As the scaling down of design rule for high-density memory device, the small depth of focus (DoF) budget may be deteriorated by focus leveling errors, which arises in unpredicted reflectivity from multilayer structures on the topographic wafer. The leveling sensors of ASML scanner use near infrared (NIR) range wavelength which can penetrate through most of films using in semiconductor fabrication such as photo-resist, bottom anti reflective coating (BARC) and dielectric materials. Consequently, the reflected light from underlying substructures would disturb leveling sensors from accurate leveling. The different pattern densities and layout characteristics between array and periphery of a memory chip are expected to result in different leveling signals. Furthermore, the process dependent variations between wafer central and edge areas are also considered to yield different leveling performances during wafer exposure.<p> </p> In this study, lower blind contact immunity was observed for peripheral contacts comparing to the array contacts especially around wafer edge region. In order to overcome this problem, a series of investigations have been carried out. The wafer edge leveling optimization through circuit dependent focus edge clearance (CDFEC) option doesn’t get improvement. Air gauge improved process leveling (AGILE) function of ASML immersion scanner doesn’t show improved result either. The ILD uniformity improvement and step height treatments around wafer edge such as edge exclusion of film deposition and bevel etching are also ineffective to mitigate the blind contact problem of peripheral patterns. Altering the etch hard-mask stack is finally found to be an effective approach to alleviate the issue. For instance, through either containing high temperature deposition advanced patterning film (APF) in the hard-mask or inserting higher opaque film such as amorphous Si in between the hard-mask stack.