Wafer Defect Inspection Optimization with Partial Coverage - A Numerical Approach

Ming Qin, Zhongshun Shi, Weiwei Chen, Siyang Gao, Leyuan Shi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Electron beam inspection (EBI) with high resolution is a promising technique to improve the defect inspection on the surface of patterned wafer. However, high resolution usually means long inspection time, which results in the low throughput and limitation of EBI applied in practice. This study aims to optimize the inspection time of EBI by reducing the total number of inspection regions without loss of the accuracy. We first refine this defect inspection optimization problem as a partial congruent square cover problem. Then, we propose two novel mixed-integer linear programming models for this problem. To deal with the large-scale problems, an approximation algorithm is developed to obtain the high-quality solutions. This approximation algorithm efficiently utilizes the linear programming (LP) rounding technique and greedy strategy based on the proposed model. Compared with the existing algorithms in the literature, numerical results show the superiority of the proposed model and algorithm. Note to Practitioners - Defect inspection is a key process in wafer fabrication for identifying and inspecting the patterning defects generated during the complicated fabrication processes. Electron beam inspection (EBI) takes place of optical inspection gradually as the design rules keep shrinking and the circuits are more susceptible to nanoscale killer defects. Low throughput is the main drawback of EBI and the improvements on throughput have far-reaching significance on the high volume manufacturing of semiconductor products. This study aims to reduce the number of inspection regions to improve the total inspection time in the EBI process. Considering that the inspection time for each inspection region is constant, less inspection regions means less total inspection time. However, the positions of inspection regions are arbitrary across the continuous planar space, putting pressure on modeling and solving the problem. A preprocessing algorithm is designed to discover a limited number of candidate positions of inspection regions without loss of optimality, which greatly simplifies the problem. For dealing with large-scale instances, an approximation algorithm combining linear programming (LP)-rounding technique and greedy strategy is designed to get near optimal solutions. Since the number of inspection regions is one key factor determining the total inspection time, the proposed optimization methods have a potential to be applicable to enhance the efficiency of advanced EBI platforms, such as ASML HMI eP series.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1916-1927
Number of pages12
JournalIEEE Transactions on Automation Science and Engineering
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Control and Systems Engineering
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


  • Approximation algorithm
  • electron beam inspection (EBI)
  • mixed-integer linear programming (MILP)
  • partial covering optimization
  • wafer defect inspection


Dive into the research topics of 'Wafer Defect Inspection Optimization with Partial Coverage - A Numerical Approach'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this