ASML, TSMC, Synopsys join Nvidia for computation lithography

ASML, TSMC, Synopsys join Nvidia for computation lithography

Business news |
By Peter Clarke

Nvidia Corp. has partnered with ASML, Synopsys and TSMC to promote the use of its ‘cuLitho’ software library for computational lithography.

Nvidia announced cuLitho at its own GPU Technology Conference and said the library would enable its partners to design and manufacture next-generation chips with greater efficiency.

Computational lithography is the use of mathematical pre-processing of a photomask file to adjust for aberrations and effects in optical lithography. One of the best known of these effects is optical proximity correction (OPC) which compensates for edge effects produced by lines and spaces in the photomask and which would otherwise cause errors in chip manufacturing. While computational lithography has been in use for multiple generations of chip manufacturing, the burden per mask has been increasing exponentially creating a potential showstopper as chip manufacturing moves to 3nm and below.

Faster, more efficient

The computation behind the lithographic patterning of complex ICs can be made 40x more efficient by running it on GPUs rather than general-purpose CPUs, Nvidia said. The cuLitho software is used to convert the workload into a format that can exploit the parallelism of GPUs. This enables 500 NVIDIA DGX H100 systems to achieve the work performed by 40,000 CPU systems.

Fabs that use cuLitho could produce between three and five-times as many photomasks per day using one-ninth the power. Similarly, photomasks that need two weeks to be produced can be processed overnight using cuLitho and GPUs, Nvidia said. In the longer term, cuLitho will enable better design rules, higher density, higher yields and is a pathway to AI-powered lithography.

Nvidia founder and CEO Jensen Huang said Hopper architecture GPUs will be designed and manufactured using the cuLitho library.

“With lithography at the limits of physics, Nvidia’s introduction of cuLitho and collaboration with our partners TSMC, ASML and Synopsys allows fabs to increase throughput, reduce their carbon footprint and set the foundation for 2nm and beyond,” said Huang, in a statement.

“This development opens up new possibilities for TSMC to deploy lithography solutions like inverse lithography technology and deep learning more broadly in chip manufacturing, making important contributions to the continuation of semiconductor scaling,” said C.C. Wei, CEO of TSMC, in the same statement.


Peter Wennink, CEO of ASML, said: “Our collaboration with Nvidia on GPUs and cuLitho should result in tremendous benefit to computational lithography, and therefore to semiconductor scaling. This will be especially true in the era of high NA extreme ultraviolet lithography.”

“Computational lithography, specifically optical proximity correction, or OPC, is pushing the boundaries of compute workloads for the most advanced chips,” said Aart de Geus, chair and CEO of Synopsys. “By collaborating with our partner NVIDIA to run Synopsys OPC software on the cuLitho platform, we massively accelerated the performance from weeks to days! The team-up of our two leading companies continues to force amazing advances in the industry.”

A fab process change often requires an OPC revision, creating bottlenecks. cuLitho helps remove these bottlenecks, and it makes possible novel solutions and innovative techniques like curvilinear masks, high NA EUV lithography, and sub-atomic photoresist modeling needed for new technology nodes.

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IMEC semiconductor roadmap shows end of metal-pitch scaling

EUV lithography: 32nm pitch on a single exposure

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