Automatic detection of defects during the fabrication of semiconductor wafers is largely automated, but the classification of those defects is still performed manually by technicians. This invention includes novel digital image analysis techniques that generate unique feature vector descriptions of semiconductor defects as well as classifiers that use these descriptions to automatically categorize the defects into one of a set of pre-defined classes. Feature extraction techniques based on multiple-focus images, multiple-defect mask images, and segmented semiconductor wafer images are used to create unique feature-based descriptions of the semiconductor defects. These feature-based defect descriptions are subsequently classified by a defect classifier into categories that depend on defect characteristics and defect contextual information, that is, the semiconductor process layer(s) with which the defect comes in contact. At the heart of the system is a knowledge database that stores and distributes historical semiconductor wafer and defect data to guide the feature extraction and classification processes. In summary, this invention takes as its input a set of images containing semiconductor defect information, and generates as its output a classification for the defect that describes not only the defect itself, but also the location of that defect with respect to the semiconductor process layers.
This invention was made with Government support under contract No. DE-AC05-96OR22464 awarded by the United States Department of Energy to Lockheed Martin Energy Research Corporation, and the Government has certain rights in this invention.