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IBM, Toppan ink mask deal

IBM and Toppan Printing have agreed to invest $200 million in a joint development program for 45-nm photomasks. Development work will take place at IBM's Burlington, VT, plant, with evaluation conducted at Big Blue's 300-mm production facility in East Fishkill, NY. Toppan engineers will be assigned to work with the chipmaker's mask development team in Burlington. The program's goal is to ready 45-nm masks for production around mid-2007. The maskmaker says it will transfer the jointly developed manufacturing process from IBM's operation to its own plants so it can establish its own production system for customers with 45-nm masks in the early stages of commercialization.

IBM also entered a joint initiative with Infineon and Macronix focused on a new technology called phase-change memory (PCM). The work will be conducted by 20–25 employees from the three companies at IBM's TJ Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights, NY, and its Almaden Research Lab in San Jose. PCM stores data by changing the state of a special material from an amorphous to a crystalline structure, rather than storing data as an electrical charge. It has shown potential for high-speed, high-density data storage, and retains data even when power is turned off, according to the research partners.

Infineon, Nanya ramp 90 nm

The strategic development alliance between Infineon and Nanya has paid off with the qualification of 90-nm memory products. The German company's 300-mm fab in Dresden has already ramped volume production, while the partners' Inotera Memories joint venture in Taiwan has begun the 90-nm transition. Infineon said it had converted 5% of its total global DRAM production from 110- to 90-nm by late May. The companies credit their experience with 193-nm lithography, which was introduced at the 110-nm node, with their successful development of 90-nm process structures. They also say that the introduction of "checkerboard cell arrays" facilitated excellent storage capacitance using standard surface enhancement methods, which helped them avoid the utilization of complex high-k dielectric materials. The first 90-nm device to market is a 512-Mb DDR SDRAM, with a 512-Mb DDR2 SDRAM expected to ship in the second half of 2005.

Zeiss, investors nab NaWoTec

In a move meant to strengthen its technology base in nanostructuring and photomask repair, Carl Zeiss SMT and a group of investors including Intel Capital have agreed to buy NaWoTec of Rossdorf, Germany. The two companies jointly developed a novel electron-beam mask repair tool, launched recently as the MeRiT MG. The first beta tool was delivered to Intel for its EUV lithography mask line. NaWoTec's operations will be integrated with Zeiss's semiconductor metrology systems division, with the deal expected to close by the end of 2Q05.

Hermann Gerlinger, Zeiss SMT's president and CEO, cited the acquired company's "excellent application know-how of mask repair processes, highly flexible applications software allowing easy adaptation for further applications, and computer-controlled gas-injection hardware to precisely control chemical reactions."

CVD buys First Nano assets

CVD Equipment has signed a deal to buy First Nano's nanotechnology process development and equipment business. Among the assets that the Ronkonkoma, NY–based purchasing company will acquire are processes for single- and multiwall nanotube and nanowire synthesis as well as CVD manufacturing tools for the synthesis of a variety of carbon nanotubes, one-dimensional nanostructures, and nanomaterials. First Nano, established in May 2003 and located in Carpinteria, CA, was cofounded by a team led by Virgil Elings, founder of Digital Instruments.

Dimatix opens MEMS fab

Dimatix (formerly Spectra) has opened its new Santa Clara, CA, headquarters, which includes an R&D center and a MEMS fab. The company plans to employ its proprietary MEMS process for creating tiny ink-jet structures in silicon, which it believes will foster a new generation of printhead technology that can support a wide range of fluids, from traditional inks to nanoparticle-based metallic materials.

The 33,000-sq-ft facility will produce micropumps using shaped-silicon piezoelectric MEMS technology for the company's materials deposition division (based in the new headquarters), as well as ink-jet printhead subcomponents for its Spectra printing division (located in Lebanon, NH). The materials deposition unit provides products that help companies precisely print or deposit picoliter-sized fluid droplets on a wide variety of surfaces, including flexible substrates, electronic circuits, RFID tags, FPDs, and flexible displays.

Asyst agrees to conform

Asyst Technologies and FACTS have signed a strategic agreement for automation software conformance testing. The Austin, TX–based provider of professional services for automation capabilities management is licensed by Sematech to supply independent third-party software conformance exams. The companies say the agreement will assure that industry participants who need objective conformance assessments of tool automation functionality and operational reliability can confidently engage a firm that is knowledgeable about both Asyst's software products and implementations as well as the rigorous automation guidelines instituted by Sematech.

Veeco joins AFM program

Veeco Instruments has entered a joint development program with French research lab CEA LETI and Team Nanotec to develop atomic-force microscope (AFM) tips for the sub-70-nm technology nodes. Each partner will designate engineering teams and will provide tips, tools, and samples with advanced design rules for the project. An IBM Germany spin-off, Team Nanotec develops, manufactures, and sells tips used by Veeco's AFM customers, while LETI and Veeco have worked together for years.

"The goal of our collaboration is to develop production-worthy AFM tips and qualification standards that will meet our semiconductor customers' future technology requirements," explained Paul Clayton, vp and business unit manager of Veeco's automated AFM group. "In order to be ready to meet the 65-, 45-, and sub-45-nm metrology nodes, we require not only the advanced tip capability, but also the structures with which to test them."

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