Analytical Probe Station System Checklist

May 09, 2018


You and your team are tasked with purchasing an analytical probe system, but prior to a probe system manufacturer providing you with a quote there are a series of questions that need to be answered.

There are several ways to configure a probe system and this blog reviews typical questions you need to answer to assure that you get a probe system configured to meet your application and budget.

  • What type of probe system do you want?
      1. Manual – manual probe systems are primarily used in applications requiring measurements on a few devices (no volume), multiple configurations or multiple users with a minimum amount of probing experience.  Sometimes they are selected because they are easy to set up and take data in a minimum amount of time. Manual probe systems are typically less expensive in comparison to  semiautomatic systems.
      2. Semiautomatic – semiautomatic probe systems are primarily used in applications requiring precise movement, repeatable contacts and taking large amounts of data.  For some applications they are used as a production prober.  Semiautomatic probe systems are typically more expensive in comparison to manual probers but less expensive in comparison to a fully automatic prober.
      3. Fully Automatic – fully automatic probe systems (automatic systems)  are typically used for production applications and can be operated 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Sometimes they are used to handle thin wafers, substrates, frames or trays of die. Fully Automatic probe systems are more expensive in comparison to semiautomatic and manual systems.
  • What types of devices do you want to probe?
    1. Wafers – what size – 50 mm, 100 mm, 150 mm, 200 mm, 300 mm, other
      1. What is the thickness of the wafers?
      2. Are they flat or bowed?
      3. Are you probing bond pads or internal lines?
        1. If bond pads – what is the size?
        2. If lines – what size are the lines?
    2. Partial wafers – broken, ¼, ½, etc.
    3. Wafers on Frames – unsawn or sawn and stretched
    4. Die – individual or in a tray
    5. Substrates/MMICS/Carriers – rectangular
    6. Packaged parts
  • What is the material of the devices being probed?
      1. Silicon
      2. III/V compound
      3. Other
  • What do you want to do with the probe system?
      1. What is your application  – Device Characterization, MEMS, High Frequency, Optoelectronics, High Power, Photovoltaics, etc.
      2. What types of devices are being tested – diodes, transistors, resistors, capacitors, integrated circuits, sensors, microbolmeters, etc.
      3. What parameters are being measured – leakage (low or high currents), breakdown voltages (low or high voltage), resistance, S-Parameters, etc.
  • How to configure the probe system - key components of a probe system consist of a base, a wafer stage, a chuck, a platen, a microscope mount, a microscope movement, optics and manipulators
    1. What type of wafer stage is required – manual or programmable?
    2. What is the desired travel of the stage – 50 mm, 75 mm, 100 mm, 150 mm, 200 mm, 300 mm or more?
    3. What size chuck is required - 50 mm, 75 mm, 100 mm, 150 mm, 200 mm, 300 mm or more?
    4. What type of chuck is required – standard (non-thermal) or thermal ?
      1. Standard – round, square, high frequency, coaxial, triaxial
      2. Thermal – round, square, high frequency, coaxial, triaxial
        1. What temperature range is desired
          1. Ambient to 200 C
          2. Ambient to 300 C
          3. Ambient to 400 C
          4. -40 to 200 C
          5. -40 to 300 C
          6. -60 to 200 C
          7. -60 to 300 C
          8. Other – specify
    5. What type of platen is desired?
      1. Fixed – no Z movement
      2. Moveable – moves in Z in coarse and fine modes
    6. What type of optics?
      1. Stereozoom – used primarily for bond pad probing (50 um x 50 um to 100 um x 100 um) – provides large working distance and large field of view
      2. Compound – used primarily for high magnification and high resolution applications- several types available
    7. What type of microscope movement is required?
      1. Fixed (none), manual or programmable
      2. What type of travel range is required (X, Y and Z)
        1. Manual - 100 mm x 100 mm, no Z lift
        2. Manual - 50 mm x 50 mm with 80 mm pneumatic lift
        3. Manual – 100 mm x 100 mm with 80 mm pneumatic lift
        4. Manual - 200 mm x 200 mm with 80 mm pneumatic lift
        5. Programmable – 50 mm x 50 mm with 80 mm pneumatic lift 
        6. Programmable - 100 mm x 100 mm with 80 mm pneumatic lift
    8. How will the device be contacted?
      1. With individual manipulators or a probe card?
      2. If manipulators – how many ?
        1. What type of probe arms – coaxial, triaxial, kelvin, High Frequency (HF), High Voltage (HV), or High Current (HC)?
      3. If probe card – what size and how many probes?
  1. What type of Accessories are desired?
    1. Vibration Isolation Table, Dark Box, CCTV System (camera and monitor), Laser Cutter System, Probe Tips ( DC or HF), Vacuum Pump, Air Compressor.
  2. When do you need the probe system shipped?
    1. Most shipments range from 6 weeks to 14 weeks after receipt of order (ARO).
  3. What is your budget range?
    1. Knowing your budget range will help the Probe System Manufacturer to configure the prober to meet your application and budget.

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Topics: Educational Topics

Author: Denis Place

Denis Place is one of the founders of SemiProbe and has more than 35 years of experience working in the international semiconductor industry. He has degrees in electrical engineering and business management. Place is in a unique position, because he personally used and worked with probing systems for many years before starting his own semiconductor probing company.
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