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Impact of Pad Conditioning on Thickness Profile Control in Chemical Mechanical Planarization

Kıncal, Serkan
Chemical mechanical planarization (CMP) has been proven to be the best method to achieve within-wafer and within-die uniformity for multilevel metallization. Decreasing device dimensions and increasing wafer sizes continuously demand better planarization, which necessitates better understanding of all the variables of the CMP process. A recently highlighted critical factor, pad conditioning, affects the pad surface profile and consequently the wafer profile; in addition, it reduces defects by refreshing the pad surface during polishing. This work demonstrates the changes in the postpolish wafer profile as a function of pad wear. It also introduces a wafer material removal rate profile model based on the locally relevant Preston equation by estimating the pad thickness profile as a function of polishing time. The result is a dynamic predictor of how the wafer removal rate profile shifts as the pad ages. The model helps fine-tune the pad conditioner operating characteristics without the requirement for costly and lengthy experiments. The accuracy of the model is demonstrated by experiments as well as data from a real production line. Both experimental data and simulations indicate that the smaller conditioning disk size and extended conditioning sweep range help improve the post-CMP wafer planarization. However, the defectivity tends to increase when the conditioning disk sweeps out of the pad radius; hence, the pad conditioning needs to be designed by considering the specific requirements of the CMP process conducted. The presented model predicts the process outcomes without requiring detailed experimentation.