August 16, 2006 – Semiconductor design software provider Synopsys Inc., Mountain View, CA, has officially announced its acquisition of Munich-based simulation software developer Sigma-C Software AG, in an all-cash transaction worth $20.5 million. The deal had been called to light several weeks ago by a claim to the German Cartel Commission, which was looking at the proposed deal.
Specifically, Sigma-C’s SOLID+ lithography simulation/image verification tool and SOLID E simulator products will be integrated with Synopsys’ DFM and TCAD software, to provide analysis of variability within the lithography process on design layout in the DFM flow, and provide accurate models for optimizing the litho process. The two Sigma-C products share a central database of litho models to ensure high accuracy and consistency of simulation results.
With Sigma-C’s technology, Synopsys adds more accurate, predictive modeling capabilities to its portfolio, allowing customers to perform more accurate design layout analysis with 3D litho simulation, and understand yield issues for effective DFM implementation. Ultimately, benefits include reduced chip re-spins, lower development costs, and increased product yields, stated Raul Camposano, SVP and CTO of Synopsys.
“Combining SIGMA-C’s lithography modeling expertise with Synopsys’ best-of-breed EDA, TCAD and DFM solutions is a logical next step in addressing the challenges at advanced technology nodes,” stated Christian Kalus, founder, president, and CTO of Sigma-C, noting the particular importance of lithography as a key process step at 65nm and below processes to define critical patterns and control yield variations.
In addition to beefing its own product lineup, Synopsys is hoping to score a knockout blow in the lithography simulation space. The main competitor to Sigma-C’s product is Prolith, now sold by KLA-Tencor. Smaller outfit Panoramic — now, seemingly, the last independent litho simulator company in the marketplace — has a stabilized version of Tempest/SPLAT from the U. of California-Berkeley. Sigma-C’s other products include Design Scan, which competes with products from DFM companies such as Brion.
According to reports, the German Cartel Commission was looking closely at the proposed deal, due to competitors’ concerns that Synopsys is gaining control over the gold-standard litho simulator, which was codeveloped with the Fraunhofer Institute in 1989. For example, companies claiming to predict projected images as accurately but faster than an industry standard, are comparing results against the Solid-E engine. Sigma-C also partners with CAD software provider ISE Integrated Systems Engineering — also recently acquired by Synopsys — to integrate with ISE’s TCAD product to motel potential litho effects earlier in the design phase.
In January Sigma-C unveiled its Solid+ lithography simulation/image verification tool, to enable transfer of 65nm- and below designs onto printed wafers to help prevent mask failure. The software simulates areas up to 200x larger than previously possible, using faster algorithms and 3D capabilities to identify hot spots during the chip/cell design process, with full accuracy at the resist level for cells >20 x 20-microns, the company claims.
Privately held Sigma-C was founded in 1987, supported by initial funding of $2.87 million from Deutsche Venture Capital. Its customers include big-name device manufacturers including AMD, Infineon, Intel, Micron, Philips, Samsung, Renesas, STMicroelectronics, Texas Instruments, Toshiba, TSMC, and UMC, as well as equipment manufacturers Applied Materials, ASML, Canon, Carl Zeiss, Hitachi, Micronic, Nikon, and Tokyo Electron.