Probe Card Products
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Probe Card & Probe Test Equipment
What is a Probe Card ?
A wafer probe card is an essential piece of hardware used in wafer testing by semiconductor manufacturing companies. Wafer testing is the process of electrically testing individual chips on a wafer to determine if that chip is functionally good or bad. It is one of the most important processes in semiconductor manufacturing. The Automatic Test Equipment (ATE) which does the test is comprised of the IC tester, the test head and the test head manipulator. The probe card is usually mounted on the test head and is electrically connected to the IC tester via cables (see diagram). The probe card provides the means to conduct electrical signals from the tester to the IC chip, similar to how a cable TV box would deliver signals from the cable company to your television at home.
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What is a Probe Card ?
The wafer probe card is typically comprised of a printed circuit board with a set of precision-assembled probe needles. The probe needles are the tiny pins with sharp tips that contact the bond pads, or the signal terminals, on the IC chip during the testing. The probe needles are usually made of high-performance metals like tungsten with very good electrical conductivity and strong mechanical properties. The spacing between adjacent probe needles can be as tight as 20-30 microns, less than half the width of a human hair which is around 80 microns. There can be as many as a few thousand probe needles in the space of a few square centimeters on a probe card. Hence, the manufacturing of probe cards is one that requires tremendous technical expertise, R&D and intellectual property (IP). And good eyesight!
Probe cards, are considered 'consumables' as they have to be replaced or refurbished after a finite period. The usable life of a probe is determined by the number of 'touch downs' which is the number of times the needles of the probe card comes into contact with the chips on the wafer. Typically, probe cards last between a few hundred thousand to as many as a million touch downs.