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On-wafer RF probe raises throughput

The 12-contact Unity probe combines RF signal, logic, power and ground in-line engineering tests for frequencies up to 20 GHz, and will soon scale to 24-contacts and 80 GHz.

Cascade Microtech looks set to slash the waiting time involved in testing radio-frequency devices, by providing an on-wafer testing probe that can be rapidly built to order.

Today, in RFIC engineering, complex die with many contact pads are often packaged and placed on a circuit board before they can be tested. And on top of this, a month can be spent tailoring detector heads for a specific testing protocol.

Cascade says its innovative Unity probe, which the company priced for sale on July 1, simplifies the entire testing process for complex devices on the manufacturing line. It also says that it can provide the probe heads with just a week's lead time.

“It takes less than a day to build the probes,” Kooho Jung told compoundsemiconductor.net. Jung is the engineer who developed the Unity probes for the Beaverton, Oregon, company and says that at the moment prices start below $1000 and go up over $2000 per probe.

For that price you will get one wedge-shaped Unity probe with 12 contacts that can execute RF signal, logic, power and ground testing functions. Cascade guarantees RF performance up to 20 GHz for these heads and says that its design reduces the physical strain on the probe's chip components, boosting reliability.

The company highlights the usefulness of Unity for measuring a wide range of amplifiers, including power amplifiers, systems-on-chips and other wireless and telecommunication functional blocks. The probe is suited to the full range of semiconductor materials, including prevalent compound semiconductors like GaAs, in the RF engineering sector.

Thanks to their triangular shape, four probes can be held on the moving arm of a probe station to rapidly scale up capacity. The probe station itself moves position almost instantaneously, which means that the rate limiting step is the test protocol itself.

Jung says Cascade is working on providing further additional testing capability with the aim of producing 24 contact, 80 GHz probes. He says that Cascade has already received a great deal of interest in such higher frequency tools.

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