In a move aimed to bolster Dresden's role as a center of excellence for advanced photomask development and engineering, the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) is funding a portion of a new joint venture in the area. Over the next two and a half years, the "Critical Dimension and Registration for 32-nm Mask Lithography" (CDuR32) cooperative project--a partnership of the Advanced Mask Technology Center (AMTC), Vistec Semiconductor Systems, and the German Metrology Institute (PTB)--will develop mask and measurement technologies for 32-nm memory chip and 22-nm microprocessor generations.
CDuR32 is aligned with the goals of the European research support platform (ENIAC) and will help expand Europe's position in nanoelectronics, according to the participants. The project will have a budget of Euro 16.7 million (of which BMBF contributes Euro 7.9 million) and will also help create new and maintain already existing, highly qualified jobs.
The three project partners have specific roles: AMTC (a joint venture of AMD, Qimonda, and Toppan Photomasks) analyzes and develops the basic principles of manufacturing 32-/22-nm masks; Vistec's new-generation measurement system (LMS IPRO5) will help meet the stringent requirements of qualifying accurate mask structures; and PTB contributes measurement capabilities and new mathematical analysis methods to help solve mask quality issues, such as the definition and characterization of measurement and calibration guidelines.
The announcement did not specify whether the CDuR32 project would include work on extreme ultraviolet (EUV) mask development and inspection.
AMTC partner Toppan Photomasks announced in June that it was entering volume production with its own 32-nm mask process. The company also said that it had entered into a 32- and 22-nm mask process development effort with IBM, which will be located at the chipmaker's Essex Junction, VT, facilities.
In late July, KLA-Tencor announced that it had agreed to buy Vistec's microelectronic inspection equipment business unit, which includes the German company's mask pattern placement and CD metrology assets. The acquisition is expected to close by year's end, the companies said.
-- Tom Cheyney