History & Milestones

ZEISS can look back on nearly 50 years of history in semiconductor manufacturing technology. The cornerstone for our unique expertise was laid well over 100 years ago. Click through our milestones in Semiconductor Manufacturing Technology:



  • 1968 - 1979

    ZEISS produced the first lens for a circuit board printer (the predecessor to today’s wafer steppers and scanners) for Telefunken. It mapped structures of 15 micrometers.


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

  • 1980 - 1989

    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).


    ZEISS delivered the first projection and exposure optical system to the Dutch company Philips (ASML, strategic partner of Carl Zeiss SMT GmbH, was later spun off from the company).


    With a working wavelength of 248 nanometers (light source: an excimer laser with krypton fluoride as the fill gas), the S-Planar® 5/0.42 lens facilitated structures of less than 500 nanometers.

  • 1990 - 1999

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


    Under the name MSM 100 (now AIMS™), the first photomask inspection system by ZEISS was launched on the market. 


    The Semiconductor Manufacturing Technology segment of ZEISS was founded.


    The S-Planar® 4/0.57 (working wavelength: 248 nanometers) was introduced. The optical system enjoyed great success.


    Start of the strategic partnership between ZEISS and the Dutch manufacturer of wafer steppers and scanners ASM Lithography (now ASML).


    The 193 nanometer technology (light source: an excimer laser with argon fluoride as the fill gas) by ZEISS facilitated the next major advance in the semiconductor industry.

  • 2000 - 2004

    Delivery of the first laser module to an American customer.


    The Semiconductor Manufacturing Technology segment was divided into four independent companies: Carl Zeiss SMT GmbH, Carl Zeiss Laser Optics GmbH, Carl Zeiss SMS GmbH (in 2001, the company still traded under Carl Zeiss Microelectronic Systems GmbH) and Carl Zeiss NTS GmbH. 


    Groundbreaking for the new plant of the Semiconductor Manufacturing Technology segment in Oberkochen: the most modern center for lithography optics in the world was built here in the following years.


    The MeRiT® electron beam repair system for photo masks won the German Industry Innovation Prize.

  • 2005 - 2009

    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.


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


    Official dedication of the new plant of Carl Zeiss SMT GmbH, which was once again significantly enlarged in 2011.


    The first Starlith® 1900 was delivered. This lithography optics system set the record in 2011 as the best-selling product in the history of ZEISS.

  • 2010 - 2014

    PROVE® mask metrology system by ZEISS was launched on the market. It enabled measurements to a precision of 0.5 nanometers.


    For the second time in a row, the ZEISS Semiconductor Manufacturing Technology segment celebrated its most successful fiscal year in company history with sales of more than € 1 billion.


    The German Federal Ministry for Education and Research supports the development of EUV lithography under the consortium leadership of Carl Zeiss SMT GmbH.


    The first EUV optical system in the world goes into serial production.


    Inauguration of the factory expansion: after a construction time lasting only 18 months, the surface area of the Oberkochen plant has now almost doubled. The absolute highlight is the EUV cleanrooms that meet even the most stringent requirements.


    Delivery of the 500th Starlith ® 19xyi. This immersion optics system is the most successful product in ZEISS' history.

  • 2015 - 2018

    New corporate structure: By merging Carl Zeiss Laser Optics GmbH and Carl Zeiss SMS GmbH into Carl Zeiss SMT GmbH the segment is now also a legal unity.


    Carl Zeiss SMT GmbH and its strategic partner ASML strengthen their cooperation. ASML becomes a minority stakeholder.


    ZEISS Process Control Solutions Strategic is founded. Process control solutions for semiconductor customers enhance the portfolio of the Semiconductor Manufacturing Technology segment.


    50 years after the delivery of the first semiconductor lens, ZEISS has made the biggest technological leap in history towards chip manufacturing: EUV lithography is ready for series production and continues Moore's law.

  • 2019 - 2020

    Introduction of EUV technology in semiconductor mass production: Together with its partner ASML, the Semiconductor Manufacturing Technology segment achieved the breakthrough in EUV lithography – and thus enabled a decisive technological leap forward in the history of chip manufacturing.


    Demand on the global semiconductor market and thus for chip manufacturing technologies continues unabated during the pandemic. ZEISS sees opportunities for growth in particular from global digitalization and technologies such as 5G connectivity, autonomous driving, artificial intelligence and the need for increasingly powerful data centers.