Inside the most complicated machine on the planet – the one that prints microchips

A visitor takes photos of an ASML mask aligner on November 8, 2020 in Shanghai, China.


The machine, made by Dutch company ASML, is used for lithography, a crucial process for creating transistors, wires and other essential microchip components. Designs costing up to $180 million are being used to manufacture microchip features as tiny as 13 nanometers at a rapid pace. Such precision is crucial to making the world’s fastest advanced computer processors.

Clive ThompsonPatrick Whelan peers through the front of his cleanroom bunny suit to see how things are going. In front of him is a shiny piece of glass, roughly the size of a toaster oven, which is carved with so many hollowed-out sections to reduce its weight that it looks like an alien totem. Whelan’s team glues it to a large piece of aluminum the size of a coffee table. The metal and glass are eerily smooth, having been polished for weeks to

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