Molecular Imprints enables Moore’s Law
In an earlier post titled “What’s happening with Obducat” we discussed investor interest in Obducat’s nanoimprint lithography solutions. Another company making a great deal of traction in this space is privately held Molecular Imprints which is also backed by Harris and Harris Group (rounds B and C).
Molecular Imprints was founded in Austin Texas in 2001, spun out of the University of Texas. The company has applied for over 700 patents, resulting in a growing portfolio of over 160 patents issued. Molecular Imprints has raised over $150M in funding from venture capital, strategic investors, and state and federal government. The majority of this funding has come from four funding rounds: Series A, B, C, and D, the last one, of $15 million which was completed in November 2010. Investors include the following:
The company offers the following systems that all utilize their Jet and Flash Imprint Lithography (J-FIL) technology:
- Hard Disk Drive: NuTera HD7000 and Imprio HD2200
- Semiconductor: Imprio 450
- LED: Imprio 1100
The problem to solve for
Manufacturing semiconductors is a complex process but can be simplified by looking at the bigger picture. Moore’s Law states that the number of trasistors on integrated circuits doubles approximately every two years. The following taken from Intel’s website puts this into perspective:
In order to keep up with Moore’s Law, the seminconductor industry needs to every so often retool their production processes at a massive scale. In the mid-1990s, the semiconductor industry embarked on a costly and problematic migration from 200mm to 300mm wafer fabs. Now the industry is moving towards 450mm wafer fabs with high-volume manufacturing slated at the 10 nanometre or 7 nanometre nodes by 2018. Why? Moving to 450mm wafers is said to give chipmakers a 2.25x boost in wafer area and a 30% cost reduction. In order to avoid the problematic transition seen from 250mm to 300mm, the industry is using consortiums in the move to 450mm. Further information regarding the transition can be found in a recent article published by the Semiconductor Manufacturing and Design Community titled “Consortium Mania Sweeps 450mm Landscape”.
Molecular Imprints Systems
On January 2013, Molecular Imprints announced the delivery of the first advanced lithography platform capable of patterning 450mm silicon wafer substrates. The Imprio 450, was accepted by a leading semiconductor manufacturer at the end of 2012 and is now being used to support the 450mm wafer process development demands as part of a multi-year wafer services contract.
The company states:
Our proprietary Jet and Flash Imprint Lithography (J-FIL) technology is the only lithographic solution available today that can meet the demanding fine feature requirements of the industry’s 450mm transition. Having this advanced lithography available now to support this global initiative will accelerate the semiconductor industry’s transition to 450mm wafers by at least two years.
Molecular Imprints seems to have first mover advantage with a system that addresses the needs of the semiconductor industry’s 450mm transition. The company also has also diversisfied their offering to target hard disk drives and LEDs. With the last round of funding completed in late 2012, there might be an upcoming liquidity event with company the either being acquired or filing for IPO.
A Dec 31 2012 valuation of the Harris and Harris investment in Molecular Imprints taken from their 10Q can be seen in the below table (click to zoom in) on the righthand side at 6.9 million. At a cost of 4.4 million they are already expecting a 56% increase on their investment and one would assume they valuate upwards very conservatively.
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