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Trio collaborates to develop maskless ICs

Posted: 14 Oct 2008 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:maskless IC? e-beam? lithography?

Fujitsu Microelectronics Ltd (FML) and e-Shuttle Inc., a joint venture established by FML and Advantest Corp., have agreed to adopt D2S' advanced design for e-beam (DFEB) technology, starting with a 65nm low power (LP) library, to develop a test silicon to refine and validate DFEB technology for the 65nm, 40nm and below nodes.

e-Shuttle will produce test chips using D2S' advanced DFEB design and software capabilities and FML's standard cell libraries. These test chips will be manufactured using Advantest's F3000 e-beam direct-write (EBDW) lithography equipment, which is already in operation at e-Shuttle. As a result of this partnership, FML will be able to manufacture ICs faster and more cost-effectively than is possible with conventional e-beam direct lithography technologies.

The rising cost trends of advanced ICs show no signs of slowing unless a new manufacturing approach is adopted. Especially with mask budgets doubling at every node, the application range and market for low-volume ASICs (custom ICs) continue to shrink, with future profitability of many applications anticipated to be threatened. Without the need to rely on a lithography breakthrough, D2S' advanced DFEB technology maximizes and enhances the existing e-beam technology of the F3000 from Advantest. By employing the EBDW approach, DFEB technology eliminates the cost of masks and can speed time to market by shortening the design-to-lithography process flow. In addition to the obvious advantages this will deliver to systems companies seeking early prototypes for testing, this type of DFEB technology can dramatically impact specific application fields, such as computing, as well as a host of low- to mid-volume semiconductor companies producing test chips, engineering samples and design derivatives.

"We expect to see the benefits of this collaboration, in terms of reduced costs and time savings, starting in 2009," said Yoji Hino, corporate executive VP of FML. "This design-to-manufacturing collaboration will facilitate a unique capability for virtually maskless ICs that will increase design starts. Enabling the long tail of ASIC designs, particularly for derivative designs, is beneficial for the semiconductor industry overall."

"e-Shuttle has been in operation since November 2006 with the mission to bring EBDW capabilities to low-volume production applications. This collaboration further increases the throughput of our production line," said Haruo Tsuchikawa, CEO and president of e-Shuttle. "We view this type of collaboration between design software, design, manufacturing, and equipment makers to be essential for maximizing the capabilities of today's fabrication technologies."

"The increasing cost of semiconductor masks is making low-volume production of custom ICs economically unfeasible yet, in aggregate, this segment can represent as much volume as the high-volume segment," said Aki Fujimura, founder and CEO of D2S. "This long tail of the custom IC business can be enabled through a virtually maskless DFEB technology. By not requiring the development of any revolutionary new hardware technologies, this design and software approach represents a low-risk, low-cost path to a new production paradigm."

"The F3000 in production use at e-Shuttle will benefit from the innovative DFEB technology from D2S," said Toshio Maruyama, president and CEO of Advantest. "Advantest is improving the throughput of the e-beam direct-write solution, and the DFEB technology will further increase the throughput of our systems."

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