EV Group (EVG; St. Florian, Austria), a supplier of wafer bonding and lithography equipment for the MEMS, nanotechnology, and semiconductor markets, and SwissLitho (Zurich, Switzerland), a manufacturer of nanolithography tools, announced a joint solution to enable the production of 3D structures down to the single-nanometer scale. Initially demonstrated within the "Single Nanometer Manufacturing for Beyond CMOS Devices (SNM)" project funded by the Seventh Framework Program of the European Union, the joint solution involves SwissLitho's novel NanoFrazor thermal scanning probe lithography system to produce master templates with 3D structures for nanoimprint lithography (NIL), and EVG's HERCULES (trademarked) NIL system with SmartNIL (trademarked) technology to replicate those structures at high throughput.
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EVG and SwissLitho will initially target the joint solution for developing diffractive optical elements and other related optical components that support photonics, data communications, augmented/virtual reality (AR/VR), and other applications, with the potential to expand into biotechnology, nanofluidics, and other nanotechnology applications.
As part of the joint solution, SwissLitho's NanoFrazor system will be used to create imprint masters. Compared to conventional approaches, including electron beam (e-beam) and grayscale lithography, the technology has the unique ability to print 3D structures with unsurpassed accuracy. EVG's HERCULES NIL system will then be used to create working templates for production use, cost-effectively and at high throughput, using the company's proprietary large-area nanoimprint SmartNIL technology.
Thermal scanning probe lithography, the technology behind the NanoFrazor, was invented at IBM Research in Zurich and acquired by SwissLitho AG. This maskless, direct-write lithography approach involves spin-coating a unique, thermally sensitive resist onto the sample surface before patterning. A heated ultra-sharp tip is then used to decompose and evaporate the resist locally while simultaneously inspecting the written nanostructures. The resulting arbitrary resist pattern can then be transferred into almost any other material using lift-off, etching, plating, molding or other methodologies.