Synopsys, Photronics pursue DFM links for advanced masks

September 14, 2004 – A new joint development program between Synopsys Inc., Mountain View, CA, and Photronics Inc., Brookfield, CT, aims to tighten the links between design software and the production of advanced photomasks for 65nm and below processes.

The collaboration will include efforts to improve the design flow, from IC layout to photomasks for alternating-aperture phase-shift masks (AAPSM). The efforts also will target improved yields and cycle times for masks using strong resolution enhancement techniques (RET), as well as shorter turnaround times for mask inspection, the two companies stated.

Some of the first results from the collaboration could make their way into new releases of software and photomask services in 2005, said Tracy Weed, director of product marketing for Synopsys. A timeline for the rollout of enhancements to design-for-manufacturing (DFM) software is not yet available, but Synopsys and Photronics are expecting advances across all advanced mask technologies, he added.

While AAPSM are getting a great deal of the attention in the joint program, enhancements are also planned for attenuated and binary mask sets. “Projects and improvements are aimed at fracturing algorithms, de-slivering, reduced shot count, and other capabilities, all of which play into improving the design-in/mask-out turnaround time and flow,” Weed added.

The joint program is an outgrowth of an ongoing relationship between design software supplier Synopsys and photomask maker Photronics, one of Synopsys’ largest customers for its mask data-preparation tool, according to Weed. Improvements from the program will be shared with other Synopsys DFM customers, including photomask makers, he added.

A “next phase” in the program likely will address emerging requirements for advanced masks in 193nm immersion lithography, including the modeling impact of index matching fluids (in this case, water), which will affect optical proximity correction modeling, Weed noted. — J.Robert Lineback, Senior Technical Editor


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