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Multibeam brings back e-beam lithography, Skywater buys in

Multibeam brings back e-beam lithography, Skywater buys in

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By Peter Clarke



Multibeam Corp. (Santa Clara, Calif.) has introduced a multi-column e-beam lithography platform for the mask-less definition of leading-edge semiconductors.

The first production system is being sent to US foundry SkyWater Technology Inc., which will use it for early concept prototyping and rapid production of high-mix integrated circuits (ICs) and microdevices.

The development represents the return of a technique largely abandoned by the semiconductor industry, at least for mass production of ICs.

For now, Multibeam has not disclosed the highest resolution physical definition it can achieve nor how many beams it can operate independently in the MB Platform. Individual beams operate at 5kV. The company claims its MB Platform to be 10x better than optical laser definition and to have a 100x advantage over optical lithography in terms of depth of focus and field of view.

Multibeam said that its ‘MB Platform’ is the industry’s only maskless multi-column e-beam platform that offers full-wafer direct-write patterning capabilities with fine resolution in a modular architecture that is optimized for scale.

Alternative lithographies

E-beam definition of patterns in resist is a much lower cost alternative to extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography and is expected to be used for advanced packaging, photonics, rapid prototyping, and other special applications. It is likely to operate in a similar market space to another lithography scheme called nano-imprint lithography, which stamps out resist shapes using a prepared pattern (see Canon could ship nano-imprint lithography machines in 2024).

Direct-write e-beam lithography was first discussed as an option for defining transistors in the 1960s and was pioneered by IBM in the 1970s. However, as IC complexity increased the writing speed by a single directed beam of electrons made throughput an issue. There was some hope e-beam could be used for low-volume, fast turnaround, chip supply in the 1980s but without success. Direct-write e-beam is used for optical lithography mask writing, where throughput is not relevant.

To circumvent the throughput issue for production Multibeam employs multiple miniature columns that operate individually and in parallel, with an advanced control system. Throughput is more than 100 times greater than conventional EBL systems, making the MB platform the highest productivity high-resolution maskless lithography system on the market, Multibeam said in a statement.

The MB Platform makes use of software from Synopsys to generate recipes and drive the direct writing beams. The system is modular by design allowing for expansion and it is compatible with 150mm, 200mm and 300mm wafers.

How many beams?

The platform was developed by a team of semiconductor equipment and patterning technology experts led by industry pioneer, David Lam. It is the first EBL system designed from the ground up for volume production.

“We are thrilled to introduce the MB platform and proud to send our first production system to SkyWater,” said Multibeam’s CEO, David Lam. “The semiconductor industry’s growth continues to be fueled by exciting new applications, with advanced lithography technologies enabling endless innovations. At the same time, there is soaring growth in markets like AI and edge computing, where the enablers include purpose-built silicon and advanced packaging, and the manufacturers’ priorities are rapid cycles of learning and cost-effective, seamless transition to production for faster time to market. For these emerging markets, the MB platform offers a complementary lithography solution. With powerful productivity advantages, it unleashes EBL’s full precision-patterning capacity and expands the range of lithography options available to IC leaders.”

Ken MacWilliams, president of Multibeam, said that e-beam lithography is especially compelling in advanced packaging. “This is helping to drive a new technology inflection that the industry is starting to call ‘advanced integration’ – where new chip-to-chip interconnects can achieve comparable performance to on-chip interconnects,” he said.

Mapper Lithography BV, founded in 2000, also tried to bring a multiple e-beam direct writing tool to market with up to 13 000 e-beams operating in parallel. However, the company was declared bankrupt at the end of 2018 and its assets acquired by ASML Holding NV early in 2019.

Multibeam executives will be at Semicon West 2024, the annual semiconductor equipment and materials conference will be held at Moscone Center in San Francisco, July 9-11.

Related links and articles:

www.multibeamcorp.com

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Canon could ship nano-imprint lithography machines in 2024 

E-beam lithography for security ICs set up in Taiwan

Intel spins out $4.3bn chip mask making business in Europe

Startup SandGrain gets funds for industrial PUF security

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