The concept of using Scanning Electron Microscopy and Die-to-Database techniques to rigorously inspect advanced lithography products such as X-ray Lithography, Imprint, and Stencil masks as well as other Next Generation Lithography (NGL) is compelling. Current optical capabilities reach down to 0.2μm and do so by interpolating pixilated optical data. Applications at 4x magnifications, such as Chrome on Glass or Phase Shift Photomasks mesh with this resolution of inspection and have been able to migrate down the lithography nodes hand in hand. As the demands for resolution progress, optical lithography has been increasing the requirements upon inspection systems presently available through the addition of assist features and serifs, which are difficult to directly verify. These assist features are effectively approaching 1x dimensions. A printed feature that is slightly out-of-tolerance for CD, shape, or position relative to other structures, may still yield acceptable performance. This added resolution challenge of working closer to a 1x Magnification with ever decreasing structure sizes is easily achieved with Scanning Electron Microscope technology. The Die-to-Database inspection technique utilizes the CAD image, which defines the designer's original intended structure, as the reference image.
In this paper, we will introduce a revolutionary approach for utilizing the full potential of Scanning Electron Microscope images for inspection purposes. The technique incorporates an aggressive but reliable interpretation of the image data to recreate GDS data files which can then be validated against the desired GDS data for hard defects, abbreviated / missing features, and even shifts or placement errors.