Fujitsu, e-Shuttle, D2S deal benefits maskless IC slice

October 12, 2008 – Fujitsu Microelectronics Ltd. and Advantest Corp. (with their JV, e-Shuttle) have joined forces with D2S (Direct 2 Silicon), a startup launched a year ago, to make ICs faster and more cost-effectively than with conventional e-beam direct-write (EBDW) lithography technologies.

The plan calls for e-Shuttle to produce test chips using Advantest’s F3000 e-beam direct-write tool and D2S’ design and software capabilities with Fujitsu’s standard cell libraries, to create test silicon to refine and validate D2S’ design for e-beam (DFEB) technology, starting with a 65nm low-power library and moving to 40nm and below. D2S’ DFEB technology combines character projection technology with design and software techniques to reduce a design’s required shot count, resulting in increased CP e-beam direct-write throughput.

“By efficiently employing the EBDW approach, DFEB technology eliminates the cost of masks and can speed time to market by shortening the design-to-lithography process flow,” the companies claim in a statement. In particular, chipmakers with low- to mid-volumes of test chips, samples, and design derivatives are expected to benefit. “This design-to-manufacturing collaboration will facilitate a unique capability for virtually maskless ICs that will increase design starts,” stated Yoji Hino, EVP of Fujitsu Microelectronics Ltd. ” Enabling the long tail of ASIC designs, particularly for derivative designs, is beneficial for the semiconductor industry overall.”

“The increasing cost of semiconductor masks is making low-volume production of custom ICs economically unfeasible yet, in aggregate, this segment can represent as much volume as the high-volume segment,” added Aki Fujimura, founder and CEO of D2S. “This long tail of the custom IC business can be enabled through a virtually maskless DFEB technology.”

SST Editors’ Take

This is good news for a small slice of the IC market (low- to mid-volume ASICs). Advantest’s “cell projection” e-beam is faster than either Gaussian or vector scanned e-beam systems. Basically, certain standard circuit shapes are projected in one shot, rather than assembled out of rectangles or drawn. It is not as fast as multi-beam e-beam (which isn’t in the market, yet) and the problem is the limited number of standard shapes that can be cut in a template and loaded into the vacuum system. If D2S will also work on the cell-projection issues, but if they do that would be good.


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