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Toppan boasts 'first' 32nm photomask

Posted: 17 Jun 2008 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:32nm photomask? wafer? mask engineering? 32nm node?

Beating its rivals to the punch, Toppan Printing Co. Ltd claimed that it is the first photomask maker to develop a 32nm manufacturing process.

Japan's Toppan, provider of the largest merchant photomask maker, is set to begin volume production this June. However, several questions remain whether a 32nm "mask-set" cost in the initial stages would be affordable and who can afford it. The answer to these questions is very few.

Only a few chip makers are in a hurry to move to the 32nm node, due to soaring design costs, and, to a lesser extent, mask costs. Design costs at 32nm are expected to average around $75 million.

Mask costs are all over the map and depend on the product type. According to market research group The Information Network, a 65nm "mask-set" can cost 1.8x that of a 90nm "mask-set," while a 45nm "mask-set" can cost 2.2x that of a 65nm version.

Some believed a leading edge 65nm "mask-set" could run about $1 million. Therefore, a leading-edge, 45nm "mask-set" is from $2 to $2.2 million in the initial stages. Some estimate a 32nm "mask-set" could start at $4 million, putting this technology out of reach for most chipmakers.

Toppan claimed to have developed a new 32nm mask process, but it's unclear if the technology will reduce costs and complexity. "Building on new binary type and new half-tone type leading-edge semiconductor manufacturing processes instead of conventional manufacturing processes for fine-pattern formulation, the project significantly improved dimension accuracy in both types," according to Toppan.

"Moreover, Toppan's new photomask enables binary-type wafer performance that matches the fine-pattern formulation and dimension accuracy of half-tone type wafers, produced with embedded attenuated phase shift masks," the company said. "These results promise to shorten photomask cycle time and help customers control mask costs by reducing the manufacturing process for critical layer masks."

Toppan led the worldwide merchant market last year for advanced photomasks, with a 42 percent share, followed by Dai Nippon Printing Co. Ltd and U.S.-based Photronics, which dropped 2 share points to 13.6 percent of the market, according to The Information Network.

In 2005, Toppan completed the roughly $650 million acquisition of U.S.-based DuPont Photomasks Inc.

- Mark LaPedus
EE Times

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