ASML MaskTools introduces semiconductor industry's fastest simulation tool set

Used for lithography process design and optimization

Press release - SANTA CLARA, California, February 27, 2001

To help photolithography engineers and IC designers predict the manufacturability of their products before going into production, ASML MaskTools today introduced LithoCruiser, the semiconductor industry's fastest simulation tool set for designing and optimizing lithography processes. LithoCruiser is the first product to enable real-time viewing of the lithography process windows based on simulation of circuit features, which allows engineers to optimize the total imaging process. With this new tool set, process development and manufacturing integration engineers can instantly evaluate nearly all photomask and wafer imaging variables and develop new deep-submicron lithography processes faster than ever before. Using LithoCruiser, design evaluations can be performed significantly faster than is possible with other tools currently on the market, substantially reducing 'time to yield' and 'time to volume production' for new IC technologies.


"The speed of LithoCruiser gives lithography engineers new freedom," said Doug Marsh, president of ASML MaskTools. "They can now evaluate their circuit patterns, masks and imaging process interactions by looking at the simulated wafer results across the whole process window in seconds rather than hours or days. This allows the lithography engineer to tighten the critical dimension (CD) distribution across the wafer, resulting in more good chips per wafer with higher performance."


At the heart of LithoCruiser is a new simulation core technology developed by ASML MaskTools and parent company ASML. Benchmarked and calibrated against the world's leading imaging simulators, LithoCruiser has demonstrated excellent results in a fraction of the time.


"In order to advance low k1 technology, we developed the industry's fastest simulation algorithm to dynamically compute lens aberration components while applying a powerful geometry manipulation capability," said Fung Chen, vice president of engineering at ASML MaskTools.


LithoCruiser allows engineers to view large real-world circuit design data, clip pieces from the designs, process the data through various optical proximity corrections (OPC), specify mask layers and types such as binary and/or phase shifted, and instantaneously simulate and evaluate the lithographic printing performance of the resulting image on the wafer. Engineers can then make real-time modifications to both mask design – such as OPC treatment strategies – and scanner variables – such as defocus, exposure, lens aberration, numerical aperture and illumination – to quickly optimize the imaging process. Furthermore, LithoCruiser allows users to drop arbitrary cut lines at any point in the circuit design layout and get instantaneous statistical information about process window performance focus-exposure and overlapping process window plots. This capability allows engineers to quickly identify and solve design, mask and process issues. The resulting optimized circuit design can be output as a MEBES or Hitachi mask-writing file. This enables photomask designers to predict the image characteristics of their designs or silicon and to evaluate how new mask-making techniques will print.


"We're bridging the gap between design and manufacturing for the global IC industry," Marsh said. "LithoCruiser is a cornerstone product that fulfills a critical need in the technology development path. It allows better optical extension solutions to be found faster."


LithoCruiser will be available in the second quarter of this year.

About ASML MaskTools

ASML MaskTools Inc. is an ASML company based in Santa Clara, California. The company provides optical extension solutions to the semiconductor industry. These solutions are delivered through a variety of software and analytical products and through an experienced applications engineering team. Optical extension technologies enhance photolithography process latitude, thereby improving IC yields in manufacturing. These technologies are becoming essential as optical lithography is continuing to be used for volume IC manufacturing below the wavelength of the exposure light source. MaskTools, LithoCruiser and SoftScan are trademarks of ASML MaskTools.

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