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Scotty, are you there? New semiconductor industry initiative champions ‘design for e-beam’ approach

24 February 2009 | By Tom Cheyney | News > Lithography

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ebeam_initiativeA group of leading companies throughout the microelectronics value chain have launched the eBeam Initiative, a forum dedicated to the education and promotion of an innovative, new design-to-manufacturing approach known as design for e-beam (DFEB).  By enabling a decrease in photomask costs for semiconductor devices, initiative members believe that DFEB will ultimately result in an increased number of design starts and reduced time-to-market for a wide range of semiconductor devices.

The organizers cite the need for an entirely new manufacturing approach, because of the rising costs of advanced ICs. With mask budgets doubling at every node, the application range and market for low-volume application-specific integrated circuits continue to shrink—challenging the future profitability of many applications. Without the need to rely on a lithography shift, the say that DFEB maximizes and enhances current e-beam technology.  By efficiently employing the e-beam direct-write approach, DFEB eliminates the cost of masks and can speed time-to-market by shortening the design-to-lithography process flow.

In addition to the advantages such an approach will deliver to systems companies seeking early prototypes for testing, DFEB can also have a dramatic impact on many other specific application fields, including low- to mid-volume semiconductor companies producing test chips, engineering samples, and design derivatives.

Charter members in the initiative include Advantest, Alchip Technologies, Altos Design Automation, Cadence Design Systems, CEA/Leti, D2S, Dai Nippon Printing, e-Shuttle, eSilicon, Fastrack Design, Fujitsu Microelectronics, Magma Design Automation, Tela Innovations, Toppan Printing, Virage Logic, and Vistec Electron Beam Lithography Group. 

The initiative also includes representatives from the design community who will serve in an advisory capacity, including Marty Deneroff, director of engineering at D.E. Shaw Research; Jack Harding, chairman, president and CEO of eSilicon; Colin Harris, COO of PMC-Sierra; Riko Radojcic, principal engineer and manager at Qualcomm; and Jean-Pierre Geronimi, director of computer-aided design at STMicroelectronics.

The formal steering group for the eBeam Initiative consists of Advantest, CEA/Leti, D2S, e-Shuttle, Fujitsu Microelectronics, and Vistec, with D2S serving as the managing sponsor.

"Through successful collaboration, we will be able to share and educate the industry on the myriad benefits afforded by this new maskless manufacturing approach," stated Aki Fujimura, CEO of D2S.  "Currently, the total available mask budget in the industry is extremely cost prohibitive. With DFEB, however, there will be a reduction in mask costs while enabling a larger variety of lower-volume SoCs."

"This global design-to-manufacturing collaboration will facilitate a unique capability for virtually maskless ICs that will increase design starts worldwide," added Yoji Hino, corporate VP of Fujitsu Microelectronics. "We are actively collaborating on DFEB for Fujitsu’s 65-nm low-power standard cell library. We expect to see the benefits of this collaboration—in terms of reduced costs and faster time to market—starting in 2009." 

PMC-Sierra's Colin Harris noted that "by enabling a lower threshold to tapeout we will be able to adopt new technology nodes earlier and better target products for lower power and higher performance."

A DFEB technology backgrounder is available on the eBeam Initiative website.

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