【摘要】Progressive mask defect problem is an industry wide mask reliability issue. During the start of this problem when the defects on masks are just forming and are still non-critical, it is possible to continue to run such a problem mask in production with relatively low risk of yield impact. But when the defects approach more critical state, a decision needs to be made whether to pull the mask out of production to send for clean (repair). As this problem increases on the high-end masks running DUV lithography where masks are expensive, it is in the interest of the fab to sustain these problem masks in production as long as possible and take these out of production only when absolutely necessary; i.e., when the defects have reached such a critical condition on these masks that it will impact the process window. During the course of this technical work, investigation has been done towards understanding the impact of such small progressive defects on process window. It was seen that a small growing defect may not print at the best focus exposure condition, but it can still influence the process window and can shrink it significantly. With the help of a high-resolution direct reticle inspection, early detection of these defects is possible, but fabs are still searching for a way to disposition (make a go / no-go decision) on these defective masks. But it is not an easy task as the impact of these defects will depend on not only their size, but also on their transmission and MEEF. A lithographic detector has been evaluated to see if this can predict the criticality of such progressive mask defects.