The demand for TEM analysis in semiconductor failure analysis is rising sharply due to the shrinking size of devices. A well-prepared sample is a necessity for getting meaningful results. In the past decades, a significant amount of effort has been invested in improving sample preparation techniques for TEM specimens, especially precision cross-sectioning techniques. The most common methods of preparation are mechanical dimpling & ion milling, focused ion beam milling (FIBXTEM), and wedge mechanical polishing. Each precision XTEM technique has important advantages and limitations that must be considered for each sample.
The concept for both dimpling & ion milling and wedge specimen preparation techniques is similar. Both techniques utilize mechanical polishing to remove the majority of the unwanted material, followed by ion milling to assist in final polishing or cleaning. Dimpling & ion milling produces the highest quality samples and is a relatively easy technique to master.