Cluster tool processing offers the semiconductor manufacturer solutions to some of the most significant problems of complex device manufacturing, primarily that of achieving high device yields at a competitive cost. Integrated processing, lower particulates, better wafer to wafer uniformity, precise control over each wafer, excellent small lot economics, and capability of simple expansion are benefits inherent with clustered architecture.
Cluster tool architecture has proven to enable evolution of process and equipment to meet increasingly difficult device requirements. Process modules can be developed to address new applications, and subsequently installed on an existing platform, at a much lower cost than developing a totally new tool. Evolutionary enhancements can be simply made to the platform which benefit multiple process applications, and platform improvements required for new process applications can be easily transferred to existing process applications, often without any application specific re-design. Clustering promotes a synergy among available applications; for example, several features designed for a new Metal Etch/Photoresist Strip application were easily transferred to other processes that are available on the cluster, allowing multiple processes to benefit from development work on a single process. This inherent flexibility allows the equipment manufacturer to provide a tool capable of evolving to meet the user's changing needs; a tool with a longer life cycle, which can reduce the semiconductor manufacturers capital equipment expenditures.