Press Release

50 Years of Semiconductor Manufacturing Technologies from ZEISS

SEP 14, 2018 · 4 min read
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Jeannine Rapp

Photo of Jeannine Rapp
Press Contact

Jeannine Rapp

OBERKOCHEN/Germany | ZEISS Semiconductor Manufacturing Technology

In 1968, ZEISS supplied a lens for a circuit board exposure device for the first time. At the time, the predecessor of today’s wafer scanners for chip production mapped structures of more than ten micrometers. Today, ZEISS Semiconductor Manufacturing Technology (SMT) lithography optics with extreme ultraviolet light (EUV) already enable structures of less than 20 nanometers. Used in the wafer scanners of strategic partner ASML from the Netherlands, they enable the production of increasingly powerful, smaller, cheaper and more energy-efficient chips. They pave the way for microelectronic innovations such as the Internet of Things, Smart Production, electromobility and self-driving cars.

  • Celebrating the anniversary 50 Years of ZEISS SMT

    Dr. Michael Kaschke, President and CEO of ZEISS, Dr. Dieter Kurz, Chairman of the Supervisory Board of Carl Zeiss AG and Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Carl Zeiss Foundation, Martin van den Brink, President and CTO of ASML, Dr. Karl Lamprecht, Member of the Executive Board of ZEISS and Head of the SMT segment, and Dr. Herbert Zeisel, Minsterial Conductor in the Key Technology for Growth Department at the BMBF (from the left), in front of the model of a Starlith® 19xyi lens from ZEISS. Classic lithography optics such as the ZEISS Starlith 19xyi form the basis for the success story of SMT, which is now culminating in the production readiness of EUV lithography.

EUV lithography as a model for European cooperation

The 50-year development of semiconductor manufacturing technologies from ZEISS and the lithography systems developed by ASML since 1984 have culminated in the production of EUV lithography in 2018. The success of EUV technology is a model for European cooperation in research, industry and politics. The German government, the Dutch government and the European Commission have all been promoting research and development in lithography for around three decades. The aim of the ZEISS event “50 Years of Enabling the Semiconductor Industry” held in Oberkochen was to celebrate what has been achieved together with sponsors, project partners and stakeholders, as well as to discuss the future of successful cooperation in strategy discussions.

In his opening speech, ZEISS President and CEO Dr. Michael Kaschke said: “It is precisely with an extensive network and many partners, many of which are here today, that such major technological steps can be achieved.”

Microelectronics industry continues to grow in importance

Dr. Georg Schütte, State Secretary at the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), emphasized the importance of long-term funding: “We will continue to strengthen the position of microelectronics in Germany with the new High-Tech Strategy 2025. We are convinced that technological sovereignty is a valuable commodity today. ZEISS and ASML are a fine example of how Europe can conduct excellent research and produce innovations. The keys to success were European cooperation and ongoing public funding.” Since 2005, the BMBF has invested a total of €900 million in microelectronics.

First commercial EUV-enabled chips to be launched in 2019

New technologies are needed to drive digitalization. Dr. Martin van den Brink, President and CTO of ASML, highlighted the way in which EUV lithography has helped shape the microelectronics industry: “The launch of EUV in chip fabs around the world was based on major scientific efforts and technological innovation. The fourth generation of the EUV system, the NXE:3400B, is currently rolled out in the mass production processes at several customers. The first generation of chips based on EUV lithography will be launched early next year – and we are already working on the next lithography platform: EUV with high numerical aperture. This system will enable geometric chip scaling beyond the next decade and offer 70% better resolution and positioning accuracy than the most advanced EUV systems available today.”

EUV technology enables greatest technological leap in history towards chip production

For more than five decades, classical lithography systems with an exposure wavelength down to 193 nanometers were at the forefront of chip production. The demand for these systems continues unabated due to the increasing need for memory chips. In addition, the EUV systems – with an exposure wavelength of 13.5 nanometers – enable even finer chip structures than classic lithography systems. This technological leap is the biggest in the history of chip manufacturing and continues Moore’s law, which is crucial in semiconductor electronics, and states that the number of integrated circuits that can fit on a microchip will double every two years.

In addition to innovative technologies such as EUV lithography, the continuation of Moore’s law is also based on a corresponding strategic orientation of the semiconductor industry. Dr. Dieter Kurz, Chairman of the Supervisory Board of Carl Zeiss AG and Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Carl Zeiss Foundation, explained in his speech that the success story of semiconductor development and production was also made possible by the ZEISS foundation structure: “This is what makes it possible to sustain complex projects over many years, withstand setbacks and market fluctuations, and establish a corporate culture of high innovation competence. That was one of the keys to this outstanding corporate performance.”


ZEISS is an internationally leading technology enterprise operating in the fields of optics and optoelectronics. The ZEISS Group develops, produces and distributes measuring technology, microscopes, medical technology, eyeglass lenses, camera and cinema lenses, binoculars and semiconductor manufacturing equipment. With its solutions, the company constantly advances the world of optics and helps shape technological progress. ZEISS is divided up into the four segments Research & Quality Technology, Medical Technology, Vision Care/Consumer Products and Semiconductor Manufacturing Technology. The ZEISS Group is represented in more than 40 countries and has over 50 sales and service locations, more than 30 manufacturing sites and about 25 research and development centers around the globe.

In fiscal year 2016/17 the company generated revenue approximating €5.3 billion with around 27,000 employees. Founded in 1846 in Jena, the company is headquartered in Oberkochen, Germany. Carl Zeiss AG is the strategic management holding company that manages the ZEISS Group. The company is wholly owned by the Carl Zeiss Stiftung (Carl Zeiss Foundation).

Semiconductor Manufacturing Technology

With its product portfolio and expertise, the Semiconductor Manufacturing Technology segment of ZEISS covers a variety of key processes in the production of microchips. Its products include semiconductor manufacturing optics – notably lithography optics – as well as photomask systems and process control solutions for semiconductor manufacturing. Thanks to ZEISS technology, microchips are becoming increasingly smaller, more powerful, more energy-efficient and more affordable. The electronic applications of these ongoing enhancements enable global progress in many disciplines such as technology, electronics, communication, entertainment, mobility and energy. Semiconductor Manufacturing Technology is headquartered in Oberkochen. Other sites include Jena, Rossdorf and Wetzlar in Germany, as well as Bar Lev (Israel) and Dublin, CA and Peabody, MA (USA).

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