Center Spins out First Company, Sandbox, Selling Software for Semiconductor Manufacturing

Achievement date: 
2018
Outcome/accomplishment: 

The NSF-funded Nanomanufacturing Systems for Mobile Computing and Mobile Energy Technologies (NASCENT) Engineering Research Center, headquartered at the University of Texas at Austin (UT Austin), spun out its first start-up company, Sandbox Semiconductor, to provide software solutions to accelerate process development in semiconductor manufacturing for optimal etch and deposition recipes.

Impact/benefits: 

The company demonstrated a core NASCENT goal of fostering technology transfer of research to commercial industry. Sandbox won its first Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) federal grant in February 2018 to continue developing its commercial software business. The company also won a $10,000 first prize check at the Fall 2016 Texas Venture Labs Investment Competition.

Explanation/Background: 

SandBox says its mission is to accelerate advanced manufacturing process development through the application of physics-based and artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning-based models. The R&D phase of developing next-generation semiconductor technologies is enormously expensive, and Sandbox says it can cut the process down to 1/3 of what it would take otherwise. The company sees its products as helping industry develop the next-generation of semiconductor, petrochemical, and biopharmaceutical applications.

SandBox says its software reduces cost, increases efficiency, and enables advanced semiconductor manufacturing solutions; reduces the number of experiments required to develop and optimize a recipe starting from early R&D to scale up; filters and organizes large amounts of process data for interpretation and data visualization; and predicts and optimizes feature profiles and across wafer uniformity.

Meghali Chopra, the CEO of SandBox Semiconductor, was named by Forbes to its 30 under 30 list of those “Inventing the future from the atom up” in 2019. Her company is woman- and minority-owned.