News Column

Patent Issued for Test Circuit for Use in a Semiconductor Apparatus

August 6, 2014



By a News Reporter-Staff News Editor at Electronics Newsweekly -- According to news reporting originating from Alexandria, Virginia, by VerticalNews journalists, a patent by the inventor Choi, Hong-Sok (Ichon, KR), filed on June 13, 2011, was published online on July 22, 2014.

The assignee for this patent, patent number 8786302, is SK hynix Inc. (KR).

Reporters obtained the following quote from the background information supplied by the inventors: "The embodiments described herein relate to a semiconductor apparatus, and more particularly, to a test circuit that can control power supplied to a lower circuit section provided below a pad and monitor the result thereof even when a test probe is not optimally placed on the pad.

"A conventional process for manufacturing a semiconductor chip includes a fabrication process (FABrication Process; `FAB` process) that repeatedly forms a specific circuit pattern in order to form an integrated circuit on a semiconductor substrate (wafer), and a test process that tests the characteristics of a semiconductor chip formed on the semiconductor substrate. After that, an assembly process for cutting the semiconductor substrate unit chips and packaging the chips is performed.

"In the above-mentioned test process, specifically, a tip (or needle) of a probe card of a tester comes in contact with a pad of the semiconductor chip, and a signal is transmitted to the pad, so that it is possible to determine whether the semiconductor chip has defects or not. However, as the number of pads to be probed increases, it is difficult to accurately position a probe tip for signal transmission at each of the pads. For this reason, the probe tip may not come in contact with a normal portion of the pad, but rather may come in contact with only an edge portion of the pad.

"In a conventional chip, a characteristic monitoring circuit section, which can monitor parameter data such as characteristics of voltage and current of an individual device used to operate the semiconductor chip, or an ESD (Electro-Static Discharge) circuit section may be provided below a part of the edge of the pad. If the probe tip is only contacting an edge of the pad, then, e.g., when excessive pressure is applied to the probe tip, the circuit section provided below the pad may be short-circuited to the pad. This can actually cause defects in the chip and/or can result in false test readings. As a result, the yield of the semiconductor chip may be decreased."

In addition to obtaining background information on this patent, VerticalNews editors also obtained the inventor's summary information for this patent: "A test circuit for use in a semiconductor apparatus that can be configured to control power supplied to a lower circuit section provided below a pad and to monitor the result thereof even when a test probe is not placed optimally on the pad.

"According to one aspect, a test circuit for use in a semiconductor apparatus includes a first power control section that senses voltage levels of a plurality of sensing lines and controls power supplied to a lower circuit section provided below a part of a pad group, and a second power control section coupled with the first power control section, the second power control section configured to selectively provides an internal voltage in response to a sensing result of the first power control section.

"The first power control section can include a sensing unit that senses the voltage levels of the plurality of sensing lines and provides a power enable signal, and a power supply unit that provides power to the lower circuit section in response to the power enable signal.

"According to another aspect, a test circuit includes a sensing unit that detects voltage levels from a plurality of sensing lines provided below the edge portion of a first pad group, senses a short-circuit between the first pad group and the sensing lines, and provides a power enable signal, a power supply unit coupled with the sensing unit, the power supply unit configured to control power supplied to a lower circuit section provided below the first pad group in response to the power enable signal, and a second power control section coupled with the sensing unit, the second power control section configured to selectively provides a path for a signal transmitted to the second pad group in response to the power enable signal.

"According to still another aspect, a semiconductor apparatus includes first and second pad groups that include an edge region surrounding a region to be probed, and a test circuit that senses a short circuit between the first pad group and a plurality of sensing lines by using the plurality of sensing lines provided below a part of the edge region of the first pad group, controls the operation of a specific circuit section, and monitors the specific circuit section.

"These and other features, aspects, and embodiments are described below in the section entitled 'Detailed Description.'

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

"The above and other aspects, features and other advantages of the subject matter of the present disclosure will be more clearly understood from the following detailed description taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings, in which:

"FIG. 1A is a top view of a semiconductor apparatus showing the layout of pads and probe tips that probe the pads.

"FIG. 1B is a cross-sectional view taken along a line B-B' of FIG. 1A.

"FIG. 2 is a conceptual diagram of a first pad group according to one embodiment.

"FIG. 3 is a block diagram of a test circuit according to one embodiment.

"FIG. 4 is a circuit diagram of a sensing unit that can be included in the test circuit shown in FIG. 3.

"FIG. 5 is a circuit diagram of a power supply unit that can be included in the test circuit shown in FIG. 3.

"FIG. 6 is a circuit diagram of a second power control section that can be included in the test circuit shown in FIG. 3.

"FIG. 7 is a graph showing an output signal of the second power control section shown in FIG. 6."

For more information, see this patent: Choi, Hong-Sok. Test Circuit for Use in a Semiconductor Apparatus. U.S. Patent Number 8786302, filed June 13, 2011, and published online on July 22, 2014. Patent URL: http://patft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO1&Sect2=HITOFF&d=PALL&p=1&u=%2Fnetahtml%2FPTO%2Fsrchnum.htm&r=1&f=G&l=50&s1=8786302.PN.&OS=PN/8786302RS=PN/8786302

Keywords for this news article include: Electronics, SK hynix Inc., Semiconductor.

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Source: Electronics Newsweekly


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