithographic defects down to 5 microns in size on a very reflective surface, which is producing great results for the customer. Just to give you an idea, it would normally take them four hours to manually inspect this wafer. We are able to do it optically—and very reliably—in four minutes, so you can see the value add there.

Johnson: Four hours down to four minutes. And when you say “very reliably,” does that mean you are outperforming the human inspectors?

Langbridge: I would say our system doesn’t suffer some of the lapses in attention that humans sometimes have, especially over four hours, so I would say—yes. I think on reliability, we have equivalent performance.

Johnson: Thank you, Sean. Appreciate you taking the time to talk with us.

Langbridge: Thank you.

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