Byte-sized engineering: Why ASML software is a core part of chipmaking

Discover the key role software plays in our machines’ efficiency and what it means to be a software engineer working at ASML

4-minute read - By Kristiana Lalou, February 28, 2024

Microchips continue to shrink in size. Artificial intelligence (AI) chips are fast entering the mainstream. Demand for advanced microprocessors, at dimensions of 10 nm or smaller, is higher than ever. How do we keep up with it?

We may be known as a hardware company, but we also rely on software innovation to help us meet our customers’ needs for chipmaking machines that perform to their best ability, at all times. Read on to discover the crucial role software plays at ASML, as well as the work culture that keeps our software engineers excited to continue pushing tech boundaries.   

Challenging work, rewarding career

Software plays a key role in everything we do. That’s why we’re home to one of the world’s largest software communities. At ASML, you’ll find a cross-functional team of international talent with over 4,000 software engineers from over 100 different nationalities.


Our software development teams work across a range of coding practices, providing innovative solutions to the intricate problems that affect chipmaking machines. We design and build some of the most advanced software in the semiconductor industry. From real-time embedded software to enterprise-level applications, our end-to-end software employs cutting-edge AI and data science techniques to bring chip architectures from imagination to reality.


Here, you’ll be encouraged to use and develop your software expertise, as well as collaborate with and learn from experts and engineers from different backgrounds. We offer you a software engineering playground, where both your skills and your career can flourish.

At ASML, you’ll find a cross-functional team of international talent with over 4,000 software engineers from over 100 different nationalities.  

Software at ASML

But how does software work at ASML exactly? First, you need to start thinking of our lithography machines as a hybrid of high-tech hardware and advanced software. Yes, hardware is important – or there would be no machine at all – but software is the ‘brain’ of our advanced lithography machines. 


Our embedded software steers and controls our machines and consists of millions of lines of code. It also coordinates the behavior of the powerful mechatronic modules inside our lithography systems. The scanner metrology software, for example, figures out what adjustments are needed to print the best-quality patterns. Then the machine can rapidly position the silicon wafers with nanometer precision. Meanwhile, our application software allows our customers to optimize production, and is used for system calibration, diagnostics, evaluation and automation.


We also offer computational lithography software. We create high performance parallel algorithms running on distributed computing systems. This enables chipmakers to redesign their reticles – the blueprints for their chips – in a way that accounts for the fact that patterns get deformed as they’re shrunk down to nanometer resolutions.


At ASML, we pioneered a unique holistic lithography approach which seeks to harness software and hardware capabilities to maximize patterning process performance and control. In this approach the chip design, the mask, the lithography and the metrology are coordinated to achieve the optimal chip manufacturing process. Our technology is one of a kind, so you’ll get the chance to work on software that you can’t find anywhere else, and pioneer software solutions that will ultimately help drive future technology. 

Learning on the job

Working on the complicated tech we develop at ASML can be challenging. But thankfully even young professionals can onboard very fast because they’re supported by our experienced teams of software experts. Training on the job is the standard, and with such a huge internal software community the learning and knowledge sharing among colleagues never stops – we even have our very own Stack Overflow.


If you’re up for the challenge, you’ll have the opportunity to grow quickly and change projects and programs every 2–3 years. No matter where and how you want to progress, there’s a path. Opportunities are varied and include becoming a domain expert, lead engineer, architect, project manager or people manager across many different locations.


Moreover, there are multiple growth paths and self-directed, on-demand learning on any topic you prefer. You can also create a plan together with your manager to join specific career acceleration initiatives which provide longer training in specific topics depending on career goals.

Our embedded software steers and controls our machines and consists of millions of lines of code. 

Culture of innovation

Forget what you know about working in software anywhere else. The work you’ll do at ASML is unique. The accuracy and performance of our systems depend on the software controlling them. If you work with us, you’ll be predicting and controlling the shapes of billions of patterns – each to an accuracy of a few atoms. There isn't a single line of code that doesn't contribute to the machine's performance.


Our software engineers are passionate problem-solvers, committed to improving software. At ASML, you’ll work alongside charismatic software developers and on exciting projects. With over 1200 software patents globally so far, our software teams are also part of breakthrough innovations like immersion to extend Moore's law and bombarding tin droplets to create 13.5 nm light. Our teams also changed existing software to enable proofs of concept for game-changing system prototypes, like the EUV alpha demo tool. As our software engineers put it: “We control a 100 kg chunk of metal, accelerating like a Formula 1 car up to atom precision.”


Our teams are also highly diverse in skills. Alongside software experience, your background might also include physics, chemistry or math. Our teams include roles such as software development engineers, software quality assurance engineers, product engineers, data scientists, algorithm engineers, optics engineers, application engineers, software design engineers and more.

Our software teams are also part of breakthrough innovations like immersion to extend Moore's law and bombarding tin droplets to create 13.5 nm light. 

Great place to work

At ASML, you won’t work in a silo. Instead, you'll thrive in a creative, dynamic work environment where you’ll collaborate with supportive colleagues who have extensive software, industry and business knowledge. We're at the base of the semiconductor industry, which is driving change innovation across multiple sectors globally. This means we can offer stability and the possibility of expanding your career in the long term – an especially appealing prospect for any software engineer looking to kick-start their career.


Importantly, we value work-life balance as an organization. We offer flexible work arrangements, including remote work options, flexible hours and parental leave. We’re also proud to be expat friendly, with a diverse workforce of almost 42,000 people from all over the world.


Want to know more about our team of software engineers? Find out more about software at ASML and explore our open positions.

About the author

  • Kristiana Lalou
  • Editor and writer, Employer Branding
  • Kristiana enjoys writing compelling stories about life at ASML and bringing stand-out employee experiences to the limelight. She loves sharing about our diverse and dynamic company culture and connecting audiences to the cutting-edge innovation happening at ASML.