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A mask shop is a factory which manufactures photomasks for use in the semiconductor industry. There are two distinct types found in the trade. Captive mask shops are in-house operations owned by the biggest semiconductor corporations, while merchant mask shops make masks for most of the industry.
Merchant mask shops will produce photomasks for a variety of integrated device manufacturers (IDMs) or optical device companies in addition to providing excess cavity work and re-pellicle for captive mask shops.
The company structure is similar to that of any medium sized manufacture and has the following unique departments or mask makers:
- Sales Customer / customer services
- Front end data prep
- Facilities maintenance - plant & environment
- Engineering - equipment maintenance
- Engineering - process, inspection & metrology
- Quality assurance
- Shipping & dispatching
The worldwide photomask production market was $3.1 billion in 2013. Almost half of market attributed to captive mask shops (in-house mask shops of major chipmakers).
Infrastructure (technical and financial)
The costs of creating new mask shop for 180 nm processes were estimated in 2005 as $40 million, and for 130 nm - more than $100 million. In 2013 cost of new 28 nm mask shop was estimated at $110 – 140 millions.
- Blank Inspection: Lasertec $3m
- Mask writer (Lithography ) Toshiba 5000 or Hitachi HL-8000 EB $14m
- Mask writer 2nd pass PSM: ALTA 4300 Laser. $8m
- Resist Coat: Sigmameltec CTS 7000 $3m
- PEB and Developer: HamaTech-APE Masktrack $2.8m
- Plasma Etch: Unaxis Mask Etcher IV $4m
- HF Etch:SigmaMeltec SFH 3000 $1.3m
- CD Metrology: Leica LWM 250 DUV & AMAT NanoSEM 3D $2m
- Image Metrology: Lasertec MPM 193 & 157 $2m
- Image Metrology: ZEISS AIMSFAB 193 & 157 $2m
- Registration Leica I-PRO II $2.5m
- Defect Inspection: KLA-Tencor SLF87 $10m
- Defect Inspection: AMAT Aera193 $10m
- Defect Repair: Seiko 5000 $4.5m
- Defect Repair: RAVE nm1300 $5.5m
- Resist Strip: SigmaMeltec MRC 7500 $3m
- Cleaning Precision: HamaTech-APE MaskTrack $3.5m
- Other miscellaneous equipment installation & service $8m
This equipment set can produce approximately five 65 nm reticles per day.
Because of the high costs of setting up such facilities with new equipment, many second-tier fabs and manufacturing concerns are taking to purchasing used equipment to meet their needs. For example the sales price for KLA-Tencor SLF87 from such a used equipment reseller is around 1/10 of the new sales price.
As technology shrinks, the cost to mask shops increase and the product turn around time grow longer as well. The trend in this new decade is for manufacturing to migrate eastwards to reduce cost and lead times. Once technology restrictions in the Wassenaar Arrangement are reduced, high end reticles and integrated circuits will be produced in mainland China rather than Taiwan.
- Tracy, Dan; Deborah Geiger (April 14, 2014). "SEMI Reports 2013 Semiconductor Photomask Sales of $3.1 Billion". SEMI. Retrieved 6 September 2014.
- An Analysis of the Economics of Photomask Manufacturing Part – 1: The Economic Environment, Weber, February 9, 2005. Slide 6 "The Mask Shop’s Perspective"
- Hayes, Caroline (September 23, 2013). "EDA-IP Update. Photomask, the industry's Cinderella". ChipDesignMag. Retrieved 3 December 2015.
- Rizvi, Syed (2005). Handbook of Photomask Manufacturing Technology. CRC Press. p. 728. ISBN 9781420028782.
- Mask industry assessment: 2009 // Proc. SPIE 7488, Photomask Technology 2009, 748803 (September 29, 2009); doi:10.1117/12.832722
- 2013 mask industry survey // Proc. SPIE 8880, Photomask Technology 2013, 88800K (September 20, 2013); doi:10.1117/12.2033255
- SEMATECH’s Photomask Industry Survey Validates Top Industry Challenges and Identifies Long-Term Opportunities // ALBANY N.Y. (September 24, 2013)