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12 April 2013 An investigation into scalability and compliance for triple patterning with stitches for metal 1 at the 14nm node
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Lithographers had hoped that single patterning would be enabled at the 20nm node by way of EUV lithography. However, due to delays in EUV readiness, double patterning with 193i lithography is currently relied upon for volume production for the 20nm node’s metal 1 layer. At the 14nm and likely at the 10nm node, LE-LE-LE triple patterning technology (TPT) is one of the favored options [1,2] for patterning local interconnect and Metal 1 layers. While previous research has focused on TPT for contact mask, metal layers offer new challenges and opportunities, in particular the ability to decompose design polygons across more than one mask. The extra flexibility offered by the third mask and ability to leverage polygon stitching both serve to improve compliance. However, ensuring TPT compliance – the task of finding a 3-color mask decomposition for a design – is still a difficult task. Moreover, scalability concerns multiply the difficulty of triple patterning decomposition which is an NP-complete problem. Indeed previous work shows that network sizes above a few thousand nodes or polygons start to take significantly longer times to compute [3], making full chip decomposition for arbitrary layouts impractical. In practice Metal 1 layouts can be considered as two separate problem domains, namely: decomposition of standard cells and decomposition of IP blocks. Standard cells typically include only a few 10’s of polygons and should be amenable to fast decomposition. Successive design iterations should resolve compliance issues and improve packing density. Density improvements are multiplied repeatedly as standard cells are placed multiple times. IP blocks, on the other hand, may involve very large networks. This paper evaluates multiple approaches to triple patterning decomposition for the Metal 1 layer. The benefits of polygon stitching, in particular, the ability to resolve commonly encountered non-compliant layout configurations and improve packing density, are weighed against the increased difficulty in finding an optimized, legal decomposition and coping with the increased scalability challenges.
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Christopher Cork, Alexander Miloslavsky, Paul Friedberg, and Gerry Luk-Pat "An investigation into scalability and compliance for triple patterning with stitches for metal 1 at the 14nm node", Proc. SPIE 8683, Optical Microlithography XXVI, 868308 (12 April 2013);

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