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An Assessment of the National Institute of Standards and Technology Manufacturing Engineering Laboratory: Fiscal Year 2008 Precision Engineering Division The Precision Engineering Division continues to maintain activities and services, many of which are among the best in the field, in many areas of research despite significant, cumulative cuts in staffing and budgets. For a relatively small amount of funds, the PED is performing a critical role for the nation, carrying on the ever-changing and challenging legacy of the National Bureau of Standards and now NIST. The work of this division is crucial to the current and future competitiveness of U.S. industry and in standards development and traceability to the SI. The PED staff is knowledgeable, dedicated, and highly motivated in its work. Since the previous assessment, the PED has made major strides in the following areas: The realization of the improved laboratory environment that it now has in the Advanced Measurements Laboratory (AML); New equipment that the division has acquired, augmented, put to use, and developed for improved capability in establishing new and forward-looking calibrations and measurement service capabilities; The generation of a significant number of new capabilities, artifacts, procedures, publications, and standards—all to make significant improvement in order to meet its mission and the needs of its customer base. TECHNICAL MERIT RELATIVE TO STATE OF THE ART All of the PED programs reviewed by the panel push the state of the art in their areas. They appear to be well connected to the PED’s stated objectives and to industrial and scientific community needs. The leaders of the different thrusts of the PED are all internationally recognized within their fields and are providing excellent technical leadership for the PED programs. There are very clear ties in their programs to the NIST, MEL, and PED vision and mission statements. They are appropriately aware of the work done by other NMIs, and they are maintaining strong collaboration with them in the appropriate areas. The PED has made significant strides in the past few years to satisfy the traceability and low uncertainty requirements of the semiconductor industry. Some examples are as follows: Modeling capability and methods are being routinely developed together with experimental measurement technology and are used jointly to address next-generation problems; New technologies such as helium-ion microscopy, worked on in collaboration with Zeiss, are being advanced in collaboration with the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) and are being explored for their impact on measurement capability and correlation to the SI; The ability to perform three-dimensional coordinate measurement using microfiber probes is being developed to measure complex, submillimeter geometries. This work is performed in a coordinate measurement machine with demonstrated correlation to the SI to within ±20 nm; Expertise is growing in standards associated with broad new fields of application, such as bionanoparticles.
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An Assessment of the National Institute of Standards and Technology Manufacturing Engineering Laboratory: Fiscal Year 2008 A minority of PED programs involve continuations of technically mature methodologies for which similar capabilities may exist in non-NIST laboratories and industry. Overall, the technical efficacy of the effort is very high. The PED should perform more of its own benchmarking with industrial (user) laboratories in addition to other NMIs. ADEQUACY OF INFRASTRUCTURE The move to the new AML has provided state-of-the-art facilities for equipment that is in many cases the most advanced available. This has translated into instrument performance beyond OEM expectations. The new AML building is clearly a significant positive factor differentiating NIST from the other NMIs. Within the next 1 to 2 years, a strategy will be needed for tool placement and space prioritization in the AML. Equipment availability in the division has improved significantly over the past 3 years. The PED has demonstrated resourcefulness in securing state-of-the-art equipment from its collaborators with only a modest capital equipment budget. However, this approach has its limitations. Due to the lack of an adequate capital budget, there is a significant risk that infrastructure and equipment needs will go unfilled in the future. Current infrastructure strengths are as follows: Line scale interferometry capability, Calibrated atomic force microscopy, New full-wafer scanning electron microscope capability, A second Moore coordinate measurement machine, Roundness measurement capability to under ±5 nm, New Taylor-Hobson form and finish measurement instrumentation, and Laser-interferometer-based calibration methods for spherical-coordinate large-scale three-dimensional measurement devices (laser trackers) traceable to the SI. The PED has a small number of highly qualified staff who lead the work of individual programs. Yet, there is generally only one such qualified staff member per program, in many cases a quite senior contributor, with little provision having been made for future program longevity. Budget issues appear to be driving the attrition of the staff, with only ad hoc opportunities for replacement. The PED has maintained its quality and capacity by using contractor personnel, guest researchers, and retiree volunteers. This is an effective tactic for the short term, but a strategic identification of core competencies and succession planning are required in order to maintain the economies of experience from which the division currently benefits. ACHIEVEMENT OF OBJECTIVES AND IMPACT There is excellent work in the dimensional metrology area, where measurement uncertainty is being improved to new levels and closer traceability to the SI is being established. Examples include the following: Coordinate measurement with the Moore M48 coordinate measuring machine, Laser interferometry in spherical-coordinate instrument calibration, and Artifact and calibration methodologies for ballistics measurement.
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An Assessment of the National Institute of Standards and Technology Manufacturing Engineering Laboratory: Fiscal Year 2008 There are many notable metrology capabilities supporting current and future needs in micro- and nanotechnology, including the following: The first commercial helium-ion microscope, Improved uncertainty in the critical-dimension atomic force microscope, Atom-based dimensional metrology, Optical tweezers, Improved optical overlay, and Continued improvement in critical-dimension metrology. The PED has achieved its objectives by developing important new capabilities in measurement services needed in industry. Examples include the following: Measurement of fiber-optics standard lengths, Noncooperative target measurement in the 60 meter laboratory, The ability to measure submillimeter features on the M48 with very low uncertainty and high traceability to the SI, and New national calibration artifacts and calibration methodologies for spherical-coordinate metrology devices (e.g., laser trackers) and for ballistics measurements. Maturation of this metrology research and development will lead to new metrology methods. The PED showed a clear path toward achieving this goal. The division provides a valuable service to industry with its measurement and calibration services. Examples include photomask measurements, forensics measurements, and survey tape calibration. The PED was very active in delivering 11 physical standards (standard reference materials and reference materials) and participating in the formation of 15 procedural standards (ANSI/ASME, ISO, ASTM [ASTM International, originally known as the American Society for Testing and Materials], SEMI [Semiconductor Equipment and Materials International]). The division exhibits an extensive list of publications, presentations, educational workshops, and advisory board memberships. More than 10 major awards were achieved in the past 3 years. The division has many strong ties to industry, including SEMATECH (Semiconductor Manufacturing Technology), key equipment suppliers, and other NMIs. The PED should take a more active role in bridging the metrology gap between NIST and industry capabilities and customers. The PED provides services to NASA; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms; the Federal Bureau of Investigation; the Department of Energy; Bethesda Naval Medical Center; and other government entities. CONCLUSIONS The conclusions of the panel based on its assessment of the Precision Engineering Division are as follows: The PED research staff is knowledgeable, dedicated, and highly enthusiastic about its work. The PED has made significant improvements over the past 3 years in meeting the needs of the semiconductor industry.
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An Assessment of the National Institute of Standards and Technology Manufacturing Engineering Laboratory: Fiscal Year 2008 The move to the Advanced Measurements Laboratory resulted in dramatic improvement in metrology capabilities, in several cases elevating the division’s capability to its being among the best in its field. The PED has maintained its state-of-the-art equipment capabilities through innovative partnerships with equipment suppliers and other outside entities. The PED has been engaged in forward-looking efforts in helium-ion microscopy, atom-based metrology, nanoparticle work in biosystems, and whole wafer/photomask capability. The PED has had major impact both nationally and internationally by delivering new standard reference materials, calibration services, and documentation. Opportunities exist for the PED to promote its specific mission regarding traceability and standards development. For example, in nanomanufacturing, the PED’s research differs substantially from research that others are doing in this area, both within and outside NIST, in that the PED’s focus is on traceability to the SI. There is a need to define the core competencies of the PED and to define a succession plan for every key position. There are currently approximately 32 permanent staff members, 2 NRC postdoctoral researchers, and 34 guest researchers. Of the 34 guest researchers, 10 are retirees. The PED would be well served by strategic planning in the following areas: capital equipment, human resources, technical focus area roadmapping, and investment and disinvestment in calibration and measurement services. Opportunities exist for the dimensional metrology groups to establish methodologies for receiving feedback from U.S. industry—for example, through workshops held both at NIST and at professional society meetings and through surveys by trade organizations. Opportunities exist for the dimensional metrology groups to be more proactive in improving their visibility within the national technical community. Benchmarking is performed currently for other NMIs, but this activity should be expanded to include industry in order to capture significant cutting-edge capabilities. Opportunities exist for exploring alternative cost structures for the calibration and measurement services—for example, machine charges, consumables charges, service center charges, and activity-based cost accounting.