Nanoimprint technology – Canon to acquire Molecular Imprints Inc.

Nanoimprint technology

Canon Inc. of Japan has finalized a deal to acquire Austin-based Molecular Imprints Inc., according to press release issued on Feb. 13. Molecular Imprints, one of the market and technology leaders for nanopatterning systems solutions, has agreed to sell its semiconductor nanoimprint lithography equipment business to Canon as part of Canon`s bid to bolster its chipmaking equipment business. The price for the acquisition of Molecular Imprints was not disclosed, but the Nikkei business daily estimated it at more than $98 million.

In 2004, Canon began its own research into nanoimprint technology to enter the market for lithography equipment for leading-edge high-resolution patterning. A business alliance was established with Molecular Imprints in 2009, when Canon carried out joint development with the US company for mass production of semiconductor components using the Jet and Flash Imprint Lithography (J-FIL) technology of Molecular Imprints. This partnership aimed to enable the industry to continue on Moore’s Law bypassing the cost burden and resolution limits of traditional optical and EUV lithography. J-FIL is planned to be adopted for advanced FLASH memory within the next two years.

Canon, a stepper manufacturer, is facing increasing difficulties to compete in the stepper market due to the increasing costs of R&D associated with immersion and EUV technologies. Since the stepper market is becoming increasingly consolidated and in the hands of the market leader ASML, Canon is now looking to diversify its micro and nano-patterning device offer by exploring technologies alternative to the traditional optical patterning

Molecular Imprints was founded by S.V. Sreenivasan and Grant Wilson, both professors at the University of Texas at Austin. It is an industry leader for high-resolution, low-cost-of-ownership nanopatterning systems and solutions. Mark Melliar-Smith, CEO of Molecular Imprints, stated that the business alliance with Canon had yielded great progress in the pursuit of low-cost nanolithography solutions for the semiconductor industry.

Dr. Toshiaki Ikoma, CTO of Canon, notes that the acquisition of Molecular Imprints will strengthen the “Industry and Others” business unit of Canon. The acquisition is part of Phase IV of Canon`s Excellent Global Corporation Plan, where one of the strategies is business development via globalized diversification.

Canon decided to make Molecular Imprints a wholly owned unit after considering the outlook for volume production using the technology in the mid-to-long term future. The terms of the agreement will allow Molecular Imprints to retain the same company name and with most of the personnel. It was also reported that Canon plans to set up an office at the same place where Molecular Imprints is currently established.

The merger has the advantage of having a new company with the same name, the same key personnel, intellectual IP rights jointly owned with Canon, and multiple system platforms that are designed to support the growing need for nanoscale patterning in consumer electronics and biomedical applications. David Gino, COO of Molecular Imprints, stated that the company is looking forward to provide low-cost nanoscale manufacturing solutions to the hard disk drive, display, biotechnology, and other emerging markets. Gino is set to become the CEO of the new Molecular Imprints once the merger is complete. The deal is expected to be completed by April this year after government and shareholder approvals.

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