Stories – Trends

Trends & Technologies – How Comet is exploring for the better

X-ray: an up-and-coming technology in the semiconductor industry.

Microchips are the key building blocks of our digital world. To meet the growing demand for technologies such as electromobility, autonomous driving, artificial intelligence, cloud computing and 5G-enabled smartphones, more and more powerful chips are needed. This brings with it various technological challenges – and new opportunities in the semiconductor industry for Comet x-ray technology.

Until now, producing ever more powerful microchips has mainly meant ever smaller microchip structures, with progressively more transistors on the same area of silicon. However, for structures in the nanometer range – and probably into the sub-nanometer realm from 2030 – the technology will reach physical limits in the foreseeable future.


“Non-destructive inspection technologies are the future.”

Isabella Drolz

Vice President of Product Marketing, Comet Yxlon, Hamburg, Germany

Another way to pack more performance into a smaller area is to use the third dimension, stacking the individual chips on top of each other in a so-called advanced package. The benefits are compelling: The short distances between the individual chip components allow higher data processing speeds combined with lower energy consumption. Advanced packages have been on the market for years, but producing them was not very attractive for manufacturers. That has changed. Tools, procedures and testing processes are being created to make manufacturing processes more stable and cost-effective. This opens up new opportunities for Comet’s X-Ray Systems and X-Ray Modules divisions.

High future potential in x-ray inspection

The production of advanced packages requires a new level of process control and thus of inspection. This begins in the development stages and continues through to series production. “Inspection technologies for this must do three key things,” says Isabella Drolz, Vice President of Product Marketing at Comet Yxlon. “They must find critical defects, be fast, and provide actionable information about the product and process.”

In the advanced packaging field, two inspection technologies in particular have become established in the past: optical inspection, and inspection using a focused ion beam electron microscope (FIB-SEM). FIB-SEMs provide ground-truthing (i.e., confirmatory or reference data) and can detect nanoscale defects, but the method destroys the package and is very time-consuming. Optical inspection is very fast and non-destructive, but has limits in finding critical defects below 100 micrometers and in complex 3D structures.

This is where x-ray comes in as an accelerator for shorter time-to-market and higher yields. “Until recently, x-ray received little attention in the semiconductor industry because the technology simply wasn’t ready yet. It was too slow and the resolution was not high enough,” says Isabella Drolz. “The 2.5D x-ray inspection technology that we have evolved to the next level with intelligent data processing now enables quick and easy analysis of critical defects in minutes.” Our latest x-ray technology finds critical flaws in a range below 100 micrometers down to the nanometer scale, at an acceptable speed. It is non-destructive and, thanks to automated defect recognition, it gives our customers information within a few minutes that they can use to improve their processes. For Isabella Drolz, the conclusion is obvious: “Non-destructive inspection technologies are the future.”


“Interest from potential new customers in the semiconductor industry has definitely increased recently.”

Karen Li

Asia-Pacific Region General Manager IXM, Shanghai, China

Growing interest from customers in Asia

Most microchip manufacturing takes place in Asia. “In the electronics industry, our x-ray solutions are already well known, especially for battery testing and in the surface-mount technology segment,” says Karen Li, Asia-Pacific Region General Manager, X-Ray Modules. “But interest from potential new customers in the semiconductor industry has definitely increased recently. For us, it’s about listening to them and really understanding their needs.”

The X-Ray Modules division further expanded its presence in Asia in 2022 to be even closer to customers. “We work very closely together regionally here and our customers benefit from the quick and flexible support by the different teams at the locations in Asia,” explains Karen Li. Comet is thus well positioned in Asia and globally to tap unused and future potential for applying x-ray technology.