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CU Pillar Solder Reflow

Device package dimensions have shrunk, necessitating the reduction of the pitch for device to package interconnections. This need has led to copper pillar “bumping” in which a pillar of copper is plated into a mold typically formed of photoresist.  After the deposition of the copper pillar, a solder alloy is plated on the top surface and the photoresist mold is stripped away.  Finally, the top layer of solder alloy is reflowed creating a spherical surface of solder alloy atop the copper pillar. During reflow it is necessary to limit copper oxidation, so the solder alloy can wet and bond to the copper while providing the collapsible “ball” for interconnection. Different conventional methods used to reduce oxidation include:
  • Application of flux with reflow in a N2 rich atmosphere followed by a warm water spray/stream
    • Oxygen level under 100 ppm during reflow
  • Flux free reflow in formic acid/N2 mixed atmosphere in a chamber or in a conveyor oven
  • Reflow in a “hard” vacuum or a partial vacuum with formic acid
While the first method is the simplest, the handling necessary between the spin on of flux, reflow oven, and clean is inconvenient and costly. S-Cubed’s new integrated hot plate reflow system is a single system. With dry-in/dry-out solder flux apply, reflow, and cleaning in the same system. This eliminates the inter process handling of the first method and the cost, complexity, and danger that comes with higher levels of formic acid in the other two methods. As seen in Figure 1B multiple hot plate and clean modules can be stacked to improve throughput while keeping a small foot print.
Figure 1: A (Left): Top view of Solder Reflow Tool. B (Right): Isotropic view of Solder Reflow Tool.

Reflow process considerations

During the reflow process, the time spent above the liquidus phase of the heating profile needs to be minimized, to the extent possible, to prevent the formation of intermetallics. Over time these unwanted intermetallics can render the solder joint brittle and unstable. Minimizing the time spent above the liquidus phase is accomplished by creating a temperature “spike”; minimizing the dissolution of contact metals(s) and the resultant formation of intermetallics. It is necessary to maintain the solder at the top of the pillar and to minimize the wetting of the solder down the side walls of the pillar. This requires exquisite timing of the heating profile which is facilitated in a hot plate oven using pin height to control heating and cooling. The pin height is repeatable within 10 microns in the S-Cubed hot plate system.  Controlled rapid cooling is made possible using a liquid cooled chamber lid, the wafer is heated by descent to the hot plate and cooled by ascent to the cooled lid.  The cooling is enhanced by convection currents of purge N2 gas to maintain the O2 levels under 100ppm, in proximity to the cooled lid.

Reflow on an advanced hotplate* vs in a conveyor oven or vacuum system

Conveyor oven and vacuum systems
  • The open-ended conveyor ovens require approximately $350K/year in Nitrogen when in operation on a 24x7x365 basis (This cost is often higher in Asia)
    • If wafer throughput is 30 WPH (262,000 wafers per year) the cost is at least $1.30 per wafer
    • Assumes nitrogen cost at $.50 per 100 ft3
  • Conveyor ovens cannot be utilized in clean rooms suitable for semiconductor production, as they are dirty systems
  • Conveyor ovens occupy a vast footprint
  • Formic acid conveyor ovens consume large quantities presenting costly safety issues
  • Flux-less systems using Vacuum are expensive to purchase and costly to maintain

S-Cubed’s advanced solder reflow and clean system for copper pillar solder reflow*

  • Dry-in/Dry-out cassette or FOUP processing in a single system
    • Provides reflow and clean capability in the same small and clean tool
  • Programmable control of heating and cooling profiles
  • Chill plate/convection enhanced cooling
  • Nitrogen gas consumption per wafer on the order of 20 SCF
    • $0.10 per wafer (Assumes nitrogen cost at $.50 per 100 ft3 )
  • Closed loop control of oxygen concentration through purge and exhaust controls
  • Tool is clean room compatible
  • Footprint approximately one fifth of the older technology
  • If flux is applied the reflow and cleaning is in the same tool (no external inter-process handling)
  • Enhanced control of pillar side wall wetting with programable temperature profile
  • Flux-less Formic acid-based processing can be carried out in the hot plate module
    • Our design minimizes the use of formic acid by only introducing it during heating as the wafer descends to the hotplate
*Patent applied for





Wafer sizes     both systems support multiple sizes

6” – 12”

2” – 8”

Number of modules*1

Up to 6

Up to 4

Robotic handling: single or dual end effectors

5-axis robot on track

4-axis robot

Centering options

Stadium for handling multiple wafer sizes, optical sensor centering for spin modules, and end effector centering

Stadium for handling multiple wafer sizes

Stacked hotplate modules

Up to 3

1 stack

Stacked spin bowls




Up to 9

Up to 3

Hotplate uniformity        

0.7⁰C TIR

0.8⁰C TIR

Spin bowls

Up to 4

Up to 2

Equipment footprint

168 x 203 cm ‘S’ or 304 x 192 cm ‘L’

1 m2


Pillar reflow processing techniques

Flux, reflow, clean / Flux- less formic acid reflow

Reflow Thermal Module

Programable proximity pins; 10 um TIR for height, speed programable

fixed proximity 125um; 200⁰C max (options exist for higher temps), integrated chilling.

Reflow Thermal Module ambient control

Under 100ppm O₂, clamped sealing for formic acid processing

Coater configuration for flux coat

7 dispenses plus EBR, BSEBR, side dispense, 6000 RPM/s max, programable in 1 RPM/s increments, (max 4K for 300mm wafers).  Spray for conformal coatings of high aspect ratio features optional.

Bowl Cleaning


Spin bowl ambient control

Programmable exhaust control at spin bowl

Flux clean module

Dual needle spray process, optional high-pressure nozzle, fan spray, and chuck agitation.

Dispense arm

Programable X, Y, and Z axes; Constant Areal Timing (CAT), radial, and reverse radial dispense options; cleaning agent dispense, temp controlled and resistivity-controlled DI water.

End effector design options

Vacuum or pin end effectors (no backside contact); warped wafers and squares supported



Windows 10, software (SECS/GEM available)

Wafer Watcher

Records video when equipment errors to assist in fault analysis

Remote equipment access

If Internet connection to machine is available

Fan filter unit


Enclosure Temp and humidity control


Flow meters

Digital or Manual Optional


Semi S2 and S8 (self-certify); Optional Fire suppression system

 *1: Modules can have multiple process zones, spin modules can have 2 stacked bowls, pillar reflow thermal modules up to 2 stacked.

Document # 0-00087-10

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