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FormFactor enables accurate testing of ultrasmall microchips

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 09 July, 2015, 11:17am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 23 March, 2016, 5:08pm

The smaller semiconductor microchips become, the more difficult it is to test them. Founded in a New York lab in 1993, FormFactor had foreseen early on this trend towards miniaturisation that it focused its research and development (R&D) on creating one of the world's most accurate and efficient probe cards. 

Attached to the end of a testing machine's arm, probe cards allow the machine to connect to and examine whole silicon wafers containing up to 2,000 identical chips. This task is delicate, as the thousands of pin-like probes beneath the card must touch all the tiny contact points on every chip. Failing to do so could leave device manufacturers spending resources assembling smartphones or personal computers with defective chips. FormFactor's reputation in this field has earned the trust of the world's top semiconductor manufacturers, such as Samsung, Intel, Micron Technology and SK hynix, giving the technology company the largest global market share for the design and fabrication of probe cards.

"Our biggest sets of investments have been around microelectromechanical systems or micromachines, and semiconductor technologies readapted to produce these ultraminiature composite structures for mobile and other devices," says FormFactor CEO 

Dr Mike Slessor, who holds a PhD in aeronautics and physics from the California Institute of Technology. 

With offices in South Korea, Singapore, Japan, Taiwan and on the mainland, FormFactor collaborates with semiconductor manufacturers on developing chip designs years before they come out. Such regional presence was further enhanced with the acquisition in 2012 of MicroProbe, the world's leading supplier of advanced system-on-chip probe cards.

"We aim to become more than just a niche player by leveraging and expanding our customer partnering and R&D investments to solve problems beyond those relating to probe cards and semiconductors," Slessor says.