SAN FRANCISCO In a move described by executives from both companies as an unprecedented level of cooperation between an EDA vendor and lithography tool supplier on design-for-manufacturability (DFM), Synopsys Inc. and Nikon Corp. said Wednesday (Sept. 20) they would work together to develop advanced lithography software models and DFM-enabled lithography manufacturing solutions for 45-nanometers and below.
The collaboration will focus on building next-generation "manufacturing-aware" optical proximity correction (OPC) and resolution enhancement technology (RET) lithography simulation models, the companies said. Early work will focus on creating lithography simulation models that can intelligently capture the Nikon lithography system's proprietary "signatures," the companies said.
"This is in many ways a pioneering effort," said Srinivas Raghvendra, senior director of DFM solutions at Synopsys.
One of the DFM challenges facing chip makers has been that at advanced technology nodes, minor variations in lithography tool performanceeven between systems of the same modelcan hurt yield. The Synopsys-Nikon work will focus on creating models specific to the signature parameters of each individual Nikon tool, the companies said.
According to Chris Sparkes, Nikon's senior director of technology, the collaboration will mark the first time that Nikon has provided this level of detail about its systems to a software vendor. Both Sparkes and Raghvendra said customers pushed them to enter a collaboration of this nature. Both said they believe it to be an industry first.
According to the companies, at 45-nm and below, new simulation and modeling inputs must include immersion lithography effects, polarization impacts, global and local flare, wave front aberrations, and other factors that may impact critical dimension.
"OPC promises to be a real challenge at 45- and 32-nm," Raghvendra said. "A big part of the challenge comes from the difficulty in building models, because you need to model for several potential sources of defects and the behavior of the actual lithography equipment itself."
The collaboration will exclusively benefit the cross section of manufacturers that are customers of both companies. Both Sparkes and Raghvendra said their companies would consider working in similar depth with other EDA and lithography vendors, respectively, pending the results of this project.
"A lot will depend on how well it goes and what kind of benefit customers derive from it," Raghvendra said.
Anantha Sethuraman, Synopsys' vice president of DFM marketing, noted that Synopsys has a long history of collaborating with semiconductor equipment vendors on TCAD transistor technology. But lithography, Sethuraman said, "is where the rubber hits the road. If you can't print it, you can't make it."
Raghvendra said the collaboration would benefit companies working at the 45-nm node, but would likely pay more dividends for at the 32-nm node.