Computer History MuseumSemiconductor History

1967 - Turnkey Equipment Suppliers Change Industry Dynamics

Third-party vendors develop specialized knowledge of semiconductor fabrication and emerge as vendors of process technology and turnkey manufacturing facilities.

During its first decade the semiconductor industry went through five basic transistor structures: point contact, grown junction, alloyed junction, surface barrier, and diffused-base. Manufacturers built their own equipment to support each generation. Jack Kilby (1958 Milestone) noted that "probably the most expensive piece of equipment that we used cost less than $10,000." As production moved to high volumes with the planar process (1959 Milestone), techniques were standardized across the industry and independent equipment producers emerged.

Vendors specialized in "Front End" (wafer processing) or “Back End” (package, assembly, and test) (1961 Milestone) operations. Front-end equipment prices increased by orders of magnitude as wafer diameters grew from 0.5 inches in 1958 to today’s 12 inches (300mm). Early front-end tool suppliers include Thermco (diffusion furnaces) and its Japanese licensee Tokyo Electron Ltd, DW Industries (deposition systems), and GCA/Mann and Perkin Elmer (photolithography) (1955 Milestone). Electroglas, a 1961 Fairchild spinout, built probe equipment for wafer testing. In 1965 Kulicke & Soffa introduced commercial contact aligners. Varian Associates built evaporators, vacuum pumps, and ion-implantation systems.

Founded in 1967 to supply chemical vapor deposition systems for epitaxial films (1960 Milestone), Applied Materials initiated a change in industry dynamics by encouraging semiconductor vendors to shift responsibility for development of manufacturing technology to their equipment suppliers. Third-party sources of technology allowed the semiconductor companies to focus on product architecture and applications rather than process and manufacturing expertise. This led to the rise of "wafer-foundry" vendors who supported a new breed of "fabless" semiconductor companies in the 1980s.



Contemporary Documents

"Vertical CVD Reactor," Technical Information Bulletin TIB No. PE 1060669 (Applied Materials Inc., 1969).

"Model 632 Vacuum Deposition Equipment" Promotional brochure DW Industries.

"Series 7600, Epitaxial Reactor System," Product Specification, Applied Materials, Inc.

Oral History transcripts online at the Computer History Museum

Morgan, Jim (Applied Materials), a conversation with Dan Hutcheson (2008-4-30)

Myers, Stanley (SEMI) an oral history Transcript in process

Oral Histories

Morgan, Jim Applied Materials. The Silicon Genesis Interviews (7.20.2004). Department of Special Collections, Stanford University Libraries, Stanford, California.

McNeilly, Michael Applied Materials. SEMI Oral History Interview (7.20.2004) by Craig Addison.

More Information

Industry Overview. VLSI Research, Inc. Report No. 1101119AB1 (Santa Clara, CA: VLSI Research, Inc., 1988).

Introduction to Wafer Fabrication Equipment. Report No. 411126AA1 (Santa Clara, CA: VLSI Research, Inc., 1988).

Rodengen, Jeffrey L., Iverson, Wendy, and Cohn, Heather G. Fifty Years of Innovation: Kulicke & Soffa: 1951-2001 (Write Stuff Syndicate, March 2002)

Lécuyer, Christophe, Making Silicon Valley: Innovation and the Growth of High Tech, 1930–1970 (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2006), pp. 181-192.