ASML is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of chip-making equipment. Headquartered in Veldhoven, the Netherlands, ASML employs more than 14,000 people.
Our customers include all of the world's leading chip manufacturers, who use our products to manufacture a wide range of different chips.
Our products focus on making transistors on a chip smaller, a key step in making them both faster and cheaper. The machines that we make are essentially projection systems, not unlike a slide projector. Laser light is projected through a so-called mask (also called a reticle), which contains the blueprint of the pattern that will be printed. A lens focuses the pattern onto the wafer, which has earlier been coated with a light-sensitive chemical. When the unexposed parts are etched away, the pattern is revealed. Because lithography patterns the structures on a chip, it is lithography that determines how small the features on the chip can be, and how densely chip makers can pack transistors together. In other words, lithography is crucial to follow the path described by Moore’s Law.
Memory chip manufacturers
These are the chips in your laptop or computer that store data – such as mail messages, programs and photos. DRAM (Dynamic Random Access Memory) chips are most commonly used in computers as the primary memory. NAND Flash memory is a chip that retains data even when it is powered off. These chips are used in devices such as smartphones and in solid-state drives, which are increasingly used in laptops, and can store a large amount of data in a very small area.
Logic chip manufacturers
These are the chips that process information in electronic devices. We have two types of logic customers: the first are those that both design and manufacture microprocessors (MPUs), and are often referred to as Integrated Device Manufacturers (IDM). However, due to the cost of building a leading-edge semiconductor fabrication plant (also called a fab), a number of IDMs have over the years decided to go fabless: they design chips, but outsource the manufacturing to specialized contract producers, known as 'foundries'. The foundries are our second group of logic customers, and they produce the majority of logic chips that are used in mobile devices today.
At the heart of ASML’s product portfolio is the lithography system, also called a scanner. To help our customers sustain Moore’s Law and shrink the size of transistors on a chip, we must continuously improve the capabilities of our systems to image smaller features with accuracy.
In advanced chip manufacturing, the margins for error are so small that it is no longer sufficient to look at the scanner in isolation. For the most advanced chips, the scanner settings have to be optimized for each chip pattern that the customer wants to print. The pattern itself will also require some adjustments to enhance its printability. ASML offers a number of computational lithography products to make those optimizations.
Secondly, once the optimum scanner settings have been determined, we must constantly keep the lithography system in this sweet spot. For this purpose, ASML has developed a metrology system and control software. The metrology system measures wafers shortly after they have been exposed by the scanner. This data is used to calculate any necessary adjustments, which are then immediately fed back into the lithography system. This means the scanner always delivers its best performance, which maximizes the number of good chips produced, and hence its value.
We call this combination of scanner, metrology and software products “Holistic Lithography”.