PMS acquires Molecular Analytics


By Mark DeSorbo

BOULDER, Colo.—As micro- and molecular-contamination continue to be growing concerns in the semiconductor and microelectronics industries, technologies that combat such threats to processes are gaining greater market acceptance, yielding solid growth—and, most recently a collaboration to the tune of an acquisition.

The acquisition of Sparks, Md.-based Molecular Analytics Inc. by Particle Measuring Systems (PMS) brings not only two very crucial contamination control platforms under one roof, but also two customer bases that face the same manufacturing challenges.

"We see this as a pretty good synergy," says Kurt Webber, vice president of sales and marketing for Molecular Analytics, who will serve as director of sales for molecular contamination products at Particle Measuring Systems.

"They have been moving more toward airborne molecular contamination monitoring with their AiM-based product line, and we have been in that market since the 1990s," he adds. "It's a natural move for both of us. It's a perfect marriage."

The AiM product line Webber is referring to is Particle Measuring Systems' surface acoustic wave-based micro-contamination monitoring equipment, which is capable of ultra-sensitive measurements of depositions in such critical chip and microelectronic processes as photolithography.

Growing concern

Molecular Analytics' ion mobility spectroscopy-based line of products, says Paul Kelly, president of Particle Measuring Systems, will only enhance "our ongoing investment in the molecular contamination monitoring field." Kelly adds that Molecular Analytics' technology is a "good compliment" to the AiM product line.

"This really has become a leading technology from a customer perspective, and as we listened to our customer base, we learned that molecular contamination is a growing concern," he says.

"There is a real concern," Kelly adds, "about ammonia and acid contamination, and more of an investment in chemical filters. So, that means [fabs] need some sort of molecular contamination monitoring scheme."

Webber says Molecular Analytics, formerly part of the SAES Group (Milan, Italy), was becoming less and less part of the SAES core. SAES is a maker of getters, a device—usually a metal alloy component—used to maintain very high vacua, or to ensure high purity of gas used in industrial and scientific applications. Common applications using getters are cathode-ray tubes found in TV sets and computers.

"SAES wanted to go in different directions," Webber says. "They were not used to the cyclical nature of the semiconductor business. With Particle Measuring Systems, their prime market is semiconductor, and they are used to the downturns and the upturns."

Kelly agrees, saying, "We're an instrument company just like they are, and that's why it's a beautiful thing."