Enabling hybrid process metrology in roll-to-roll nanomanufacturing: design of a tip-based tool for topographic sampling on flexible substrates



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This work seeks to demonstrate the efficacy of a novel approach for topography measurement of nano-scale structures fabricated on a flexible substrate in a roll-to-roll (R2R) fashion. R2R manufactured products can be extremely cost competitive compared to more traditional, silicon wafer or glass panel based nanofabrication solutions, in addition to the unique and often desirable mechanical properties inherent to flexible substrates. As such, flexible nanomanufacturing is an area of immense research interest. However, despite the significant potential of these products for a variety of applications, developing manufacturing systems from lab-scale prototypes to pilot- or high volume manufacturing (HVM) has often proven both difficult and infeasibly expensive as research investment and achievable process yield limit advancement. One of the most significant capability gaps in current art, and roadblocks on the path towards adoption of R2R nanomanufacturing, is the lack of high-throughput, nanometer-scale metrology for process development, real-time control, and yield enhancement. This dissertation presents the design of a tip-based measurement tool implementing atomic force microscope (AFM) probes manufactured with a micro-electro-mechanical system (MEMS) approach to the challenge of sub-micron topography measurement which is also compatible with R2R manufacturing on flexible substrates. A proof-of-concept prototype tool with subsystems to regulate a flexible web, isolate and position the atomic force microscope probe, and measure features on the substrate, all coordinated by a real-time embedded control system, was designed and fabricated. The positioning subsystem was evaluated dynamically to ensure initial design requirements were met, and stationery, step-and-scan results were presented. However, to wholly meet this extent need for in-line R2R metrology, a system capable of atomic force microscope scanning despite a continuous, non-zero substrate velocity is required - any regular stoppage of the web in a R2R process all but dooms economically viable production throughput. Refinement and redesign of the proof-of-concept tool was driven by new system requirements to meet this goal, in addition to lessons learned from the initial prototype. Improvements focused on upgrading the web handling spindle design and mechatronics, tool power electronics, moving structures, and control algorithms used for high-speed synchronous positioning of the atomic force microscope and web. The culmination of this work will serve to introduce a new measurement framework which may be used to accelerate and enable future research in R2R manufacturing of nanofeatured products.


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