Thermco Diffusion Furnace

Summary : Here is an excellent view of a state-of-the-art diffusion furnace from the mid 1960s.

Here is an excellent view of a state-of-the-art diffusion furnace from the mid 1960s. Jerry Cutini, CEO of Aviza found it in storage and had it brought out for Dan Hutcheson to photograph. Note its small diffusion tube, no more than 2 inches at the utmost, barely large enough to hold a boat full of 1& ½ inch wafers; but no matter, 2 inch wafers were still a few years out in the future. Multiple four and eight tube furnaces were also still a bit away, as was automatic pusher/puller equipment. This unit used a manual quartz pushrod instead, with the operator slowly and uniformly pushing the boatloads into the tube and just as slowly removing them hours later. Also note its three zone controllers, enough to give a good thermal profile of plus or minus a couple of degrees at 1000 degrees C for most of the length of the furnace.

Thermco wasn’t the first to manufacture high quality diffusion furnaces, but their high-tech solutions soon won them the major market. Founded in 1962, they were major market leaders before the end of the decade. By 1980 they owned 45% of the diffusion market including their Japanese partner TEL Thermco. Their nearest competitor, Tempress, was almost four times smaller. But alas, it was 1980 and they had entered the Cambrian period of manufacturing equipment with new, more exotic, models exploding on the scene right and left, just as in the Cambrian geologic period. Just one year later Bruce surged ahead while Thermco dropped a disastrous 28%; all in a stagnant growth market. By 1982 Thermco was sold to Allegheny, then sold again to SVG in 1988 where it was shut down. Its only vestiges remain at Aviza, a spin out along different lines from SVG. As for the furnaces, TEL acquired full rights from Thermco and dominates the market today.

If PWS would have had the marketing skills to place it worldwide, it would surely have become the major player among wafer probers.

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  • Key Contributors: Nick DeWolf, Peter Konde, Milt Collins.
  • Industry code: 1463
  • No Copyrights
  • Mfr’s Code: TMC

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