If a person armed with today’s know-how were to look back to the time when Carl Zeiss and Ernst Abbé founded the company, precision optics would have been a key technology.
The limits of possibility in fundamental research have been gradually pushed. Consequently, the manufacturing methods required for that research, and the optical instruments required for those methods also had to be further developed to keep up with this evolution. Carl Zeiss was at the forefront then and still is.
The ever growing need to store more and more information on smaller on smaller media combined with ever higher data transmission speeds to every possible location drives the microelectronics industry to use increasingly densely packed electronic components with ever shrinking structures.
Chips have structures with dimensions in the range of 100 nm (= one tenth of a micrometre). An end to this development is not to be foreseen. In the field of serial microchip production, which was only made possible with the help of ZEISS optic systems, quality and process control in particular must keep up with this development.
because when so-called reticule errors creep in during exposure and are transferred to the chips in serial production, this naturally signifies defective functions en masse. One cannot imagine what it means for productivity and costs when the error is not detected until after a couple thousand unusable chips have been manufactured.
The ability to spot and eliminate errors at an early stage is necessary for this reason. The smaller and more powerful the chips, the more important it is to be able to inspect their reticles sufficiently intensively for aberrations prior to using them in mass production. This takes place with top performance lenses.