DNP, Takumi team for photomask inspection system

February 26, 2007 – Dai Nippon Printing Co. Ltd. (DNP) and Takumi Technology Corp. say they are developing an automated criticality-aware photomask inspection system to help reduce manufacturing cost and turnaround times of advanced photomasks. The product, currently in beta phase with an unnamed semiconductor manufacturer, is expected to be ready by March 2008 for worldwide deployment to DNP’s customers as a service, at no extra cost.

The new system lets users rank each region in the photomask according to “criticality awareness” — e.g. if it is an area with critical or noncritical defects, no defects, or is a region with small or no impact on semiconductor performance, according to Naoya Hayashi, GM of DNP’s Electronic Device Laboratory. Semiconductor manufacturers can thus minimize the effects of mask overkill, resulting in better mask yields and reduced inspection costs, he explained, in a statement.

A design-driven defect analyzer and networked environment enable seamless data transfer between DNP and the chipmaker via a secured data transport, “substantially reducing inspection time and delivery throughput,” Hayashi added.

Since mid-2006 Takumi has been building on its mask-data preparation (MDP) work for NEC and other customers, by promoting its ability to automatically detect, classify, and repair yield-limiting design “hot spots.” Using Takumi’s Enhance software, Toshiba Semiconductor Co. claims to have reduced the number of hot spots associated with sub-65nm SoC technology from >47,000 to just 40 in half a day, amid efforts to reduce masks costs by 20%, focusing on tape-out labor.

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