30 November 2022
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A lithography system essentially is a projection system. Light is projected through a blueprint of the pattern that will be printed (known as a ‘mask’). Optics focus the pattern onto the silicon wafer, which has earlier been coated with a light-sensitive chemical. When the unexposed parts are etched away, the pattern is revealed. The tricky thing with EUV light is that it’s absorbed by everything, even air. That’s why an EUV system has a large high-vacuum chamber in which the light can travel far enough to land on the wafer. The light is guided by a series of ultra-reflective mirrors, made by ASML’s German partner Carl Zeiss. But EUV light is also notoriously hard to generate. An EUV system uses a high-energy laser that fires on a microscopic droplet of molten tin and turns it into plasma, emitting EUV light, which then is focused into a beam.
Generating EUV plasma
“In our EUV, or extreme ultraviolet lithography machine, we use extreme ultraviolet light to print tiny features on chips, Diego explains. “This light is generated with help of tin droplets. A laser shoots at these tin droplets, which essentially causes them to explode, generating EUV plasma. (This happens at an amazing speed of 50,000 times per second.)”
“My job is to create solutions that make sure that the tin isn’t getting into the scanner part of the machine because when the scanner mirrors are contaminated, the machine will not be able to print the features on the chip.”
Everything about this machine is extreme
“Everything about this machine is extreme, including the conditions inside the machine. Because of the high temperatures, we need to come up with solutions that can survive at 700 degrees Celsius for 7 years in a row. And another challenge for us: tin degrades other metals, so it means we need to make our designs with specific materials that are hardly applied in any other industry.
We discover new thing every time
“In my job, there is always a new technical question to solve. For example, nobody really knows how the light source behaves. It’s not in books; it’s not on the internet. So our research colleagues experiment in the labs and discover new things every time. In our group of engineers, we need to constantly adapt based on the new knowledge that we create.”
Very dynamic and thriving company
“I think the multicultural environment at ASML is very enriching. It opens your mind about how other people work, live and express themselves. When you walk around, you feel the vibe – it’s a very dynamic and thriving company.”
Welcome to challenge the ideas of others
“At ASML, we put quality first. We always deliver the best we can for our customers. So people here are open to all opinions. If you have a good idea, you can make yourself heard. You are also welcome to challenge others’ ideas. This really helps to avoid tunnel vision. It forces you to take a second look, to always improve. That’s what I love about working at ASML.”
ASML is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of chip-making equipment. ASML’s vision is a world in which semiconductor technology is everywhere and helps to tackle society’s toughest challenges. ASML contributes to this goal by creating products and services that let chipmakers define the patterns that integrated circuits are made of. The company continuously raises the capabilities of its products, enabling its customers to increase the value and reduce the cost of chips. By helping to make chips cheaper and more powerful, ASML helps to make semiconductor technology more attractive for a larger range of products and services, which in turn enables progress in fields such as healthcare, energy, mobility and entertainment.
ASML relies heavily on its suppliers to develop, manufacture and deliver innovative parts for its systems, on time and with the right quality. It is ASML’s strategy to develop and manufacture those parts and modules that are unique for lithography in-house, both from a manufacturing and a development competence perspective. If this does not prove possible, supplier partnerships are established and well maintained. Contract manufacturers or original equipment manufacturing suppliers are mainly responsible for delivering modules that require non-unique manufacturing or development competencies. It is crucial that ASML builds a world-class supplier network. One of the company’s major priorities is to work with its suppliers to reduce the total cost of ownership of its systems while meeting its challenging quality standards.