IBMs heated tip etching system will revolutionize chip prototyping

IBMs microscopic 3D printer is being licensed to Zurich startup SwissLitho AG, which calls it the NanoFrazor — a play on words between the English word razor and the German word for “milling machine,” frase. The NanoFrazor, which behaves like a nanometer resolution milling machine, outperforms e-beams in many ways but costs a fraction of the price — around $500,000, as opposed to to e-beams, which cost from $1.5 million to as much as $30 million.

“The NanoFrazor is great for rapid prototyping of all sorts of applications,” Rawlings told EE Times. “It runs open loop in order to achieve scan speeds of millimeters per second and uses a specialized heated tip, mounted on a bendable cantilever, that is 700 nanometers long, but just 10 nanometers in radius at its tip.”

Line width accuracy is 10 nm, but 3D depth accuracy is one nm, while reading back the measured depth of patterns has sub-nanometer accuracy. IBM hopes to be prototyping tunneling field-effect transistors (FETs) in III-V and graphene materials by the end of 2014, using a lithographic transfer technique.

IBM is also experimenting with using its 3D printing techniques in quantum computing applications where it will create patterns to control and manipulate light on-chip in ways not possible with traditional lithography. It claims one of the unique properties of the system for quantum prototypes is that 3D patterns can be formed to guide light around smooth corners, thereby reducing light scattering problems in lightguides.

Previously Nextbigfuture covered that IBM used the Nanofrazor system to etch a microscopic magazine cover just 11-by-14 microns (small enough to fit 2,000 on a single grain of salt). The National Geographic Kids will be receiving the Guinness World Record for smallest magazine cover at the show, which took IBM’s 3D printer just 10 minutes to create.

The heated tip of the 3D printing mechanism is 700 nanometers long but just 10 nanometers at its tip and can be positioned with nanometer resolution.(Source: IBM)

SwissLitho also has interest from photonics companies to make microscopic lenses and waveguides and from bioscience users hoping to create tiny sorting mechanisms to separate out individual living cells. And security firms plan to use the NanoFrazor to create microscopic security tags to protect important documents, currency, passports, and priceless works of art from forgery.

IBM’s mechanism works like an atomic force microscope (AFM) but with a heated tip that can sculpt 3D nanometer resolution patterns.(Source: IBM)

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