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imec and Mitsui Chemicals sign strategic partnership agreement...

18 Dec 2023

...and imec spinoff Specifix launches automated 3D software for wrist fracture analysis.

imec, a Belgium-based research and innovation hub in nanoelectronics and digital technologies, and Mitsui Chemicals, a Japan-based chemical company and EUV pellicle supplier, have announced a strategic partnership on the commercialization of carbon-nanotube (CNT)-based pellicles specified for extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography.

Under the arrangement, Mitsui will integrate imec’s CNT-based pellicle development into its CNT pellicle technology with the aim of achieving full production specifications, targeting its introduction in high-power EUV systems by 2025-2026 timeframe. The announcement was made in Tokyo during Semicon Japan 2023, last week.

The partners’ aim is to develop the membrane and EUV pellicle jointly through consultation and EUV scanner validation by imec for commercialization at Mitsui. The pellicles, designed to protect a photomask from contamination during EUV exposure, have high EUV transmittance (≧ 94%), low EUV reflectance and minimal optical influence, which are critical properties for high yield and throughput in advanced semiconductor manufacturing.

The CNT pellicles can withstand EUV power levels above 1kW, thereby supporting the future EUV source roadmap (>600W). imec says these properties “have generated strong interest from companies that use EUV lithography in high-volume manufacturing”.

Steven Scheer, Senior VP Advanced Patterning, Process and Materials at imec, commented, “imec has a long history of supporting the semiconductor ecosystem to advance the lithography roadmap. Since 2015, we have collaborated with partners throughout the supply chain to develop an innovative CNT-based pellicle design for advanced EUV lithography.”

The lithography roadmap projects new pellicle introduction in the 2025-2026 timeframe, when next-generation ASML 0.33NA EUV lithography systems are set to support light sources with power levels of 600W and higher. This timeframe is associated with the insertion of logic technology nodes beyond 2nm.

Specifix launches automated 3D software for fracture analysis

Specifix, a spin-off from the University of Antwerp, imec, and the MoRe (Monica Research) Institute, is launching its software of the same name, which is designed for personalized bone fracture fixation.

Specifix’s software helps surgeons select the best personalized implants to stabilize wrist fractures. Choosing a customized implant can potentially avoid unnecessarily long surgeries, reduce exposure to radiation, and deliver better results.

Personalized preoperative planning can save up to 20 minutes in the operating room, say the partners, “reducing hospital costs and enabling surgeons to perform more surgeries. Moreover, this also leads to faster and better recovery with fewer complications”.

Specifix was conceived by Prof. Dr. Matthias Vanhees. As a hand surgeon at the University Hospital Antwerp and ORTHOCA, where there is extensive experience with 3D technology, he recognized the advantages of preoperative planning software.

However, Prof. Vanhees felt constrained by the limitations of available products: “There was a need for fully automatic software because every patient and every fracture pattern is different,” he said.

To develop the core technology for this software, Prof. Vanhees collaborated with imec’s Vision Lab. This research group of imec at the University of Antwerp, led by Prof. Dr. Jan Sijbers, specializes in the analysis of 3D images and artificial intelligence. The technology has already resulted in two patents.

Automatic planning

Specifix streamlines the entire process from preoperative planning to surgery within minutes. The package is described as “fast and fully automatic” – therefore, the software does not require a specially trained external operator, saving unnecessary costs and time.

Surgeons can access the software online, making it easy to access 24/7 from any location in the world. The software is currently focused on wrist fractures and will be expanded to other joints in the future. Through the Specifix platform, the surgeon uploads a CT scan and then receives the 3D visualization of the fracture, and the best plate selection and positioning.

Specifix is a spin-off from the University of Antwerp, imec, and the MoRe Institute and has received considerable recognition and support from the industry. Besides Belgian colleagues, hand surgeons from the United States to Australia have confirmed that they need this tool in their clinical practice.

Additionally, Specifix was selected for the prestigious imec.istart accelerator program. Investments have come from the imec.istart Fund and the Bluehealth Innovation Fund, as well as from the University of Antwerp. Specifix has also received support from the City of Antwerp to attract strategic co-funders.

SPECTROGON ABFirst Light ImagingAlluxaHyperion OpticsHÜBNER PhotonicsLASEROPTIK GmbHECOPTIK
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