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Ion Beam Milling

In addition to our line of standard products and custom circuits, Ion Beam Milling, Inc. offers general ion milling (etching) services to a wide range of customers and industries. 

Etching or the removal of material to reveal a specific pattern is usually accomplished through one of two methods; chemical (wet) etching and plasma (dry) etching.  Under either process, material is removed from areas not protected by photoresist.  Dry etching techniques are usually preferred in the semiconductor and microwave fabrication industries as etching is anisotropic and avoids undercutting of the underlying material.  This results in a circuit repeatability approaching 100%.   This is essential when the width of the features to be defined is similar to or less than the thickness of the material being etched. Ion Milling System

By contrast, wet etch processes are generally isotropic in nature and do not generally exhibit the same degree of circuit-to-circuit repeatability as ion milled circuits.  Further, as the metallization becomes thicker due to application requirements, the degree of undercut increases, further reducing the level of repeatability.   The Ion Beam Milling process addresses and solves this issue permitting the types of thicker metallization encountered in the thin film hybrid industry where metal thickness of up to 10 microns (400in) is required for low DCR or low frequency skin depth concerns.

In addition to the higher precision and elimination of any undercutting afforded by the Ion Beam process, certain materials simply cannot be wet etched effectively.  Platinum (Pt) is one such element commonly used in the Microwave and Microelectronics industries that cannot be chemically etched well.

Substrate undergoing the milling processIon Beam Milling employs an argon gas process whereby argon ions within plasma formed by an electrical discharge are accelerated by a pair of optically aligned grids, and bombard the substrate or wafer resulting in the removal of material not protected by photoresist. The highly collimated beam is focused on a tilted planetary that rotates during the milling operation. A neutralization filament prevents the buildup of positive charge on the substrates of wafers being milled.

Any material can be ion etched.  Common materials include Au, Pt, Cu, Ni, Ti, and TaN.

In addition to our complete microfabrication laboratory we can provide our customers a highly anisotropic and nonselective etching process on a wide array of material. 

Features of this service include:

  • 1-3 day typical turnaround on most applications
  • Same day turnaround option available for an expedited fee.
  • Up to 6" wafers  
  • Up to 4" square substrates
  • In house or customer supplied photopatterned wafers or substrates can be ion milled within 1-3 days