How ASML imitated the chipmaking chessboard


Photographers have limited equipment at their disposal to create small prints, and for many years, the type of light used in the machine was very difficult. In the 1960s, machines used visible light. The details that this light could capture on a chip were very large, like using a marker to draw a picture.

Then manufacturers began to use less and less light, and by the early 1980s, they were able to produce chips with ultraviolet light. Nikon and Canon were the industry leaders. ASML, founded in 1984 as a subsidiary of Philips in Eindhoven, Netherlands, was a young player.

As van den Brink says, he came to the company by accident. Philips was one of the few technology companies in Holland. When he started his career there in 1984 and was looking for different opportunities in the company, he became interested in the image of the printing press.

“I looked at the picture and I said, ‘It has machinery, it has electricity, it has software – this looks like a complex machine. I’m going to be interested in this,'” van den Brink said. MIT Technology Review. “They said, well, you can do that, but the company won’t be part of Philips. We’re making a deal with AES International, and after the deal, you won’t be part of Philips. I said yes because I wouldn’t care. And that’s how it started.”

When van den Brink joined in the 1980s, ASML’s small footprint set the company apart from other major players at the time. “We didn’t sell many machines until the 90s. And we almost lost money several times during this time,” says van den Brink. “So for us there was only one task: to survive and show the customer that we can change.”

By 1995, it had enough market power against competitors Nikon and Canon to go public. But all lithography manufacturers were fighting the same battle to create smaller parts on chips.

If you had listened to an ASML conference in the late 1990s about this problem, you might have heard talk about ultraviolet (EUV) lithography – and concerns that it wouldn’t work). By that time, I am forced to lower the chips than the current ones, it seemed like everyone was chasing EUV. His idea was to create chips with a very small wavelength (eventually only 13.5 nanometers). To do this, ASML must figure out how to create, capture, and analyze this light – techniques that have baffled researchers for years – and build special equipment, including the smoothest glass ever created. And to ensure that the price cannot drive away its customers.

Canon and Nikon were also pursuing EUV, but the US government denied them permission to participate in a joint venture with US research laboratories. Both later quit. Currently ASML acquired the fourth largest company pursuing EUV, SVG, in 2001. By 2006 it had shipped only two EUV machines to research facilities, and it took until 2010 to ship one to a customer. Five years later, ASML warned in its annual report that EUV sales remained low, that customers did not want to adopt the technology due to its slow speed on the production line, and that if the model continued, it could have “material” consequences. business because of big money.

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