If a person armed with today’s know-how were to look back to the time when Carl Zeiss and Ernst Abbe founded the company, precision optics would have been a key technology.
The limits of what’s possible in fundamental research have gradually been pushed. Consequently, the manufacturing methods required for that research, and the optical instruments required for those methods also had to be further developed to keep up. Carl Zeiss was at the forefront then and still is now.
The ever-growing need to store more and more information on smaller on smaller media, combined with ever higher data transmission speeds to every possible location, drives the microelectronics industry to use increasingly denser- packed electronic components with ever shrinking structures.
Chips have structures with dimensions in the range of 100 nm (= one tenth of a micrometer). An end to this development is not foreseen. In the field of serial microchip production, which was only made possible with the help of ZEISS optic systems, quality and process control in particular must keep up with this development.
…because when reticule errors creep in during exposure and are transferred to the chips in serial production, this naturally signifies defective functions en masse. One cannot imagine what it means for productivity and costs when the error is not detected until after a couple of thousand unusable chips have been manufactured.
The ability to spot and eliminate errors at an early stage is therefore essential. The smaller and more powerful the chips, the more important it is to be able to inspect their reticles for aberrations at a sufficient level of intensity prior to using them in mass production. This is done using top performance lenses.