The upper module of ASML’s next generation EUV machine was built from a 17-ton piece of milled aluminum. Christopher Payne
From the very large to the extremely small starts with milling of a different kind when applied to 17 tons of pure aluminum, the start point for the making of one of the most sophisticated pieces of equipment known to man.
Precision is serious business here. I’m in Wilton, Connecticut, in a clean room of the Dutch company ASML, which makes the world’s most sophisticated machine for lithography—a crucial process used to create the transistors, wires, and other essential components of microchips. It’s a coveted device, with models costing as much as $180 million, that is used in making microchip features as tiny as 13 nanometers at a rapid clip. That level of precision is crucial if you’re Intel or TSMC and want to manufacture the world’s fastest cutting-edge computer processors. The final machine, assembled at ASML’s headquarters in the Netherlands, is the size of a small bus and filled with 100,000 tiny, coordinated mechanisms, including a system that generates a specific wavelength of high-energy ultraviolet light by blasting molten drops of tin with a laser 50,000 times a second. It takes four 747s to ship one to a customer.
It gets better ...
Whelan walks over to a video monitor that shows one of these glass-metal contraptions zipping back and forth while being tested. It weighs 30 kilograms, but it moves in a blur.
“This is accelerating faster than a fighter jet,” Whelan says, his close-cropped beard and glasses obscured by his gear. “If there’s anything that’s loose, it’ll fly apart.” What’s more, he says, the apparatus has to stop on a spot the size of a nanometer—“so you have one of the fastest things on earth settling at pretty much the smallest spot of anything.”
Read the entire piece to see just how complex it truly is when one needs to "settling at pretty much the smallest spot of anything.”