Multibeam’s innovative multicolumn e-beam lithography (MEBL) technology addresses crucial challenges in the chip industry. Proprietary mini-columns, each individually controlled, are arrayed in a compact MEBL writing module. The MEBL module’s small footprint and compatibility with commercial wafer-handling mainframes enables scaling from a single-module system to meet the needs of low-volume foundries to a multi-module system to support high-volume manufacturers.
Being maskless, the MEBL system provides a unique platform for enhancing IC security. As counterfeit ICs remain rampant and unabated, Multibeam’s technology development efforts, under a Government funded program, promise to embed a unique Secure Chip ID into each IC during routine wafer fabrication. This represents the first and most important application of Security Lithography.
In applying Security Lithography to Secure Chip ID, MEBL hard-codes unique IDs deep inside every chip, securing devices with an imperceptible physical tag that can be read electronically. MEBL writes the ID in low-lying “via” layers, making it virtually impossible for hackers to access or modify the embedded ID without destroying the chip. What makes the chip ID most secure is MEBL’s ability to embed Chip ID at the “silicon level” during fabrication, not afterwards, see illustration below. MEBL’s hardcoded chip IDs ensure the following key benefits:
Tampering/Counterfeit Barrier: Secure the IC supply chain and protect end-users from counterfeits.
Device ID Assurance: Verify identity and provenance of each chip at any point in its lifecycle using standard test equipment.
Product Quality Control: Enable correlation of field failures to individual IC test results and fabrication data, facilitate failure analysis, and gain valuable insight into chip performance.
MEBL embeds Secure Chip IDs during IC fabrication
MEBL systems are built for IC fabrication in production environments – for 300mm, 200mm, or smaller wafer sizes. MEBL’s modularity approach enables it to scale throughput without any compromise in performance or quality, to support both low-volume and high-volume requirements. Thanks to being maskless, MEBL offers unrivaled benefits to customers in production fabs:
Rapid Prototyping: MEBL speeds the development of new ICs because “re-spins” no longer require new masks.
Production Flexibility: MEBL enables multi-project wafers (MPW) and large format ICs, and facilitates rapid patterning of customized layers in ASICs.
Cost-Efficiency and Versatility: Quick-turn production of a wide variety of devices without the use of masks
Secure Production: Protect IP and IC design data by removing security-vulnerable data preparation steps required in mask-based optical lithography.
When the IC industry reached below the 28nm process node (also known as technology node or simply, node), chipmakers switched to lines-and-cuts (1D) layout from traditional (2D) layout to improve manufacturability. MEBL supports advanced-node production employing 1D layout with Complementary Lithography.
In Complementary Lithography, MEBL works with optical lithography systems in a hybrid or “mix-and-match” mode: to pattern “cuts” (of uniform lines in 1D layout printed with optical lithography) and “via holes”, see illustration below. When used this way, MEBL operates as a Complementary E-Beam Lithography (CEBL) system. The combined use of optical lithography and CEBL promises to bring down production cost in a significant way. The cost benefits go up as nodes get smaller.
CEBL draws on the strengths of both optical and e-beam lithography, while avoiding their respective drawbacks. CEBL directly patterns cuts/holes to eliminate the need for masks associated with costly “optical multi-patterning”. In addition to reducing mask cost, CEBL simplifies the litho process, shortens cycle time, and improves yield. With multi-module CEBL systems, throughput can scale to match production requirements.
The Multibeam MEBL system, being developed under a Government contract, will pattern at the 45nm node in CEBL mode. Multibeam plans to extend in the future into process nodes below and above 45nm.
CEBL complements Optical litho in patterning a critical layer
Video about CEBL