High-Detail GDSII to EPS/PDF?
October 22, 2008 3:19 PM   Subscribe

FileFormatFilter: Asking for a (not terribly computer-proficient) labmate in need. He uses flexible photomasks, printed on some kind of transparency. He has a company that will do this. He also has a layout, currently in CIF and GDSII format, with a very fine grid of dots. The company only accepts EPS or PDF. How can I accomplish this while A> maintaining a reasonable file size and B> maintaining the detail?

The layout to be printed contains an array of very small (order microns) dots. Thousands of them. Thousands upon thousands. The CIF file is small, presumably because it has some idea of what a matrix duplication is and is not naively describing every element. This file can be turned into a GDSII file weighing in at 200 MB.

The printing company, PageWorks, assures my labmate that he can get things printed with a 5 micron minimum feature size, no problem. The difficulty lies in the file formats they take. The native file formats of our layout program are CIF, DXF, and GDSII. They want EPS or PDF.

A PDF print driver-or at least, any of the ones I can find-is insufficient, since it won't print at a DPI high enough to capture the grid detail.

Our layout program can export (in a brain-damaged way) to PostScript. The PostScript file so created, not being so clever about the matrix elements, is 780 MB. He could throw this at ps2pdf on a big computer, come back in a week, and ship it to them on DVD, but this seems somehow dumb.

Is there some cleverer way to convert one of the native file formats into something a little more reasonably sized? I am sure there is a cleverer way to use PostScript, but my Google-fu is exhausted. I will happily provide any additional information needed, since there's probably a lot I didn't think to mention, and I am certainly open to new methods of laying out the photomask.
posted by DoubleMark to Computers & Internet (5 answers total)
Hi DoubleMark, it looks like we're in the same department. One option is to switch mask companies; I've had at least fifty photomasks made by Advance Reproductions since 2001, and their customer service and speed are outstanding. (My experiences with PageWorks have been less impressive.) I know Advance Repro can handle DXF, and they likely have conversion utilities to handle the other formats as well. If you and your colleague have been sweating over this for more than a day, it's probably cheaper to pay a real photomask company to handle it.
posted by Mapes at 5:02 PM on October 22, 2008

What program was used to create the CIF file? If it was AutoCAD or another, similar CAD program, you should be able to export a DXF and import it into Adobe Illustrator; this will, theoretically, give you a vector-based artwork which could then be exported from Illustrator as print-ready EPS.

If you don't have access to Illustrator, I'd be happy to take a crack at it.
posted by lekvar at 5:09 PM on October 22, 2008

PDF is a vector format, very much like EPS. Are you sure that the PDF print driver you have isn't producing acceptable output? (Or is it doing something exceptionally braindamaged like rasterizing your image and making a PDF containing a big bitmap?)
posted by hattifattener at 9:43 PM on October 22, 2008

Hm, is your CIF = IUCr's Crystallographic Information File? It looks like a perl script to convert from a well-defined restricted subset of that to a reasonably compact EPS or PDF wouldn't be too hard.
posted by hattifattener at 10:05 PM on October 22, 2008

Response by poster: hattifattener: My PDF print driver is indeed doing something brain-damaged; if it's not rasterizing, it's throwing the detail out the window *somewhere*. The PDFs so produced are really quite bad, and show total pattern loss. I bet it's time for me to look into a new print driver.

lekvar: The DXF -> Illustrator -> EPS idea is a good idea, I'll give that a shot tomorrow. I should be able to dig up a copy of illustrator. But really,

Mapes: Ooh, good to know that PageWorks may be questionable. Will AR do large-area flexible masks? I'll tell him to go take a look. We've definitely spent more time-money equivalent on this than the cost of just having the mask made properly.
posted by DoubleMark at 10:07 PM on October 22, 2008

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