History of Carl Zeiss SMT GmbH

Semiconductor Manufacturing Technology

  • 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 – 1989
    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.

    First electronic printer (Telefunken)


    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.


    ZEISS delivers the first projection and illumination optical systems to Dutch company Philips (ASML, which is now a strategic partner of ZEISS, is later carved out of Philips).

  • 1990 - 2002


    Strategic partnership with Dutch wafer stepper and scanner producer ASM Lithography (ASML) begins.


    The Semiconductor Manufacturing Technology business group of ZEISS is founded.

    Carl Zeiss SMT


    The Semiconductor Manufacturing Technology business group is subdivided into four independent companies: Carl Zeiss SMT (lithography optics and mirror blocks), Carl Zeiss Laser Optics (components for lithography lasers), Carl Zeiss SMS (supplier for systems for photomask quality assurance) and Carl Zeiss NTS (manufacturer of electron microscopes, today the Microscopy business group).


    ASML and ZEISS jointly become world market leader in the area of wafer steppers and scanners and remain in this position until today.

  • 2003 - today


    Acquisition of NaWoTec.


    Official inauguration of the new plant of Carl Zeiss SMT AG, the world's most advanced development and production center for lithography optics.


    Acquisition of Pixer Technology (in Karmiel, Israel).