SAN JOSE, Calif. Molecular Imprints Inc. (MII), a supplier of nano-imprint lithography tools, on Thursday (Jan. 11) announced that it has shipped a machine to a leading semiconductor memory manufacturer.
Although the company declined to identify the customer, sources believe that the tool was shipped to Japan's Toshiba Corp.
MII (Austin, Texas) shipped its Imprio 250 tool to Toshiba, which will use the machine for NAND flash development, sources said. The expected initial use of the system will be process development and device prototyping at the 32-nm node and below.
Rolled out in 2005, the Imprio 250 is based on the company's ''step and flash'' nano-imprint lithography technology. The tool offers sub-50-nm half pitch resolution and sub-10-nm alignment. It is aimed for device and process prototyping at the 65-nm node and beyond.
With its nano-imprint tools, MII has demonstrated devices at linewidth geometries down to 20-nm. The technology is far less expensive than traditional optical lithography, but there are overlay and defect issues associated with nano-imprint.
Developed at the University of Texas at Austin, MII's ''step and flash'' technique is based on an embossing process. The technique uses a fused silica template with a circuit pattern etched into it.
''The fused silica surface, covered with a release layer, is gently pressed into a thin layer of low viscosity, silicon-containing monomer,'' according to MII's Web site. ''When illuminated by a UV lamp, the surface is polymerized into a hard material. Upon separation of the fused silica template, the circuit pattern is left on the surface. A residual layer of polymer between features is eliminated by an etch process, and a perfect replica of the pattern is ready to be used in semiconductor processing for etch or deposition.''
In addition to semiconductor applications, MII is also targeting its technology in other markets, such as hard disk drives (HDD) and light-emitting diodes (LED), said John Doering, vice president of marketing and business development at MII.
Doering refused to comment on MII's latest customer, but he noted that the company has shipped over 20 systems thus far. According to the company's Web site, MII has shipped products to Hewlett-Packard, Motorola and several research labs. ''Nano-imprint is still in the early stages of development,'' he said.
While immersion lithography is grabbing the headlines these days, there are other promising technologies emerging on the horizon, including maskless and nano-imprint.
In 2005, nano-imprint lithography vendors rolled out new tools that claimed to have higher throughputs, better alignments and resolutions below an astounding 10-nm at price points far cheaper than optical scanners. Nano-imprint tools sell for as cheap as $100,000, compared to the staggering $25-to-$40 million price tags for the latest and greatest 193-nm immersion scanners.
Besides MII, other nano-imprint vendors are also developing tools, including EV Group, Obducat, Nanonex, and Suss MicroTec.
Most of the tools in the field have been used for niche applications. But one of the bigger potential markets for nano-imprint is semiconductors. In fact, nano-imprint technology has been placed on the 2003 edition of the International Roadmap for Semiconductors (ITRS). Nano-imprint lithography is currently slated for the 32-nm node on the ITRS roadmap. The 32-nm node is expected to emerge in the 2009 time frame.