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Semitool, Inc.

Semitool, Inc.

655 West Reserve Drive
Kalispell, Montana 59901
U.S.A.
Telephone: (406) 752-2107
Toll Free: (800) 548-8495
Fax: (406) 752-5522
Web site: http://www.semitool.com

Public Company
Incorporated:
1979
Employees: 958
Sales: $190.4 million (2005)
Stock Exchanges: NASDAQ
Ticker Symbol: SMTL
NAIC: 333298 All Other Industrial Machinery Manufacturing

Semitool, Inc. designs and manufactures sophisticated equipment used by semiconductor manufacturers. The company's equipment handles a process called wet chemical processing, which semiconductor manufacturers use to put layers onto silicon wafers. The fabrication of semiconductors, or "chips," typically requires several hundred manufacturing steps. Semitool's products address more than 150 of these manufacturing steps. The company's customers include industry heavyweights such as Advanced Micro Devices, Intel, Sony, IBM, and Texas Instruments, among a host of other leading chipmakers. International sales account for nearly three-quarters of Semitool's revenue volume. Nearly all of the company's manufacturing activities take place in Kalispell, Montana.

PRIVATE COMPANY: 197894

Raymon Thompson, a mechanical engineer with a background in semiconductor equipment, purchased a machine shop in Orange County, California, in the 1970s and founded Semitool there in 1978. The company's first product was a horizontal on-axis spin rinser/dryer that removed chemicals from the surfaces of silicon wafers being imprinted with computer chips. In 1979 Thompson moved the fledgling company to his hometown of Kalispell, Montana.

Semitool introduced the company's spray-solvent and spray-acid tools in the early 1980s and its first automated tool in 1984. Thompson then founded Semitherm, a partnership with a group of former Texas Instruments engineers, to develop vertical furnace systems for "baking" silicon wafers. This company was merged with Semitool in 1994. During the 1980s Semitool introduced several generations of its spray-solvent and spray-acid tools for chemical processing and its vertical furnaces for thermal processing and began to market its products to manufacturers outside the semiconductor industry. Exporting abroad began in 1981.

In fiscal 1991 (the year ended September 30, 1991) Semitool, together with Semitherm, had net sales of $25.1 million and total assets of $15.1 million but a net loss of more than $1.1 million and debt of $3.1 million. There were approximately 200 employees. For a 1991 survey Thompson told D&B Reports, "I have an absolutely outstanding workforce, from software engineers right down to the gal who cleans the floor. I think it's largely an ethic of our area here in this part of Montana. People love living here, and they come to work with an internal peace of mind. They're ready to participate as a creative human being, not as a monkey." In 1995 Semitool employees were working weekly four-day, ten-hour work shifts; the third weekend shift was putting in a three-day work week.

Semitool lost $303,000 on nearly $28 million of net sales in fiscal 1992 and $447,000 on net sales of $42.8 million in fiscal 1993. The company's first profitable year was 1994, in which it had net income of $2.1 million on net sales of $55.8 million. Total assets reached $37.1 million. That year Semitool doubled the size of its plant and introduced three new products: Equinox, Magnum, and Storm.

PUBLIC COMPANY: 199596

Semitool's debt, however, reached $13.5 million at the end of 1994, so Thompson decided to take the company public. About 30 percent of the outstanding common stock was offered to the public in February 1995 at $13 a share, with 60 percent of the money raised to be used for debt reduction.

Although a Barron's analysis indicated that the offering was pricey, Semitool's stock reached $36.75 a share, nearly triple the offering price, in July. With nine-month sales in 1995 double that of the same period in the previous year, Semitool announced a three-for-two stock split on July 24. Demand for Equinox, Magnum, and Storm had contributed heavily to a $63 million backlog of orders. Also in 1995, the company won a contract from the research-and-development consortium Sematech for the creation of a new furnace to cook batches of silicon-chip wafers and a $7.7 million contract to supply furnaces to a domestic manufacturer. It also agreed to acquire Semy Engineering, Inc., in 1996 and opened offices in Oregon, Italy, and Japan. During the year Semitool's factory was expanded again.

Semitool recorded net income of $14.9 million on sales of $128.3 million in 1995. With a five-year average annual return on equity of 42.6 percent, it placed ninth on Forbes' s 1995 list of the 200 best small companies in the United States. Company debt had dropped to $4.9 million by the end of the fiscal year.

Semitool's stock plummeted, however, in September 1995 and was trading at only $11.50 a share one year after reaching its peak. In a class-action suit filed in March 1996, a stockholder charged that the company's executives had issued false and misleading information while unloading their own shares, thereby enabling themselves to pocket $8.3 million before the stock fell in value. Thompson, who had been chairman, president, and chief executive officer of Semitool since its inception, held, with his wife, Leila, 51.2 percent of the stock at the end of 1995.

In February 1996 Thompson announced the largest sale in Semitool's history, a $23 million multi-year order for the VTP 1500 vertical furnace from a domestic semiconductor manufacturer. The company ended fiscal 1996 with net income of $15.1 million on sales of $174.2 million, both figures topping the previous year's totals. In October, however, Semitool announced it was reducing its workforce by about 10 percent because of soft demand in the semiconductor-equipment industry.

SEMITOOL'S PRODUCTS

Semitool's batch chemical processing tools were incorporating centrifugal spray technology to process wafers and substrates by exposing them to a user-programmable, sequenced spray of chemicals inside an enclosed chamber. The wafers, and the cassette and chamber in which they were loaded, were dried by centrifugal spinning coupled with a flow of warm nitrogen. Semitool's batch chemical processing products included the spray-acid and spray-solvent tools. They were also being used in the manufacture of a variety of products other than wafers. The purchase price of these tools ranged from $150,000 to $700,000, with prices (as for other Semitool products) depending on configuration.

COMPANY PERSPECTIVES

We are a leader in the design, development and manufacturing of advanced, wet chemical processing equipment. We leverage our years of experience in designing and manufacturing production-proven semiconductor manufacturing equipment to deliver solutions that enable the fabrication of increasingly higher performance semiconductor devices. We have several key technological core competencies, including advanced computational modeling, and have assembled a development team with extensive engineering and modeling expertise to capitalize on these competencies.

The spin rinser/dryer was being used primarily for removing chemical residues from substrate surfaces with deionized water and utilized the same enclosed-chamber, spray-processing, and centrifugal-drying technologies employed by the spray-acid and spray-solvent tools. More than 20,000 of Semitool's spin rinser/dryers had been sold since the company's inception. The purchase price ranged from $10,000 to $150,000 in 1995.

The Magnum was a multi-module chemical processing tool that clustered the company's solvent, acid, and spin rinser/dryer capabilities into a single automated unit. It incorporated a company-designed advanced robot that employed fiber-optic communications, absolute positioning, and a linear motor track to ensure precise, reliable, and particle-free automated wafer handling. The purchase price ranged from $900,000 to more than $2 million.

The Equinox was being employed for substrate processing. Its capabilities included immersion, spray, ultrasonics, hydrofluoric vapor, and infrared heating, to address cleaning, stripping, etching, developing, and gold-plating applications. In addition to its customary silicon-wafer applications, the Equinox was being used to process ceramic substrates, thin film heads, and photo masks. It was selling for between $175,000 and $730,000.

The Storm wafer carrier-cleaning system was being used to clean and dry the cassettes and plastic boxes in which the wafers were being transported and stored. It employed a unique rinsing/spinning process that occurred inside an enclosed chamber. The price ranged from $190,000 to $400,000.

Semitool's VTP 1500 vertical furnace was designed to avoid variances in the process exposure times of individual wafers, thereby avoiding the nonuniformity inherent in traditional vertical furnace processing. Semitool's patented double-lift chamber design also permitted the heating element to be lifted away from the sealed process chamber, allowing wafers to cool more rapidly in a controlled environment and thereby saving time. The VTP 1500 also had the flexibility to be quickly reconfigured for varying processes and to be easily upgraded to accommodate larger wafer sizes. The price ranged from $550,000 to $950,000.

Semitool also was fabricating frames, consoles, and the components to fill them itself, rather than subcontracting for these materials. "All this is engineered here, and it's all built here," Thompson told a Montana newspaper. "It's very unusual for a company like ours to actually build the robots [but] we don't hesitate to design products and build products that require workmanship. We know it's tough for the other guys to do that."

At the end of 1995 Semitool had U.S. sales offices in Arizona, California, Colorado, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Texas. There were also offices in France, Germany, Great Britain, Ireland, Israel, Italy, and Japan. (Customers outside the United States accounted for about 43.5 percent of sales in fiscal 1995.) The company's chief property was a 170,000-square-foot facility on a 110-acre site in Kalispell. It planned to build a facility in Cambridge, England, in 1996 for its European sales, service, and customer-demonstration operations.

KEY DATES

1978:
Raymon Thompson founds Semitool in Orange County, California.
1979:
Semitool moves its headquarters to Kalispell, Montana.
1981:
Semitool begins shipping its products overseas.
1994:
Manufacturing capacity is doubled.
1995:
Semitool completes its initial public offering of stock.
1999:
Sales plummet amid a severe downturn in the semiconductor industry, falling to $122 million.
2005:
Financial consistency returns, as the company continues to focus on producing copper-circuit processes.

STUMBLING INTO THE 21ST CENTURY

As Semitool progressed toward its 20th anniversary, it endured unprecedented hardship, watching record-setting results plummet spectacularly. Financially, the company peaked in 1997, when it registered $194 million in revenue, a banner year that was followed by a drop to $180 million in 1998 and a severe plunge to $122 million in 1999. Net income, which stood at $12.5 million in 1997, was obliterated by the end of the decade, resulting in a nearly $7 million loss in 1999. If it was any solace to Thompson and his management team, the cause for the drastic drops in financial figures did not arise from any wrongdoing on Semitool's part. The semiconductor industry, to which the company was inextricably wed, suffered its deepest downturn in more than 20 years, delivering a direct and crippling blow to Semitool's business. Thompson found some encouragement at the close of the century, reporting an increase in new bookings and shipments at the end of 1999 that seemed to suggest the worst was over. Semitool's financial performance for the next two years supported the belief that the notoriously capricious semiconductor industry was on the mend. The company's sales swelled to $239 million in 2000 and $256 million in 2001 and profits returned, but the recovery was swiftly followed by another devastating crash. The $256 million in sales recorded in 2001 plunged to $123 million in 2002, a year Thompson, in his annual letter to shareholders, referred to as "without a doubt, one of the most challenging years for Semitool." The company posted a numbing $14 million loss for the year, one year after it had reported a profit of $25 million. Again, conditions in the semiconductor industry were to blame, casting a pall over the company's offices in Kalispell.

Although the financial side of Semitool's business presented a bleak picture to industry onlookers at the time, the period also included some promising developments that provided some encouragement for the future. Semitool threw itself into the development and promotion of copper instead of aluminum as the metal of choice for the tiny metal line etched on chips. Copper, with greater conductive properties than aluminum, represented the future in Thompson's mind, enabling faster running chips because of its superior ability to conduct electricity and because it lowered manufacturing costs; copper circuits, for instance, only required room-temperature processes, while aluminum processes required an ultrahigh vacuum environment. The shift from aluminum to copper for semiconductor interconnects was a gradual one, a movement still underway midway through the decade. As Semitool prepared for the future, the eventual adoption of copper circuits by chipmakers promised to bolster the company's business. In the meantime, Thompson and his managers worked on repairing the company's business. Profits returned in 2004 and 2005, while revenues climbed from their nadir of $117 million 2003 to $190 million in 2005.

                                       Robert Halasz

                                Updated, Jeffrey L. Covell

PRINCIPAL SUBSIDIARIES

Rhetech, Inc.; Semitool Europe Ltd. (U.K.); Semitool France SARL; Semitool Halbleitertechik Vertriebs GmbH (Germany); Semitool Japan Inc.; Semitool Austria GmbH; Semitool Israel, Ltd.; Semitool Italia SRL (Italy); Semitool Korea, Inc.; Semitool (Asia) Pte. Ltd. (Singapore); Scientech Corporation (Taiwan).

PRINCIPAL COMPETITORS

Applied Materials, Inc.; Novellus Systems, Inc.; Tokyo Electron Limited.

FURTHER READING

"Asian Troubles Mean Tight Cost Control for More Firms," Electronic News (1991), February 2, 1998, p. 60.

Cohen, Judy Radler, "Applied Materials Circles Semitool?," America's Intelligence Wire, November 9, 2004.

Detar, James, "Move to Copper Chips from Aluminum Brightens Semitool's Outlook," Investor's Business Daily, May 29, 2002, p. A8.

Dorsch, Jeff, "Semitool, SpeedFam Partner on Copper Interconnect," Electronic News, February 22, 1999, p. 10.

Fasca, Chad, "Semitool Scores Success with 300mm ECD Copper," Electronic News (1991), June 1, 1998, p. 67.

Malo, Patrick J., "New Chip-Furnace Deal Will Fuel Growth," Investor's Business Daily, July 11, 1995, p. A6.

"Montana Manufacturer Takes Dim View of U.S. Leadership," D&B Reports, November/December 1991, p. 30.

Schwennesen, Don, "Semitool Brass Accused of Lying, Insider Trading," Missoulian, March 9, 1996, p. B1.

, "A Sweet 16: The Years Have Been Good to Ray Thompson and Semitool Inc.," Missoulian, June 18, 1995, p. F1.

"Semitool," Barron's, January 9, 1995, p. 29.

"Semitool Engineering Sells SEMY Subsidiary to Brooks Automation for $38.8 Million," Electronic News (1991), February 26, 2001, p. 29.

"Semitool Reports Drop in Orders, Headcount Reduction," Electronic News (1991), November 18, 2002, p. 15.

"Semitool Revises Financial Outlook," Electronic News (1991), March 26, 2001, p. 30.

"Semitool Stokes 3Q Sales; Stock Split Is Planned," Electronic News, August 14, 1995, p. 14.

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Semitool, Inc.

Semitool, Inc.

655 West Reserve Drive
Kalispell, Montana 59901
U.S.A.
(406) 752-2107
Fax: (406) 752-5522
Web site: http://www.streetlink.com/sl/fin/smtl.htm

Public Company
Incorporated:
1979
Employees: 1,350
Sales: $174.2 million (1996)
Stock Exchanges: NASDAQ
SICs: 3559 Special Industry Machinery, Not Elsewhere Classified; 3567 Industrial Process Furnaces & Ovens

Semitool, Inc. designs, manufactures, markets, and services equipment used in the fabrication of semiconductors. Its products include batch and single-substrate spray chemical processing tools, thermal processing equipment, and wafer-carrier cleaning systems. These products provide improved yields (the number of good die per wafer) through higher uniformity of production and reduced contamination levels, and increased throughput (the number of wafers processed by a particular tool in a given period) through advanced processes that reduce cycle times. They are also used to manufacture other materials and devices, including thin film heads, compact-disc masters, flat-panel displays, hard-disk media, and ink-jet print heads. Semitools customers in 1995 included Advanced Micro Devices, Fujitsu, GEC Plessey, IBM, Intel, Motorola, National Semiconductor, Seagate, Siemens, and SGS-Thomson.

Private Company, 197894

Raymon Thompson, a mechanical engineer with a background in semi-conductor equipment, purchased a machine shop in Orange County, California, in the 1970s and founded Semitool there in 1978. The companys first product was a horizontal on-axis spin rinser/dryer that removed chemicals from the surfaces of silicon wafers being imprinted with computer chips. In 1979 Thompson moved the fledgling company to his hometown of Kalispell, Montana.

Semitool introduced the companys spray-solvent and spray-acid tools in the early 1980s and its first automated tool in 1984. Thompson then founded Semitherm, a partnership with a group of former Texas Instruments engineers, to develop vertical furnace systems for baking silicon wafers. This company was merged with Semitool in 1994. During the 1980s Semitool introduced several generations of its spray-solvent and spray-acid tools for chemical processing and its vertical furnaces for thermal processing and began to market its products to manufacturers outside the semiconductor industry. Exporting abroad began in 1981.

In fiscal 1991 (the year ended September 30, 1991) Semitool, together with Semitherm, had net sales of $25.1 million and total assets of $15.1 million but a net loss of more than $1.1 million and a debt of $3.1 million. There were approximately 200 employees. For a 1991 survey Thompson told D&B Reports, I have an absolutely outstanding work force, from software engineers right down to the gal who cleans the floor. I think its largely an ethic of our area here in this part of Montana. People love living here, and they come to work with an internal peace of mind. Theyre ready to participate as a creative human being, not as a monkey. In 1995 Semitool employees were working weekly 4-day, 10-hour work shifts; the third weekend shift was putting in a three-day work week.

Semitool lost $303,000 on nearly $28 million of net sales in fiscal 1992 and $447,000 on net sales of $42.8 million in fiscal 1993. The companys first profitable year was fiscal 1994, in which it had net income of $2.1 million on net sales of $55.8 million. Total assets reached $37.1 million. That year Semitool doubled the size of its plant and introduced three new products: Equinox, Magnum, and Storm.

Public Company, 199596

Semitools debt, however, reached $13.5 million at the end of fiscal 1994, so Thompson decided to take the company public. About 30 percent of the outstanding common stock was offered to the public in February 1995 at $13 a share, with 60 percent of the money raised to be used for debt reduction.

Although a Barron s analysis indicated that the offering was pricey, Semitools stock reached $36.75 a sharenearly triple the offering pricein July. With nine-month sales in fiscal 1995 double that of the same period in the previous year, Semitool announced a three-for-two stock split on July 24. Demand for Equinox, Magnum, and Storm had contributed heavily to a $63-million backlog of orders. Also in 1995, the company won a contract from the research-and-development consortium Sematech for the creation of a new furnace to cook batches of silicon-chip wafers and a $7.7-million contract to supply furnaces to a domestic manufacturer. It also agreed to acquire Semy Engineering, Inc., in 1996 and opened offices in Oregon, Italy, and Japan. During the year Semitools factory was expanded again.

Semitool recorded net income of $14.9 million on sales of $128.3 million in fiscal 1995. With a five-year average annual return on equity of 42.6 percent, it placed ninth on Forbes 1995 list of the 200 best small companies in America. Company debt had dropped to $4.9 million by the end of the fiscal year.

Semitools stock plummeted, however, in September 1995 and was trading at only $11.50 a share one year after reaching its peak. In a class-action suit filed in March 1996, a stockholder charged that the companys executives had issued false and misleading information while unloading their own shares, thereby enabling themselves to pocket $8.3 million before the stock fell in value. Thompson, who had been chairman, president, and chief executive officer of Semitool since its inception, held, with his wife, Leila, 51.2 percent of the stock at the end of fiscal 1995.

In February 1996 Thompson announced the largest sale in Semitools history, a $23-million multi-year order for the VTP 1500 vertical furnace from a domestic semiconductor manufacturer. The company ended fiscal 1996 with net income of $15.1 million on sales of $174.2 million, both figures topping the previous years totals. In October, however, Semitool announced it was reducing its work force by about 10 percent because of soft demand in the semi-conductor-equipment industry.

Semitools Products in the Mid-1990s

Semitools batch chemical processing tools were incorporating centrifugal spray technology to process wafers and substrates by exposing them to a user-programmable, sequenced spray of chemicals inside an enclosed chamber. The wafers, and the cassette and chamber in which they were loaded, were dried by centrifugal spinning coupled with a flow of warm nitrogen. Semitools batch chemical processing products included the spray-acid and spray-solvent tools. They were also being used in the manufacturer of a variety of products other than wafers. The purchase price of these tools ranged from $150,000 to $700,000, with prices (as for other Semitool products) depending on configuration.

The spin rinser/dryer was being used primarily for removing chemical residues from substrate surfaces with deionized water and utilized the same enclosed-chamber, spray-processing, and centrifugal-drying technologies employed by the spray-acid and spray-solvent tools. More than 20,000 of Semitools spin rinser/dryers had been sold since the companys inception. The purchase price ranged from $10,000 to $150,000 in 1995.

The Magnum was a multi-module chemical processing tool that clustered the companys solvent, acid, and spin rinser/dryer capabilities into a single automated unit. It incorporated a company-designed advanced robot that employed fiber-optic communications, absolute positioning, and a linear motor track to ensure precise, reliable, and particle-free automated wafer handling. The purchase price ranged from $900,000 to more than $2 million.

The Equinox was being employed for substrate processing. Its capabilities included immersion, spray, ultrasonics, hydrofluoric vapor, and infrared heating, to address cleaning, stripping, etching, developing, and gold-plating applications. In addition to its customary silicon-wafer applications, the Equinox was being used to process ceramic substrates, thin film heads, and photo masks. It was selling for between $175,000 and $730,000.

The Storm wafer carrier-cleaning system was being used to clean and dry the cassettes and plastic boxes in which the wafers were being transported and stored. It employed a unique rinsing/spinning process that occurred inside an enclosed chamber. The price ranged from $190,000 to $400,000.

Semitools VTP 1500 vertical furnace was designed to avoid variances in the process exposure times of individual wafers, thereby avoiding the nonuniformity inherent in traditional vertical furnace processing. Semitools patented double-lift chamber design also permitted the heating element to be lifted away from the sealed process chamber, allowing wafers to cool more rapidly in a controlled environment and thereby saving time. The VTP 1500 also had the flexibility to be quickly reconfigured for varying processes and to be easily upgraded to accommodate larger wafer sizes. The price ranged from $550,000 to $950,000.

Company Perspectives:

The Company is committed to developing new products, new applications for existing products and enhancing existing products to address evolving process requirements. Accordingly, the Company devotes substantial resources to product innovation and collaborative development efforts.

Semitool also was fabricating frames, consoles, and the components to fill them itself, rather than subcontracting for these materials. All this is engineered here, and its all built here, Thompson told a Montana newspaper. Its very unusual for a company like ours to actually build the robots [but] we dont hesitate to design products and build products that require workmanship. We know its tough for the other guys to do that.

Semitools Properties in the Mid-1990s

At the end of 1995 Semitool had U.S. sales offices in Arizona, California, Colorado, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Texas. There were also offices in France, Germany, Great Britain, Ireland, Israel, Italy, and Japan. (Customers outside the United States accounted for about 43.5 percent of sales in fiscal 1995.) The companys chief property was a 170,000-square-foot facility on a 110-acre site in Kalispell. It planned to build a facility in Cambridge, England, in 1996 for its European sales, service, and customer-demonstration operations.

Principal Subsidiaries

Semitool Europe Ltd. (United Kingdom); Semitool France SARL (France); Semitool Halbleitertechik Vertriebs GmbH (Germany); Semitool KK (Japan).

Further Reading

Malo, Patrick J., New Chip-Furnace Deal Will Fuel Growth, Investors Business Daily, July 11, 1995, p. A6.

Montana Manufacturer Takes Dim View of U.S. Leadership, D&B Reports, November/December 1991, p. 30.

Schwennesen, Don, A Sweet 16: The Years Have Been Good to Ray Thompson and Semitool Inc., Missoulian, June 18, 1995, p. F1.

, Semitool Brass Accused of Lying, Insider Trading,

Missoulian, March 9, 1996, p. B1.

Semitool, Barrons, January 9, 1995, p. 29.

Semitool Begins Work Reduction, PR Newswire, October 2, 1996, p. 1002CLW028.

Semitool Stokes 3Q Sales; Stock Split Is Planned, Electronic News, August 14, 1995, p. 14.

Robert Halasz

Cite this article
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"Semitool, Inc.." International Directory of Company Histories. . Encyclopedia.com. 12 Dec. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Semitool, Inc.." International Directory of Company Histories. . Encyclopedia.com. (December 12, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/books/politics-and-business-magazines/semitool-inc-0

"Semitool, Inc.." International Directory of Company Histories. . Retrieved December 12, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/books/politics-and-business-magazines/semitool-inc-0