ASML is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of chip-making equipment. Headquartered in Veldhoven, the Netherlands, ASML employs more than 21,000 people.
One of my challenges as part of the Particle Cleanliness group within Development & Engineering is to find and eliminate the root causes of smaller and smaller defects. This is needed as the critical dimensions of structures exposed with ASML systems head towards 10 nm and perhaps in the future even smaller. Fewer defects results in a better yield performance and that is important for ASML customers.
But how do you discover, isolate, sample and analyze defects The ultimate goal is to pinpoint exactly what caused them. This all has to be done without damaging or slowing down these complex machines. You might need to look into the different transport possibilities of defects and affinity of materials with ultra-pure water, the effect of using lasers or even the effect of a vacuum environment. In that way we are like crime scene investigators – building up a bigger picture by piecing together organic and elemental clues using a host of techniques including TXRF, Raman, FTIR or SEM/EDX. It can be fun and challenging, but it is also hard work.
As a chemical engineer, I think that chemical engineers and chemists have the benefit that their study is also a combination of different directions; materials and chemicals, mathematics/statistical (data processing), physics. This helps you to understand the operation of these complex machines.
I’m always challenged and learning. As part of a team we’re continually on the look out for new techniques and technologies that can help us. This could involve working with the latest techniques or developing improvements to eliminate potential sources of defects. The job can be as varied as you want it to be.
I graduated as a Chemical Engineer in 2002 and worked previously as a manufacturing engineer with a Printed Circuit Board manufacturer. While I knew some of the benefits of working at ASML, it was during the interview process I really began to understand the possibilities to effectively define my own career path here in Veldhoven.
If you’re new, you have to prove yourself and sometimes it can be difficult to challenge existing ideas, especially as those ideas often came from people still in the company. But we’re in such a fast moving industry that the solution to yesterday’s challenge could be the source of today’s contamination. So as long as you can back up your recommendations with hard facts, people listen and will accept radical new ideas and approaches. In fact everybody is open-minded and willing to help you with their area of expertise, and they can often help you see more of the complete picture. From that perspective and compared to other companies, I would say ASML doesn’t suffer from office ‘politics’.
During my time here at ASML I’ve learned a lot about people and how they can react in a certain ways, and that communications is vital to what we do, especially when trying to explain complex topics. Coupled with all the new techniques I’ve learned I now feel that I would like to coach and develop new insights for ASML to develop techniques and people.