Part of the Oxford Instruments Group

Ion Beam Etching & Milling (IBE)

Ion Beam Etching (or Milling with inert gases) is achieved by directing a beam of charged particles (ions) at a substrate with a suitably patterned mask in a high vacuum chamber. It enables highly directional beams of ions – whose space-charge is neutralised by electrons from the neutraliser - to control the etched sidewall profile as well as radial uniformity optimisation and feature shaping during nanopatterning notably using the tilt angle to the beam with on-axis rotation for axisymmetry. 

On the other hand, angled features can be created by the unique ability to tilt the sample (without rotation) altering the direction of impact of the ion beam. In both cases, the etch process can be assisted by chemistry (RIBE and CAIBE) using reactive gases to enhance both etch rates and selectivity to a mask.

The Ionfab® system offers maximum flexibility coupled with excellent uniformity for fast process development and repeatable process results.

Diagram showing ion beam etching ibe technology with Ar, Cl2, CF4 and CHF3

Key Benefits

  • Allows beam energy and ion flux to be independently controlled
  • Process takes place in a low pressure working environment
  • Produces controlled anisotropic etching
  • Provides means for all known materials to be etched
  • Allows angled profile control thanks to a variable etch beam angle relative to sample/mask surface
  • Allows profile/sidewall control and feature shaping
  • Reactive gas capabilities enable higher etching rates and higher selectivity etching of various materials through reactive species eg. Indium Phosphide (InP) or GaN etching with Chlorine or quartz with fluorine based gas
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Ion Etching Source 150mm or 300mm for up to 4" and 8" respectively
Etching Area Up to 200mm diameter or 150mm square
Platen Speed Up to 20rpm
Platen Tilt Angle 0º to 75º between beam and normal to substrate surface
Platen Heat Embedded heaters up to 300ºC with PID control
Platen Cooling Fluid coolant 5ºC to 60ºC with He or Ar backside gas for substrate cooling (up to 50Torr) 

How does IBE work?

Ion beam etching can be applied in two ways: using inert ions for a physical etching or milling process or using RIBE/CAIBE with reactive ion species to increase differential material etch rates with a chemical/reactive component and enhance selectivities.

In Reactive Ion Beam Etching (RIBE) and Chemically Assisted Ion Beam Etching (CAIBE) modes, reactive species are added (CHF3, SF6, N2, O2, etc.) to the source (RIBE) or to the gas ring (CAIBE) to increase volatility of etch products and selectivity to the mask material.


  • Substrate holder allows:
    • 0 – 20 RPM on-axis rotation
    • 10 – 300°C fluid-cooled (from 10 to 60°C with chiller)or heated (from 61 to 300°C with embedded heater)
    • He or Ar backside gas for efficient heat transfer from/to substrate
  • 15cm or 30cm RF Inductively-Coupled Plasma (ICP) ion source, allowing use of reactive gases and low maintenance
  • Three-grid assemblies for greater collimation/control of ion beam profile and low maintenance
  • Grid designs/materials (molybdenum or graphite) tailored to specific etching requirements
  • Filamentless DC plasma bridge neutraliser (PBN) for low maintenance and use in reactive gas environments


  • Metal stack etching Au, Pt and Ti
  • Slanted etching for Augmented Reality
  • Laser facet etching for AlGaInAs and InP
  • Magneto-resistive random access memory (MRAM)
  • Dielectric films
  • III-V photonics and Spintronics etching
  • YBCO and PBCO used as high temperature superconductors
Ion Beam Etching SEMs

Ionfab Ion Beam System

Ionfab provides flexible hardware options including single substrate loadlock and cassette-to-cassette. Its multiple mode functionality enables high throughput with reduced footprint.

  • Unmatched uniformity and process reproducibility for production applications
  • Dual-beam configuration (for etching and deposition) and capability for clustering with other plasma systems
  • Choice of endpoint detection options – SIMS or OES for etching
  • Small chamber with 15cm source to etch up to 100mm wafer size and large chamber with 30cm source to etch up to 200mm wafer size
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Ionfab Ion Beam System

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