ARCHIVED - Scanimetrics Inc. Edmonton, Alberta
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March 05, 2007— Edmonton, Alberta
Semiconductor chips are everywhere in today's electronic world – in personal computers, cellular phones, automobiles, medical equipment, industrial equipment and other goods. But before they can be used, all of them must be tested!
Edmonton's Scanimetrics Inc. is working to change the way these chips are tested. President and CEO, Steven Slupsky comments, "Our technology is unique – no one else is testing semiconductor chips the way we are. Scanimetrics could revolutionize the industry worldwide."
Chips are produced on wafers, with many chips on each wafer, and the circuits are tested while the chips are still on the wafer. Current methods use physical contact to test the circuits. After testing, the wafer is cut apart, and the defective and damaged chips are discarded. The proven chips are sold and incorporated into consumer and industrial products.
The semiconductor manufacturing industry is huge, more than USD200 billion annually. But current testing methods are giving manufacturers a number of headaches. Technologies used to test and package semiconductor chips have not kept pace with the rapid improvements in the manufacturing process. Many chips now cost more to test or package than to manufacture.
Current methods also limit the design of semiconductor chips. The chips could be made smaller, denser and cheaper – but they must be sized larger to accommodate the testing process. On top of that, the physical contact required for testing can sometimes scratch or damage the chip.
The solution? Edmonton's Scanimetrics Inc., the only enterprise with a "virtual probe" technology that never touches the chip and allows for the wireless testing of many circuits at the same time.
Scanimetrics' non-contact testing technology is a major innovation that reduces testing and packaging costs by as much as 1000 times compared to current methods. The new "chip scale" wireless technique allows chips to be made as much as 100 to 1000 times smaller. Chips can also be tested more quickly – often 1000 chips in the same time it would take to test a single chip today.
Scanimetrics was co-founded by Steven and Brian Moore in 2001. For the first two years, Steven worked closely with the University of Alberta to evaluate market opportunities for the technology, which was originally developed in labs at the university, and to prepare a business plan. The company got the financial boost it needed to really get going in 2003, when Scanimetrics won the Edmonton-based VenturePrize business plan competition.
"After this milestone," says Steven, "we initiated discussion with the National Research Council Canada's Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC-IRAP). NRC-IRAP provided funding during our earliest stages, when it was most needed, and supported our technology development activities." He continues, "NRC-IRAP also put us in touch with expert advisors who understood both our technological and market challenges. The experts helped us in understanding the best application of our technology and where industry could benefit from using it."
Scanimetrics gained further credibility and validation when it won the Most Innovative Technology award at the Southwest Test Workshop in 2004, an important industry recognized event.
In 2005, Scanimetrics signed an agreement with U.S.-based Cadence Design Systems to provide Cadence technology for use by Scanimetrics' engineering personnel. Scanimetrics has also signed an agreement with Taiwan-based foundry, United Microelectronics Corporation, to fabricate its first product prototype.
"Currently, we are performing customer trials with two large integrated device manufacturers, one in Europe, the other in the United States. We are evaluating how well our technology integrates with their applications. To date, this testing is going very well," enthuses Steven.
The positive results that the company has had so far give Steve confidence, "It's an exciting time for the company. I am sure that these evaluations of our technology in action will prove the benefits and applications we can bring to the industry."
"Our success so far is directly linked to NRC-IRAP financial assistance and technical advice," says Steven. "The guidance and flexibility of the NRC-IRAP program have maximized the value of our projects. Our continued success will advance the semiconductor industry in Canada and worldwide and will promote Alberta's growing knowledge-based economic sector. NRC-IRAP's contribution to our company and other companies like ours will put Canada on the map as a place where innovation receives the support it needs to make companies thrive."
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