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The failure of any process requires immediate analysis and remediation, but integrated circuit failure analysis is especially granular and exacting. When an integrated circuit fails to achieve its intended function (functional failure) or to remain within specifications for measurable characteristics (parametric failure), a failure analysis engineer must subject the device to integrated circuit failure analysis, seeking to identify the cause of the failure.

Integrated circuit testing and inspection call for highly trained personnel to perform very specific tasks to precise specifications. For example, complete integrated circuit failure analysis requires that an individual integrated circuit be subjected to multiple procedures to create a thorough and complete data set from which to draw actionable conclusions. Leaving steps out of the process may render the entire effort meaningless.  

Further, certain forms of integrated circuit failure analysis actually destroy the circuit in question, so it’s incumbent upon the IC failure analyst to perform the requisite tasks in the prescribed order, so as to prevent the premature destruction of the failed integrated circuit.

Prior to destructive testing, however, integrated circuit failure analysis involves non-destructive testing, using techniques such as failure verification, Scanning Acoustic Microscopy (SAM) and curve tracing. These techniques will first attempt to verify the existence and nature of the integrated circuit failure and then begin the process of localizing the failure. The destructive techniques of integrated circuit failure – Laser Ionization Mass Spectroscopy (LIMS), Electron Beam-Induced Current (EBIC), Optical Beam-Induced Current (OBIC) and Residual Gas Analysis (RGA)  to name a few – then pinpoint the integrated circuit failure precisely and accurately enough to enable corrective action at the design and fabrication phases.

Ultimately, integrated circuit failure analysis needs to generate results that can guide subsequent design and fabrication efforts to avoid similar failures. Keeping this final goal in mind, successful integrated circuit failure analysis engineers will exercise a certain degree of creativity to ensure that all possible sources of failure have been investigated and ruled out.