eBeam Initiative Marks Major Milestones Over 15 Years Of Photomasks And Lithography

Multi-beam mask writers and curvilinear design stand out as key achievements.


The eBeam initiative celebrated its 15th anniversary at the recent SPIE Advanced Lithography + Patterning Conference. 130 members of the mask and lithography community attended the annual lunch to mark the milestone. The eBeam Initiative welcomed its 53rd member, FUJIFILM Corporation, having grown from 20 members and advisors at its launch. FUJIFILM is the first company from the chemical supply chain and recognizes the defacto role resist plays to the eBeam community. Two of our founding members, Matthias Slodowski from Vistec Electron Beam and Aki Fujimura from D2S and co-founder of the eBeam Initiative, made presentations that illustrated the evolution of eBeam and lithography technologies over the past 15 years.  In fact, at the end of Aki’s recap of eBeam innovation,  there was a standing ovation recognizing how much the mask and lithography segments have achieved in the past 15 years.

Fig. 1: Aki Fujimura, CEO of D2S and co-founder of the eBeam Initiative, highlights major eBeam technology innovations over the past 15 years of the eBeam Initiative.

Aki recognized over 80 individuals who have contributed educational content over the past 15 years, whether it be a presentation, video, article or panel discussion. His timeline presentation highlighted key lithography and photomask developments over this period. In the first 5-6 years, the focus was on alternative lithography solutions while the world waited to see if EUV became real. In particular, eBeam direct write was a hot topic. It’s nice to see that 15 years later, that approach has found new applications in advanced packaging, chip security, and high-performance computing to name a few, as Matthias highlighted in a video of his talk (figure 2).

Fig. 2: Matthias Slodowski of Vistec Electron Beam, a founding member of the eBeam Initiative, recaps how cell projection has evolved and describes optical and photonics mastering applications. 

In 2012, the annual eBeam Initiative survey of industry luminaries was launched, asking for their opinions about key trends and requirements in the future. While many of them couldn’t answer questions publicly about what they think, they could answer anonymously to project future trends. In 2015, the survey reflected the turning point for EUV, several years before it became a reality.

Another important development happening at the same time as EUV was the pivot to develop multi-beam mask writers, with the attribute of constant write time no matter what shape you write. This was a contributing factor to the next major trend emerging from 2019… Curvilinear masks. In addition to multibeam mask writing for providing the speed to write curvilinear masks, you need fast full-chip curvilinear ILT software (think ILT in a day) to derive the mask patterns from the shapes you actually get on wafers. As of the 2023 Luminaries survey, 87% thought leading photomask manufacturers could meet the demand for curvilinear masks.

On the day of the lunch, the eBeam Initiative published the fourth annual Deep Learning survey of members products and applications using deep learning (DL) in the photomask to wafer manufacturing flow. Two new members reported this year, DNP and Synopsys, bringing the total to 15 members reporting. Tom Cecil of Synopsys describes in a new eBeam Initiative video how three key areas of AI-driven EDA – optimization, analytics, and generative AI – can be useful across the design-to-manufacturing space, including within the mask synthesis domain (figure 3). Looking at the DL report, it’s clear that speed is the key benefit of applying DL and many applications involve SEM images. But DL is also for accuracy as some members like ASML have pointed out at past lunch events.

Fig. 3: Tom Cecil from Synopsys on AI-Driven EDA.

If the past 15 years is any predictor, the eBeam community will continue to evolve solutions in ways we haven’t thought of yet. In the mid-term, the capability of manufacturing to deliver curvilinear masks is enabling the design community to pursue curvilinear design. Thanks to the diversity of the solutions on the design side, like chiplets, there will be new opportunities for the manufacturing chain. Some of the luminaries in the eBeam community spoke about this and other projections for the next 15 years in a new video (figure 4).

Fig. 4: Luminaries share their perspective on the eBeam Initiative past and future.

15 years ago, the eBeam Initiative focused on the message that eBeam writes all chips. That’s still true today and will be true in 15 years.

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