The 1980s: humble beginnings
In 1984, electronics giant Philips and chip-machine manufacturer Advanced Semiconductor Materials International (ASMI) created a new company to develop lithography systems for the growing semiconductor market. Called ASM Lithography, we began our days inauspiciously, located in a leaky shed next to a Philips office in Eindhoven, the Netherlands. Building on the R&D that had been in the works since the early 1970s, that same year we launched our first system, the PAS 2000 stepper.
We grew fast, with Philips and ASMI scaling their investments to help make ASML a success. In 1985, with 100 employees on board, we moved into our newly built office and factory in Veldhoven, just a few kilometers from the Philips research labs. In 1986 we brought the PAS 2500 stepper to market, featuring new alignment technology that would be the foundation for many future innovations in our machines. That same year we established our existing partnership with lens manufacturer Carl Zeiss.
By 1988, we had begun to make in-roads in the Asian market, after Philips established a joint-venture foundry in Taiwan. In the United States, we grew from a few employees to 84, spread over five office locations. But in a market of fierce competition and many suppliers, the small unknown company from the Netherlands couldn’t catch a break. ASML had few customers and was unable to stand on its own two feet. Making matters worse, shareholder ASMI was unable to maintain the high levels of investment with little return and decided to withdraw, while the global electronics industry took a turn for the worse, and Philips announced a vast cost-cutting program. The life of our young cash-devouring lithography company hung in the balance. Guided by a strong belief in the ongoing R&D and in desperate need of funds, ASML executives reached out to Philips board member Henk Bodt, who persuaded his colleagues to lend a final helping hand.