Molecular Imprints Inc. (MII), the market and technology leader for nanopatterning systems and solutions, today announced it has signed an agreement to sell its semiconductor imprint lithography equipment business to Canon Inc. of Tokyo, Japan. Canon currently manufactures and markets KrF excimer and i-line illumination optical lithography platforms.
Canon began conducting research into nanoimprint technology in 2004 to enter the market for lithography equipment for leading-edge high-resolution patterning. Since 2009, the Company has been carrying out joint development with MII and a major semiconductor manufacturer for mass production using MII's Jet and Flash™ Imprint Lithography (J-FIL™) technology.
"After establishing a business alliance with Canon four years ago to provide a technologically enabled low cost nanolithography solution to the semiconductor industry, I'm very pleased to acknowledge the tremendous progress we have achieved in the pursuit of this goal. Based on this success, the merger was a natural next step for our companies," stated Mark Melliar-Smith, CEO of Molecular Imprints.
In 2011 Canon launched Phase IV of its Excellent Global Corporation Plan, of which one of the strategies included business development through globalized diversification. "Acquiring MII will strengthen our 'Industry and Others' business unit," stated Canon's CTO, Dr. Toshiaki Ikoma. "We are very excited by this innovative semiconductor manufacturing opportunity and look forward to establishing an advanced technology development capability in Austin, Texas."
Molecular Imprints was founded based on technology developed at the University of Texas at Austin (UT) by Professors SV Sreenivasan and Grant Willson. Over the last several years, Molecular Imprints has been working with Canon and other semiconductor industry infrastructure partners to enable the industry to continue on Moore's Law by side stepping the resolution limits and escalating cost burden of optical and EUV lithography. The initial adoption of J-FIL for production is planned for advanced FLASH memory within the next two years.
While Canon ushers J-FIL into advanced semiconductor manufacturing, this merger agreement also allows for the spin out creation of a new company that will keep its original "Molecular Imprints" name and have the advantage of a tremendous jump start by retaining key personnel and rights jointly owned with Canon to MII's IP portfolio, along with multiple system platforms that are designed to support the growing need for nanoscale patterning in consumer electronics and biomedical applications. "We look forward to providing a low cost nanoscale manufacturing solution to the display, hard disk drive, biotechnology and other emerging markets," said David Gino, Molecular Imprints COO. Mr. Gino will become the CEO of the new Molecular Imprints once the company is spun out just prior to the closing of the merger agreement with Canon.
The merger is expected to be completed by April of 2014 after normal shareholder and government approvals.