Thursday, August 8, 2013

What’s the Best Colnatec Solution for Your Process?

  1. Do you need to control your source?
    YES: You need a controller (Eon or Eon-LT)
    NO: You can use a monitor (Eon or Eon-LT)
  2. Do you need to control temperature of your sensor head (to match substrate temperature)?
    YES: You need a Tempe high temperature, temperature controlling sensor head and Eon (monitor or controller)
    NO: You can use a Phoenix temperature measuring sensor head with Eon-LT (monitor or controller)
  3. Do you only need or want to measure temperature (to reduce noise)?
    YES: You only need to buy the more economical Phoenix & EonLT (monitor or controller)
    NO: If you don’t care about measuring or controlling for temperature effects, you can use any provider’s sensor head, but for best results, we recommend Phoenix
SO…if you DON’T need source control

BUT…if you DO need source control

Put more simply…

Temp Control + Source Control = Tempe Head & Eon Controller
Temp Measure + Source Control = Phoenix Head & Eon-LT Controller

Temp Control – Source Control = Tempe Head & Eon Monitor
Temp Measure – Source Control = Phoenix Head & Eon-LT Monitor

We recommend RC crystals for any process up to 250C
We recommend HT crystals for any process from 250C – 400C and for self-cleaning use
For super high temperature processes above 400C, you must use SQ crystals

** We highly encourage anyone considering buying just an Eon-LT monitor or controller for use with competitor sensor heads to consider buying a Phoenix to go with it. Eon-LT can be used with other sensor heads, but without the temperature measuring capabilities of Phoenix, you will lose out on all the positive effects of temperature compensation, namely noise reduction.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Low temp or high temp in ALD, we've got you covered

We've been learning a lot about what's really needed in ALD, and we've found that aside from using QCMs for in-situ, real-time monitoring for precursor development, wafer production, and exhaust maintenance, there's a need for both a temperature controlled AND a non-temperature controlled sensor. It really depends on the user's needs, and it's heavily dependent on their temperature limits.

For example, most users can put a non-temperature-controlled, Phoenix sensor head and Eon-LT controller (or monitor) into their basic ALD system, and it will do all they need in wafer production. The sensor housing is operational to 500C without a need for a separate heating/cooling control, and the electronics will provide high resolution (higher than competitor) at an extremely high rate with exceptional accuracy. The key here will be the crystal cut and coating of the resonator (many cannot have gold or copper anywhere within a chamber, for example). Cut matters, as it determines how high the temperature can go before a crystal phase change begins. We recommend our patented RC crystal for up to 300C (most applications), HT for between 300-400C, and SQ for 400C+.

If, however, the user needs to control temperature, raising and lowering (for handling) the sensor up to 700C, then the Cadillac of systems is necessary--Tempe and Eon.  Many users need this premium system for precursor development and exhaust maintenance, both of which can exceed the 500C temperature limit and require careful control of substrate temperature. Eventually, the majority of systems will get to this point, but for now, most research institutions and commercial operations only need a "Basic" system as they learn how to use QCM in a variety of ways for low-cost, real-time, in-situ measurement.

So, how are they different?

Well, there are a lot of similarities in features, as we built both systems to be robust, but the key difference is the ability-inability to control temperature. Tempe/Eon CAN; Phoenix/Eon-LT CANNOT. You might think it's not such a big deal to control the temp or get to higher temperatures, but not only are parts a lot more expensive, the science it took to create a system to withstand such high temperatures (just in springs and integrated heater, for example) took 3 years and millions of dollars to achieve. It's complicated, trust me. And let's not start about what it takes to write the software to correct for frequency vs. temperature! Ach, the algorithms!

So, if you need to reach temperatures above 500C or if you need to control temperature for other reasons, we recommend the Tempe/Eon system with software optimized for ALD. But, if your process is relatively low temperature, and you have no plans to exceed 500C, plus you don't need to control sensor temperature, a basic Phoenix/Eon-LT is all you need. You may even need 3-5 for optimal, large-wafer uniformity. The beauty of the Phoenix/Eon-LT system is that it's only about 1/4 the cost of the full-featured Tempe/Eon system.

You realize that makes it the same cost as those other guys, right? With support...and without the politics.

You know you want one. Or three.

+1 480-634-1449 today

Friday, June 14, 2013

How are QCMs different from optical film thickness measurement systems?

Today I came across a press release from a competitor for an in-situ, thin film metrology tool, called ICE, specifically designed for MOCVD. It's an optical tool, and there are apparently quite of few of those around. According to our CTO, Scot Grimshaw, they've been around for decades, and even if there are some advancements in features, those are more or less like "putting lipstick on a pig". In his words, "they just don't work."

Well, that wasn't good enough for me. As a marketer, I want to know if our potential customers see optical methods as a real possibility they might choose over QCM. When you read the PR, it seems optical film thickness measurement is comparable, when what really counts to process engineers isn't.

For example, optical methods claim to do the following:
  • Multiple Simultaneous Real-Time Measurements
  • Auto-Calibration
  • Integrated Electronics and Optics
  • Dynamic Signal Intensity Control
  • Flexible, Upgradeable Optical Enclosure Options    
Sounds good, right?

Not so fast. While it may sound like they're doing the equivalent to QCM, with the benefits of being in-situ, the truth is not so simple. For one, optical methods are not nearly as accurate. In fact, according to Scott, "the accuracy of our QCM is 100X finer than optics," so if you need high precision in your coatings, optical methods "just don't work."

Specifically, optical methods are:
  • Expensive
  • Usually for thick films only
  • Difficult to use and difficult to calibrate
  • Useful on limited substrate types (light doesn't pass through foil, e.g.)
  • Give inconsistent results due to the necessity of a clear path length*

The fact remains that for simple, in-situ, real-time film thickness measurement with high accuracy and at lower cost, your best bet is still a quartz crystal microbalance. If you need it for high temperature or super high accuracy, then a Colnatec QCM is your only solution, as I've mentioned before.

*Optical methods require light passing through a film, which requires you input light at some point into your chamber. That requires optics and a clear path length. If your system doesn't have a clear path length for the light to travel, then you'll need additional optics and fixturing. For more information on how optics work (or don't), read up on "optical absorption" or "reflectance phenomena". Scholarly articles on the subject are too numerous to cite (but you can start here).

Sunday, June 2, 2013

How are your sensors useful during ALD precursor development?

Primarily for cost savings--you can eliminate wasted substrates in your initial precursor development, for starters. Put another way, you can use the QCM as a substitute "wafer", saving hundreds of dollars per wafer.

Additionally, it assists in developing ALD process chemistry by estimating kinetic parameters involved in the ALD gas-surface reactions.

And, the Colnatec Tempe sensor system is not only high temperature, it also is materials-sensitive. In other words, it can work in most hot process and harsh or corrosive environments without degrading or contaminating the reactor. Our sensors are made of 304SS and use air cooling, so as to not foul the reactor. Stainless steel allows us to heat the sensor beyond what is possible with an aluminum head, and air cooling prevents the need for water, which is problematic in most ALD systems (water cooling is also incapable of achieving--or controlling--high temperatures beyond 100C).

Finally, the beauty of a truly "heated" sensor (not just "bakeable") is that the sensor and the substrate are at the same temperature. Our sensors are independently heated via an integrated element and controlled with software to maintain any temperature you need them to be (up to 500C). "Bakeable" sensors use ambient chamber heat to raise temperature, which is completely uncontrollable and unreliable. Most bakeable sensors are also unable to reach the high temperatures a Colnatec sensor can reach, let alone consistently hold that temp for any reliable time frame.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

What are the benefits of using your high temp QCM for ALD?

The benefits of using a real-time, in-situ, heated sensor are significant:
  • Reduction in ex-situ metrology where applicable:
    • Reduction in metrology samples and time associated with measurements
    • Reduction in demonstration and/or development test / set up
  • Increased efficiency--cost savings:
    • Reduction in time and materials waste due to the capability of the QCM to assist in design of experiment (DOE)
    • Reduction in scrapped runs (substrates) due to real time information as to process and or reactor conditions
    • More consistently accurate film deposition per wafer or per run
    • Increase in film quality due to in-situ process monitor
    • Savings in engineering, operator and maintenance technician time
Competitor QCMs, such as those made by Inficon, are unheated and therefore unable to withstand the high temperatures and corrosive environments of most ALD reactors. Most optical methods, such as those made by Filmetrics, KLA-Tencor, and Woolam, are very costly, difficult to use, difficult to calibrate, bulky, and largely inconsistent with results. Ellipsometry is even more expensive and awkward, plus they're ex-situ. Laser methods can be more accurate, but they too are expensive and oversize, and they require highly trained personnel to prepare calculation tables.

Simply said...

The use of the Colnatec high temperature QCM is the most powerful and cost effective method for examining an in-situ ALD process.

Friday, May 31, 2013

What's the value of a film thickness sensor in my ALD exhaust?

  • Reduced engineering downtime
  • Prevent downstream hardware failure
  • Prevent wafer loss from excessive particulate buildup that gathers on chamber walls
Savings from lost wafers can be as little as $2000/wafer or as much as $20,000/wafer, depending on size. The Colnatec Tempe sensor system could pay for itself with only one wafer.

Tempe operates as a machine maintenance sensor, predicting when an ALD system needs to be cleaned. With the minute amounts of particle allowable inside a chamber, having a buildup warning system is akin to having a smoke detector: as soon as maximum allowable amounts of particulate accumulate, the system sends a warning signal to the operator, sending the system into maintenance mode, and preventing further wafer damage.

As it is today, the only way to know if your reactor has reached maximum allowable particulate is to guess at prevention or use an expensive ex-situ (post production) optical method. Unlike Tempe, competitor QCM systems are unheated and therefore cannot withstand the high temperatures necessary for in-situ monitoring. The availability of Tempe to sit inside a hot process chamber to real-time monitor particulate at the atomic level changes the economics of maintenance completely.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Are your sensors suitable for in-situ use in plasma deposition systems?

Yes, they are! But to best answer the question, we need to know:
  1. maximum temperature
  2. where the sensor would be (orientation)
  3. the expected lifetime of the sensor (which would tell us how many hours before replacement of the sensor element)
Our Tempe sensor head with Eon temperature regulating monitor or process controller in combination with SQ (up to 1000C), HT (up to 400C), or RC (up to 300C) quartz crystals allows you to measure and control film thickness up to 500C. When Helios is completed, you will be able to measure at temperatures up to 1000C, real time in situ!

Orientation is important for understanding whether you are using the sensor in-process, during precursor development, or during the maintenance cycle, for example.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

The Fix for OLED Yield Problems


The yield of thin film OLED devices in manufacturing is too low (LG's is estimated at less than 30%). This is the result of many factors, but one hidden cause is the failure of process control tools and the inefficiency of OLED deposition sources. Inaccuracy in film thickness sensors leads to inaccurate layer thickness. Poor source control results in organic material degradation and chemistry changes. All add up to low yield.


Better process control tools and better analysis of what is actually happening in the process chambers will vastly increase production yields. 
Most thin film OLED manufacturing lines use systems adopted from inorganic thin film deposition production. This is flawed because organic molecules do not behave in the vapor state like inorganics do**. They degrade easily. They vaporize as clusters with three dimensional characteristics. These features cause problems for thin film sensor systems, most notably density measurement and rate control due to film “packing”. Colnatec's revolutionary, patented, heated sensor technology (pdf) solves this.


  1. Evaluate of the OLED stack deposition process to determine how materials are vaporized, the type and orientation of the process control tools, and evaluate the accuracy of film thickness control
  2. Evaluate vacuum deposition conditions, including thermal condition of substrate, sensors, and sources
  3. Analyze OLED materials chemical composition, how the vaporization is controlled, and possible film breakdown; evaluate true film thickness and film growth
  4. Install and test Colnatec Tempe/Eon system based on results of analysis
  5. Analyze film growth parameter data to determine best use of materials, and control deposition process

With Colnatec's cross-platform experience and deep film growth monitoring knowledge, we can solve any deposition process control issue quickly and efficiently.

**OLEDs are organic because they are made from carbon and hydrogen; Inorganics are non-carbon/hydrogen based compounds such as (Magnesium Fluoride or Silicon Dioxide) and metals that are typically used in the manufacture of optical and electronic components.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Managing is a DO...Leading is a BE

Last Monday I spoke for my friend Rod Smith, Adjunct Professor of Leadership at Grand Canyon University, about entrepreneurship, leadership, international travel, raising capital, and a little about a woman's experience with all the above. Mostly I focused on my experience in building this company, especially with a partner with a very different leadership style.

Near the end of my talk, really an interactive exercise, a woman asked what one thing I would tell someone just starting his or her leadership journey. It's difficult when put on the spot to identify just one thing, so at the time all I could muster was something I shared on my personal Facebook page as what I'd tell any young woman entering the workforce: Have an opinion. Stand by it. Stand for it.

As I thought more about this on the drive home and over the last few days, I think I'd still give a similar response, but I'd tweak it. Today, I'd say, "Stand for something. To obtain followers, you need to have a strong belief about something and be willing to sacrifice for it. You must have a vision that people believe in, too, that when communicated inspires them to believe with you and act on the behalf of that vision. You must be unwavering in that cannot doubt...or if you doubt, you cannot share it. And the way you build trust in you, in your vision, is through walk the talk...and most importantly, you are impeccable with your word."

I add the italics to emphasize a phrase from one of my favorite books, The Four Agreements. The first, and IMHO most important of all the Agreements, is BE IMPECCABLE WITH YOUR WORD. Specifically, the phrase means (as Dr. Seuss might say) "Say what you mean, and mean what you say." If you say you will do something, do it. Commit to something, and do not back out. Deliver on your promises. Do not use your word against others.

I'm sometimes accused of taking too long to make a decision. Like many women, I like to have my "ducks in a row", but in entrepreneurship, you rarely have enough time to line everything up. There just are too many decisions to make each day, and half of them needed to be decided yesterday. You have to be nimble, adjustable, and ready with a backup plan when something unexpected a vendor's death, or a request for presentation in China the next week.

To be a leader, a good leader at least, you need to hold steady on your beliefs, and as best as possible, deliver on your word. Take time to think it through if you must because if you fail too many times, your word becomes meaningless, and people begin to doubt you. They stop trusting that you can deliver. And your leadership fades away, the followers off to seek someone else to follow.

For this and many other reasons, it takes both a manager AND a leader to build a company, and it's why so many entrepreneurs end up replaced once a company's growth skyrockets. Entrepreneurs are doers, but what a company needs at that point is a leader.

So to summarize and encapsulate, my advice now goes Have an opinion. Stand by it. Stand for it. Deliver on it by being impeccable with your word.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Series on OLED features Colnatec


Check out this blog series on problems in OLED at that features Colnatec CTO, Scott Grimshaw in all three. They contacted us before Christmas to get our take on what's holding back the major manufacturers like Samsung, LG and AUO from economical, mass-production OLED tvs, and Scott gave them the scoop on what's really going on.'ll be worth your time!