History of lithography optics

How it all began

S-Planar 10/0.32

Advances in the area of camera lenses enabled Carl Zeiss AG to produce novel optics for lithography for the company Telefunken in 1968. In 1977, ZEISS unveiled the S-Planar 10/0.28, the first lens to enable the opto-lithographic production of 1 µm structures. This laid the foundation for the first wafer stepper.

The current partnership with Philips subsidiary Advanced Semiconductor Materials Lithography (ASML) also began in 1983 with the delivery of the first projection and illumination optics from ZEISS. This business relationship became a strategic alliance during fiscal year 1992/93. At ZEISS, the new millennium marked the beginning of a new era in the semiconductor industry – particularly with respect to 193 nm technology, which brought about the first technology leap in the area of lithography optics since 1998.

As a result of the increasing success of the ZEISS Group, the decision was made to pool the light, electron and ion-optical technologies into an independently operating company. In October 2001, Carl Zeiss SMT GmbH was founded with its subsidiaries Carl Zeiss Laser Optics GmbH, Carl Zeiss SMS GmbH, and Carl Zeiss NTS GmbH (in 2010, Carl Zeiss NTS changed over to the Microscopy division). The years that followed witnessed numerous innovations in the field of lithography optics for commercial microchip fabrication, including the Starlith 1700i. Starlith optics use the immersion method – a procedure whereby the air between the last lens and the top wafer surface is replaced with liquid – while simultaneously utilizing lens and mirror systems.

In 2006, a new plant was officially inaugurated in Oberkochen. It is the most advanced development and production center for lithography optics in the world. The Starlith 19xxi, produced starting in 2007, became a hit not only in the history of the Semiconductor Manufacturing Technology division, but also at ZEISS as the top-selling product of the company. 2012 heralded the changeover of EUV Optics (Extreme Ultraviolet Radiation) to serial production, a new era in optical lithography.


  • Planar lens


    Paul Rudolph designs the Planar® lens, providing good anastigmatic field flattening and spherical and chromatic aberration correction at an initial aperture of f/4.

  • T-coating


    Alexander Smakula invents the procedure of anti-reflective coating. This T-coating revolutionizes optics and enables the design of highly corrective objective lenses.

  • S-Planar 2.8/125


    125 mm S-Planar® f/2.8 lens for the projection of masks, corrected for 546 nm (alignment) and 405 nm (exposure), diffraction-limited for 405 nm.

  • Lens for a circuit board printer (the predecessor to today’s wafer steppers and scanners)


    ZEISS produced the first lens for a circuit board printer (the predecessor to today’s wafer steppers and scanners) for AEG Telefunken. It mapped structures of 1.25 micrometers.

  • S-Planar 10/0.28


    The S-Planar 10/0.28 lens with a resolution of 1 micrometer is used in the first wafer stepper worldwide made by American company David Mann (later GCA). In the following years, this development led to the first boom for the semiconductor division of ZEISS.

  • S-Planar 10/0.32


    ZEISS produced the first optical system for the working wavelength of 365 nanometers (i line). The S-Planar 10/0.32 is the first step into the nanometer world (structure size: 800 nanometers).

  •  MSM 100 (now AIMS)


    Under the name MSM 100 (now AIMS), the first photomask inspection system from ZEISS was launched. It enabled the effects of photomask defects on chip fabrication to be reliably tested for the first time.

  • S-Planar 5/0.6 lens (operating wavelength: 365 nanometers)


    The S-Planar 5/0.6 lens (operating wavelength: 365 nanometers) was the major breakthrough in the semiconductor market.

  • S-Planar 4/0.57 lens (operating wavelength: 248 nanometers)


    The S-Planar 4/0.57 (operating wavelength: 248 nm) is unveiled. The optic is a success.

  • Starlith 900


    The Starlith 900 is the world’s first series-produced lithography optic for the 193-nanometer wavelength, which is the first resolution possible under 100 nanometers.

  • Delivery of the first laser module to American client Cymer


    Delivery of the first laser module to American client Cymer, who became a partner in 1998.

  • Immersion method on Starlith semiconductor objective lenses for the fabrication of microchips.


    Carl Zeiss SMT AG employs the old traditional immersion method on Starlith semiconductor objective lenses for microchip fabrication.

  • MeRiT for semiconductor masks


    The MeRiT electron beam mask repair system receives the Innovation Award of German Industry.

  • Starlith 1700i


    The Starlith 1700i is the first ZEISS lithography system in which the optics are constructed from lenses and mirrors (refractors and reflectors) (catadioptric). In 2007 this optical system received the German Industry Innovation Prize.

  • Large-field EUV system


    The first large-field EUV system was delivered. The technology uses extreme ultraviolet light (EUV) and is considered the future of lithography.

  • Starlith 1900i


    The Starlith 1900i was the first immersion optic to reach the limiting resolution of 38 nanometers. A large percentage of the high-performance microchips all over the world are now produced using this technology.



    PROVE allows a position measurement of photomask structures with sub-nanometer accuracy.

  • EUV collector


    The first prototype of the EUV collector for the EUV light source is being produced. In 2012 the first EUV optical system in the world went into serial production.