A strategy for sub-100 nm technology nodes is to maximize the use of high-speed deep-UV laser pattern generators, reserving e-beam tools for the most critical photomask layers. With a 248 nm excimer laser and 0.82 NA projection optics, the Sigma7500 increases the application space of laser pattern generators. A programmable spatial light modulator (SLM) is imaged with partially coherent optics to compose the photomask pattern. Image profiles are enhanced with phase shifting in the pattern generator, and features below 200 nm are reliably printed. The Sigma7500 extends the SLM-based architecture with improvements to CD uniformity and placement accuracy, resulting from an error budget-based methodology. Among these improvements is a stiffer focus stage design with digital servos, resulting in improved focus stability. Tighter climate controls and improved dose control reduce drift during mask patterning. As a result, global composite CD uniformity below 5 nm (3σ) has been demonstrated, with placement accuracy below 10 nm (3σ) across the mask. Self-calibration methods are used to optimize and monitor system performance, reducing the need to print test plates. The SLM calibration camera views programmed test patterns, making it possible to evaluate image metrics such as CD uniformity and line edge roughness. The camera is also used to characterize image placement over the optical field. A feature called ProcessEqualizer<sup>TM</sup> has been developed to correct long-range CD errors arising from process effects on production photomasks. Mask data is sized in real time to compensate for pattern-dependent errors related to local pattern density, as well as for systematic pattern-independent errors such as radial CD signatures. Corrections are made in the pixel domain in the advanced adjustments processor, which also performs global biasing, stamp distortion compensation, and corner enhancement. In the Sigma7500, the mask pattern is imaged with full edge addressability in each writing pass, providing the means of additionally improving write time by reducing the number of exposure passes. Photomask write time is generally under two hours in the 2-pass mode, compared to three hours with 4-pass writing. With a through-the-lens alignment system and both grid matching and pattern matching capabilities, the tool is also suitable for 2<sup>nd</sup> layer patterning in advanced PSM applications. Improvements in alignment algorithms and writing accuracy have resulted in first-to-second level overlay below 15 nm (mean+3σ).
Pattern generation founded on micro-mirror spatial light modulator (SLM) imaging presents a way to manage the decreasing feature sizes and increasing pattern complexities dictated by Moore's law. This paper identifies the critical elements of the imaging in the implementation of such a pattern generator. We show how the laser illumination, SLM chip, and optics collectively generate the image, and in particular, that these elements can be manufactured and integrated to specification. Expected deficiencies and variations in image quality are then effectively countered with calibration routines that bring final performance to within lithographic requirements, while also being manageable in design and turn-around-times.