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The ABC’s of Ordering a Photomask

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I began my career in the photomask industry back in 1980 working for a small company in Connecticut. In spite of technology being far simpler back then, ordering a photomask was always something that puzzled my customers.

What surprises me these 35 years later, with all the considerable advancements in technology and procedures, is that a large number of customers continue to struggle with the “ABC’s” of ordering a photomask. This is due to smaller companies and universities not having much experience ordering masks or not ordering as frequently as larger organizations. This means when they need to order a mask they have forgotten what they learned the previous time they ordered. This problem is compounded by the fact that a large portion of our industry is made up of academic institutions where the individuals placing the orders are an ever changing rotation of undergrads, graduate students and faculty members.

Entering details like photomask pattern tone and orientation incorrectly can result in the customers getting what they ordered, but not what they wanted/needed. The fracture window instruction for extracting photomask data from the supplied database is another very common detail that entails difficult translation and, at times, failed outcomes.

Efforts to inform these customers and ensure the correctness of the critical technical instructions supplied can be a huge time sink for the customer who simply wants to order a photomask (usually on a limited budget).

Thankfully Compugraphics use various tools such as RemoteView and Klayout to allow our customers to view the final photomask data prior to committing to manufacturing. This allows us to work with our customers and ensure they are getting the photomask they need.

These tools provide an online point of access that anyone with an internet connection can utilize to review their data just as it will appear on the final photomask. But the best thing about these tools is that we offer these services free of charge.

Some of the features you can view using these tools:

  • The orientation relative to the chrome side of the photomask
  • You can see the overall layout and mask tone (clear vs. chrome)
  • Array centering
  • Title placements
  • Barcodes
  • Zoom into any area or detail just as you would at a CAD station while preparing the original photomask layout
  • Measure distances and structure sizes

However, RemoteView or Klayout alone can’t necessarily prevent inefficiencies that lead to tedious corrections and respective delays. We have developed an on-line quotation (RFQ) and order entry system that is highly interactive for students and other universities/small companies to utilize. The process provides a step-by-step web-page instruction that walks the customer through each detail providing it is a reasonably standard application.

Workshops Free of Charge

In further support of this market segment Compugraphics now offer a photomask ordering workshop, free of charge, specifically for university-based photomask users, with a particular focus on the fast growing nanofabrication centers network that has blossomed in recent years. The workshop features a presentation that educates students on how photomasks are manufactured, what details are critical to ordering a photomask, and how to order a photomask easily.

The workshops will lead to better informed customers with more efficient and consistent results. They will streamline the ordering process for the attendees ultimately leading to reduced time and effort when ordering a photomask. The sessions will be interactive giving participants the opportunity to ask our experts questions and expand their knowledge.

We Can Come to You

The workshops will be conducted by the Compugraphics Sales staff and our Customer Solutions Manager, Cathy Widner. The workshops can take place at your location or you can come into the Compugraphics office closest to you.  Get in touch if you are interested in attending a workshop.

Craig Durgy, US Eastern Regional Sales Manager

Craig Durgy

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