History of Lithography Optics

  • How it all started

    How it all started


    In 1968, progress in the area of camera lenses enable Carl Zeiss in Oberkochen to manufacture new types of optics for lithography for Telefunken. 1977 saw the launch of the S-Planar 10/0.28, the first lens to enable the manufacture of 1-µm structures with opto-lithographic procedures. 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 dispatch of the first projection and illumination optics from ZEISS. This business relationship became a strategic partnership in fiscal 1992/93. For ZEISS, the new millennium marked the dawn of a new era in the semiconductor industry – mainly with 193-nanometer technology, which had brought about the next technological breakthrough in the area of lithography optics in 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 in an independently operating business group. Carl Zeiss SMT GmbH with its subsidiaries Carl Zeiss Laser Optics GmbH, Carl Zeiss SMS GmbH and Carl Zeiss NTS GmbH was founded in October 2001 (in 2010, Carl Zeiss NTS was transferred to the Microscopy business group). In the years to follow, this company introduced numerous innovations in the area of lithography optics for microchip manufacture to the market, including the Starlith 1700i, which uses both the immersion method – a procedure whereby the air between the last lens element and the surface of the wafer is replaced by a fluid – and lens and mirror systems simultaneously. A new factory in Oberkochen was officially opened in 2006. It is the most modern development and production center for lithography optics in the world. Starlith 19xxi, produced from 2007, became a major success not only in the history of the Semiconductor Manufacturing Technology business group, but also at ZEISS overall, becoming the Group's highest-earning product. 2012 heralded the transition of EUV (Extreme Ultraviolet) optics into serial production – a new era of optical lithography.

  • 1896 – 1945


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


    Alexander Smakula invents the procedure of anti-reflection coating. This T-coating revolutionized optics and allowed the design of lenses with extreme correction.

  • 1946 – 1989


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


    ZEISS supplies a lens for a circuit printer (precursor of the present-day wafer stepper and scanner) to AEG-Telefunken. It displays structures measuring 1.25 micrometers.


    The S-Planar 10/0.28 objective with 1 micrometer resolution is incorporated into the world's first wafer stepper by American company David Mann (subsequently GCA). Over the following years, this development leads to the first boom for the semiconductor manufacturing area of ZEISS.


    ZEISS introduces the first optics for the 365 nanometer (i-line) operating wavelength. S-Planar10/0.32 marks the first step into the nanometer world (structure size: 800 nm).

  • 1990 - 1999


    The first photomask inspection system from ZEISS goes on the market under the name MSM 100 (now called AIMS). The system enables the effect of photomask defects on chip fabrication to be reliably tested for the first time.  


    The S-Planar 5/0.6 (operating wavelength: 365 nm) is the greatest breakthrough in the semiconductor manufacturing market.


    The S-Planar 4/0.57 (operating wavelength: 248 nm) is introduced. The lens achieves market success.


    The Starlith 900 is the world's first serial lithography optics for the 193 nanometer wavelength, opening up the world of resolutions below 100 nanometers.

  • 2000 - 2005


    First laser module delivered to US customer Cymer, the partnership between both companies had been concluded in 1998.


    Carl Zeiss SMT AG applies the immersion method long used in microscopy to Starlith semiconductor lenses for microchip fabrication.


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


    Starlith 1700i is the first ZEISS lithography system whose optics are made of lenses and mirrors (Catadioptric). The optics receive the 2007 Innovation Award of German Industry.


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

  • 2006 - today


    The Starlith 1900i was the first immersion optics to reach the limiting resolution of 38 nanometers. A large percentage of all 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.


    The first prototype of the EUV SPF collector for the EUV light source is produced. In 2012, the world's first EUV optics go into serial production.