02 Introduction 03 The Fairchild Semiconductor Days 05 The National Semiconductor Days 08 The Sensym Days 12 Art Zias 14 Next Sensors 16 All Sensors 16 Hans Keller 17 Other Silicon Valley Sensor Companies 21 Other US Silicon MEMS Companies 27 Silicon Senors in Europe and the Rest of the World 30 Significant Applications 32 The Millionaires Club 33 Some People to Remember 34 Some Comments from Art Zias 36 The Author
There are certain stories I tend to tell when we have visitors in Sunnyvale or when I first meet people in the sensor business. The extent and detail of these stories vary as is appropriate with the interests of our visitors or the occasion. I like to recount some of the history of silicon based sensors in Silicon Valley and give some examples of applications we’ve worked on in the past. Often this triggers some common ground upon which we might have interests, people or other experiences in common to share. I shall try to share some of this by way of this news letter.
The Fairchild Semiconductor Days
The beginning in the Valley For all practical purposes I’ve been directly involved with the first silicon sensor work in Silicon Valley. The person most responsible for bringing sensor technology to the area was Art Zias. Art was a technical writer at Bell Labs while an engineering student in the late fifties. The physics of piezoresistance in silicon and germanium was derived from the work of Phann, Thurston and Smith at Bell and was chronicled by Art. Art also worked as a professional saxophone player at the major New York studios during the fifties. In his own words “I was skilled enough to play with the top jazz artists, but not talented enough to be ranked with them.” Pfann’s work inspired Art to make a life long career of silicon sensors. Bill Pfann made a comment at the time that not only inspired Art but perhaps defined the industry “Now that we’ve studied the transduction effects in semiconductors for the purpose of getting rid of them, maybe they’re useful.” In 1960, Art joined GE where he won a competition against Honeywell for an Airforce (WADC) contract on solid state motion transduction. That motivated Tony Kurtz to leave Honeywell and found Kulite. In 1964, Art joined Honeywell to start the Solid State Electronics Center (SSEC). During the sixties, Art lead SSEC’s development of piezoresistive accelerometers and pressure sensors for the Aerospace, Industrial and Microswitch divisions. Hans Keller was then a physicist at SSEC. He later founded Keller Druckmestechnik in Switzerland. In 1969, Art joined exHoneyweller, Don Lynam, as director of Engineering at Fairchild Camera & Instrument’s Transducer operation. Gene Burk soon left Honeywell to join Art. Art credits Gene with the original work on bulk silicon micromachining. Prior to Gene’s work sensors did not incorporate three dimensional structures, only planar structures. Don, Art and Gene Burk left Fairchild and founded IC Transducers (now Foxboro ICT) with Fairchild’s blessings in 1971. In 1972, Art and Bill Hare founded National Semiconductor’s transducer operation without Fairchild’s blessings. In addition to ICT, an effort continued at Fairchild aimed at automotive applications. At Fairchild the hope was to develop a manifold absolute pressure sensor, similar in technology to the ignition module, based on silicon piezoresistance technology. With Art’s departure the effort was stopped. National and Fairchild became involved in a legal dispute over the nature of Art’s departure. What remained of the technology at Fairchild was sold to Bob Hood, became Cognition and was eventually sold to Emerson Electric, never to be heard of again. I met Art in 1973 at a golf outing arranged by a mutual friend and fellow engineer at Fairchild Semiconductor, Rick Schaffzin. Rick became president of IC Sensors in the eighties. Art has a horrible golf swing. It’s best that one just...