Focused ion beam milling has long been the preferred technique for preparing site-specific samples for further analysis, with TEM lamella preparation being the predominant task for FIB-SEM in materials science and semiconductor failure analysis. As the number of samples needing to be prepared daily increases, researchers need to improve sample preparation throughput even as the samples themselves are becoming more challenging to prepare because of smaller features and ever-shrinking device nodes.
TESCAN’s AutoSlicer™ module supports high throughput TEM sample preparation at multiple sites or on multiple samples and provides full control over the specific parameters required for optimal sample quality. AutoSlicer™ automates the initial steps in the TEM sample preparation workflow: navigation to regions of interest, protective layer deposition, trench milling, polishing and the undercut to release the sample from the trench. Automating these process steps speeds preparation time, assures sample uniformity, and alleviates concerns that samples may not meet the quality requirements for subsequent imaging and analysis. Following these initial preparation steps, AutoSlicer’s semi-automated workflows guide users through lift-out and attachment of the lamella to the TEM grid.
Users can develop custom workflows unique to their samples which are then saved within AutoSlicer™ and recalled as needed. And like all TESCAN software modules, AutoSlicer™ is fully integrated within the TESCAN Essence user interface, so it is easy to understand and operate, even for users who don’t have extensive sample preparation experience.
The new generation of TESCAN AutoSlicer™ also supports TEM lamella preparation with TESCAN Xe Plasma FIB-SEM. Plasma FIB is gaining ground as a technique for thin sample preparation, because Xe FIB-prepared lamellae are free of gallium implantation in form of intermetallics and Ga precipitates, and have significantly less beam induced surface damage. Xe plasma FIB-prepared sample surfaces contain fewer artifacts and less amorphization and therefore have the potential to provide more accurate information about the sample itself without additional preparation steps.