SEMI Oral History Interview
Interviewed by Craig Addison, SEMI
Dick Dryden was born in Los Angeles, California, and attended the University of Colorado, graduating in 1952 with a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering. Early in his career he worked for the Boeing Company in Seattle for three years and served in the U.S. Air Force for three years. Dryden became involved in cleanroom technology in 1959 as a co-founder of General Acoustics Corporation in Los Angeles. In 1968, he moved to San Jose, California to establish Dryden Engineering Company, which became a specialist in cleanroom technology and contamination control in the semiconductor industry.
CA: Let’s start briefly on where you grew up, your early days, how they were spent.
DD: We won’t spend a lot of time on that, but I was born and raised in Los Angeles, California, and lived there all my life until I went to school at the University of Colorado where I graduated with a BS in Civil Engineering in 1952 and moved from there on out to the Boeing Company in Seattle where I worked for three years. And then went into the Air Force for three years. All of this gave me a pretty good background in what I want and don’t want to do. And then, after leaving the Air Force, moved back to California and started in a new industry which led me within a few years to the cleanroom and contamination control field which I got into very deeply in 1959.
CA: What about at Boeing? What were you doing specifically?
DD: I was a facilities engineer there for the plant engineering department and it was an interesting time because I was a project manager for the development center at Boeing Field from a civil engineering standpoint. That was the time when the B52 flew for the first time and I was there when the 707 flew for the first time and so there were some exciting things happening at that period of time. And my job was primarily designing facilities and I found that that was probably not going to be my future.
CA: So after Boeing you went into the Air Force. What were you doing there, civil engineering as well?
DD: No. It’s kind of interesting. I got a direct commission in the Air Force as a sanitary and industrial hygiene engineer, commonly known as the “Honey Bucket Brigade”. They were in desperate need of engineering background for this group of engineers that reported directly to the surgeon on the base so I was in the medical service corps and my job was to maintain the industrial health of the command which was very wide and varied. That ranged from radio active contamination coming back from airplanes that had flown up into troposphere, to insect and rodent control.
The big issue at that time was noise control and we were getting into the jet aircraft era and noise was really a dominant issue and had to be studied and had to be controlled. In the military, of course, you couldn’t put a lot of silencers on engines like you could in the commercial market but we had to make sure that at night planes were pointed in the right direction so you weren’t flooding the surrounding towns with pretty intense noise.
CA: Was this industrial health activity the beginnings of your interest in contamination control?
DD: No, there isn’t a direct connection at that point, although contamination was an issue in its various forms. Obviously contamination from radio active materials, contamination from noise and so forth, but that was not what led me into the cleanroom business. Upon leaving the Air Force I went to work for a noise control company in Los Angeles and there was a tie-in, as this company manufactured all kinds of portable soundproof rooms, audiometric chambers, jet engine noise suppressors -- there’s my tie-in to the noise control side. And then in 1959 a gentleman from Hughes Electronics in El Segundo called me and said they’d like to talk to me about building a cleanroom. I had no idea what a cleanroom was but he was fascinated by the prefabricated modular wall structures we had for creating soundproof rooms so I went down and talked with him. He showed me where we could make some minor adjustments to our manufacturing capabilities and make walls that were compatible with cleanroom technology and so we got our first cleanroom which I designed and built in 1959.
CA: What was the name of this company?
DD: General Acoustics Corporation.
CA: When Hughes called you, was the cleanroom concept being used in industry at all?
DD: Yes, it was starting to as the ball bearing was using the early technology. Hughes was starting to manufacture the Polaris system and they had to have a cleanroom in order to manufacture to the new Air Force standards. And in 1959… you have got to realize that was before laminar flow, Hepa filters were in common use but there was no laminar flow concept at that time, so we built a conventional cleanroom for a guidance system for Hughes, El Segundo.
By the way, I was one of the founders of General Acoustics. They started in early 1959 and a little later that year is when I made a real switch within the company to doing a contamination control side of the company rather than the noise control.
CA: When building a cleanroom, did you use the same materials as you would use for the soundproofing?
DD: Well, yes, from a prefabricated standpoint we built the cleanrooms out of formed metal and in the case of soundproofing you have a metal outside skin and then a perforated inside skin and behind that is all kinds of sound absorbative material and, of course, that’s contamination in its highest form. So the idea was just to switch the perforated on the inside with solid and to use a foam material rather than an acoustic absorptive material inside.
CA: At that stage were there any companies specifically building cleanrooms?
DD: Yes, there were. There was a large one called Moore and Hanks Company in Los Angeles and they did prefabricated modular cleanrooms all over the world so we joined in competition with them.
CA: So why did Hughes call you instead of the other company? Did you know this guy from Hughes?
DD: Yeah, he was the director of facilities and he and I had worked for a few years on all kinds of problems dealing with acoustics, and we’d established a good relationship and so he called me and maybe he didn’t know of Moore and Hanks but he knew we had the potential for doing this so thank goodness he called us. It was an interesting opportunity.
CA: What were the challenges in building that first cleanroom? Was it pretty easy or there were some technical challenges?
DD: With us we had a lot of technical issues because we had never built one so we had to do a lot of consulting with mechanical engineers because the whole idea of a cleanroom is to get a lot of air changes through it and using, in those days, Hepa Filters to clean the air. They wanted like a Class 10,000 room which in those early days meant a pretty heavy air flow down to the room, so we devised a system where we didn’t fill the ceiling with filters like they do now in laminar flow, but we diffused it. We blew into a chamber and diffused it on into the room so that we could get a uniform air flow in the room and then have cleanliness throughout. It was a conventional cleanroom.
CA: Did people wear protective suits in those days?
DD: Sure, but you have to realize that the uniforms were pretty crude by today’s standards. The focus on cleanroom technology was driven by NASA, the military, the aerospace industry, not the semiconductor industry. NASA and the Air Force wrote all the specs; they wrote the Federal standards, they wrote the Air Force standards for cleanrooms. NASA contributed millions of words to coming up with technology that would describe cleanrooms, and it was a different time but an exciting time for watching the evolution of a business.
CA: So how does the story play out at General Acoustics? Did cleanrooms become a good primary business?
DD: That was the primary business at that point. In noise control you are facing a negative component because often-times industry is forced to do something about noise and it’s an expense rather than something that can add to their bottom line. Whereas cleanrooms, on the other hand, enhance their bottom line because they can produce products that they couldn’t produce any other way. One quick note here is that this was 1959 and the advent of laminar flow didn’t occur until 1962 and that was an invention out of Sandia Labs by Dr. Willis Whitfield. That changed the whole industry from one of diffusing clean air through linear diffusers or perforated ceiling panels, into laminar flow concepts which allowed the semiconductor industry to manufacture in super clean environments. I can't imagine the industry flourishing without this critical invention.
CA: When was the first time that you had a customer in the semiconductor industry? Did you have one during that period at General Acoustic?
DD: No, we didn’t. As a matter of fact, we didn’t do any work with the semiconductor industry because that was pretty early in the life of semiconductors. We were focused totally on aerospace, NASA and those industries that were being forced to manufacture their products in cleanrooms by the government agencies.
CA: But they themselves were using electronic components.
DD: Oh, sure, absolutely. What you had is some government agency asking Hughes to build a guidance system in which they had to use a cleanroom to build their electronics, just like they did with other electronic products they needed. So it was very early and nothing specifically to do with semiconductors, but rather electronics in general.
CA: You said there was one competitor. Did a lot of people jump into this market during that period from ’59 to ’62.
DD: Well, the big jump came in 1962 because once laminar flow was invented, then you had laminar flow benches, you had laminar flow cleanrooms, you had laminar flow tunnels, you had all kinds of products that sprung from that basic concept where you could put a super clean area over a tool or any place rather than building a whole cleanroom. So that really changed the whole contamination control field dramatically.
CA: Was this a patented invention?
DD: Yes, it was. It was patented by Sandia but they gave a free license for anybody to use the technology because they wanted it spread. Thank goodness for that.
CA: Can you talk about how the company developed? What happened, say, after 1962?
DD: Well, General Acoustics became probably the second largest company in the United States for building prefabricated cleanrooms. The company’s growth was in cleanrooms, but I’ll be real frank with you, because later on it became a real division between the owner of the company and his interest in noise control and my interest in contamination control. So we had a parting of the ways in 1967 and I decided to go a little different route and stayed in Los Angeles. I’m going to jump through that area because all I can say about General Acoustics, it was an eight or nine year period of interesting technology growth for me, but one that wasn’t going anywhere so I just wanted to change that and do something a little more exciting and focus on contamination control.
CA: So you started your own company?
DD: No, after leaving General Acoustics, I worked as the director of engineering for Burke and Company, a filter company. The company had just contracted with Flanders Filters, the leader in cleanroom Hepa filters, to supply the growing west coast cleanroom market.
CA: You were still in L.A.?
DD: Yes, I stayed there until 1968…then the opportunity of a lifetime came along. Friends working in the laminar flow and contamination control products business asked me to move to the Bay area and represent them. At the time there were very few people in the area with the right back ground or experience to sell their products. They needed help. So my wife and I made a real interesting decision. We had three kids and we decided to move from Manhattan Beach, in Southern California, to San Jose and start a company. We did that on July 4, 1968.
CA: So this was a rep company?
DD: Yes. We started out as a rep company. Our product line included the General Acoustics products, particle counters, Hepa filters, uniforms, the Texwipe products and amazingly no laminar flow equipment. This was to come later, fortunately
CA: Dick, this decision to move up to San Jose or what later became Silicon Valley, were you aware of the semiconductor industry starting up there? Was that the reason you came up?
DD: Well, it was broader than that initially. There were still a lot of aerospace industries up here, like Lockheed and others that were growing and needed cleanroom technology. Sure, the semiconductor industry was growing, and opportunities developed almost daily. Intel was started in 1968 with AMD and others following in 1969. Our focus turned to semiconductors quickly because the need for contamination control technology and application was very obvious. It was a very exciting time. So up to San Jose we moved. We sold our house in Manhattan Beach, leased a house in San Jose and started the company with the $10,000 from the sale of our house. Looking back, we were very lucky as “ten grand” was barely, and I mean barely enough to keep us going until we got established.
CA: So the partners in the company were you and your wife.
CA: You didn’t bring anybody else in?
DD: Not at that time. In 1970 or so we leased an office, hired a secretary and started to expand. In 1973 Jim Moore bought 40 percent of the company and we really took off.
CA: Do you remember your first visit or one of your first visits to the device makers and impressions on the contamination problem?
DD: Sure. Maybe it wasn't the first visit, but it was a very fortuitous visit. When you are doing projects in the aerospace industry, whether it’s selling, engineering or whatever, it’s a 6-month to 12-month lead time. I came into the Valley with that perception of the business cycle. Randy Parker, from Nortec, a small semiconductor company, gave me advice that really got me going. I was in there doing some work for them and he took me into his office and he said, “Tell me a little bit about your background.” I said, “Well, you know, I’ve got all these years of contamination control, came up from Los Angeles”…. he stopped me and asked “You worked with the aerospace industry?” “Yeah.” Randy said, “Well, it’s real different up here, I see you spinning your wheels, and I want you to do something, Dick.” He said, “I want you to subscribe to both the Palo Alto Times and to Electronic News,” and he said “Here are the names of four companies, with contacts, that are right now starting up and where they are.” He gave me AMD, AMS, a major expansion of National Semiconductor, and I can’t think of the fourth one. “What you are going to have to do now is go see these guys and do it quickly because they will make a decision and get everything ordered in a two or three week period.” And what a blessing that was, I’ll tell you, because I had no idea of the quickness of the industry.
So I went over to see the companies right away [but] I missed that round because I was a little late even at that. But that gave me some insight and some connections into the industry, that led, down the road, to Dryden Engineering Company doing most of the work for AMD, AMS, National Semiconductor and many others in the Valley. Randy gave me the insight I needed, and for that I'm extremely grateful.
CA: So obviously there was competition for you. What type of companies were the competitors?
DD: Yes, there was competition on individual products and services, but not on a total package. Our competition came from other rep organizations, who handled particle counters, wet process stations, laminar flow devices, and a litany of standard cleanroom products They were more narrowly product focused and less service oriented, which gave us the edge. The biggest differentiator came when we signed up to rep Integrated Air Systems, a new startup that turned out to be the premium laminar flow equipment manufacturer in the country, if not the world. With the addition of Integrated Air Systems in combination with our knowledge of contamination control and our complimentary product lines, we could go after bigger projects. We increased our staff, added a service manager and began our first major expansion. One of the first jobs we got was the new Intel Fab 2 in Santa Clara. This started a long, solid relationship with Intel as we did all their subsequent fabs from 2 through 7.
CA: So the Intel fab 2 was your first big one?
DD: No, not the first, but the most significant. The first one was building and equipping a new mask making facility for Fairchild.
CA: What was your deal at Intel? You just provided the laminar flow equipment or built the whole cleanroom, or what?
DD: With Intel we provided all the laminar flow equipment, most of the wet stations, air showers, along with all of the incidental items -- wiping cloths and so forth -- all the things that go into the fab area. When the project was completed we certified the fab. It’s interesting to note that throughout the history of Dryden Engineering, Intel and others used us as an unpaid consultant to solve contamination control issues. This, of course was our plan. One interesting story is that we got a call from Skip Matthews at Intel and he said, “I want you to come over, bring your guys with you, and let’s talk about a project.” We went to fab 1, and Skip said, “I want you to sign this.” So I read it and it was a statement basically that on pain of death if we ever mentioned the product to anybody, that we were through. The project they wanted to discuss was their new “pellicle” product; they couldn't get any yield. So we went into their fab area where they were trying to manufacture the pellicles and helped them get through a couple of contamination issues [that were] driven primarily by static charges. We were able to get Intel on the right track moving ahead with their pellicle system. And we never could mention that to anybody. In fact, this is probably the first time I’ve even talked about it in all these years. But that gives you kind of an idea of the faith that people put into Dryden Engineering Company.
Skipping over to another significant company, Advanced Micro Devices, we did the very same thing by providing wet stations and laminar flow and air showers and solving contamination control issues. I remember one interesting meeting and I forget which fab it was…maybe it was their new submicron facility when it was being designed, and we were there with a room full of AMD engineers and consultants when the project manager looked over and said, “You know, Dryden Engineering is the only one in here that isn’t being paid,” which I thought was really good and we got a laugh out of that. But that was the position we took. We were able to help our customers immensely on issues that they just couldn’t solve themselves. Our payback was getting the equipment, the ongoing certification and getting a total turnkey package of our other products. So that happened with Intel, AMD, National, Fairchild, right on down the line.
CA: So you were happy with that.
DD: I was very, very happy with that.
CA: You got the payback by getting contracts. That was kind of your competitive edge.
DD: That was the issue. What they got was a lot of years of experience and a trained staff to help them with the issues that they couldn’t get solved elsewhere, and they bought everything from us -- particle counters, uniforms, anything they needed to operate the fab.
CA: So it wasn’t a case where they would say, “OK, well your price on the uniforms is a bit high. We are going to buy those from here.” They just bought the whole lot from you and didn’t kind of pick and choose.
DD: The key to the whole issue was, “What are you going to do?” Are you going to go out and knit-pick Dryden Engineering Company on all this stuff after they just equipped and certified your fab? Yeah, there was all kinds of competition on everything we had but that was expected. We just marketed ourselves so that here we were and we’ve got everything that you need. We never conflicted on our certification with the fact that we provided the equipment in the first place. If it didn’t work, we reported that. So we put a whole package together that was hard to violate. People tried…but just couldn’t break through.
CA: Did you deal with any of the founders of these companies?
DD: For the most part.
CA: Like Jerry Sanders at AMD and Noyce and Moore at Intel.
DD: Most of them. You know, we didn’t do much with Bob Noyce and Gordon Moore directly, but rather we worked with those responsible for the new fabs. This was typically the case with Jerry Sanders, Charlie Spork and other founders and CEOs. As it turns out, a lot of the young technicians and engineers on the line turned out to be vice presidents and presidents of the company. Again, good relationships all the way through. That always helped because we watched them grow and we helped them and when they built another fab, or whatever they were going to do, they just called us because they knew they could rely on us. It was really kept on a non-competitive basis. People, inside and out, tried to take shots at us constantly…the laminar flow equipment was 15, 20, 30 percent higher than anybody else’s, but it was that much better and so they didn’t fight us on that. So it was a nice, nice time, a good time.
CA: OK, you started the company in ’68. How did things change [in the semiconductor industry] from the 60s to the 70s through your eyes as a contamination expert?
DD: Well, of course, we were right at the end of the 60s so very little was done at that time from our standpoint, but if you get into the early 70s then there were dramatic changes coming down as far as what was needed in the industry. I guess the most critical issue in the 70s was trying to understand the whole concept of contamination control. There was an overall issue that was being overlooked and that is the whole concept of the cleanroom was misunderstood, and in the later part of the 70s this came to light in spades. In fact, we wrote a dissertation on it called “The System’s Approach to Contamination Control” because up until that time you could see that there was little coordination between all the groups. The fab was designed and built, and then how are you going to get the people in it? How are you going to get the equipment in it? How are you going to get the materials in it? What are the materials that you want to put in? How are those things going to be operated? How are they going to be certified? And it was not a good system at all and the facilities people would just say, “Here’s your cleanroom,” and then the next group would come in and get the equipment in and [there was] no way to get it in clean or anything else, so the concept changed dramatically. To some degree I think that was driven by the dissertation that we gave and we wrote an article on it and it came out in Micro Contamination Magazine and then we put it in our own brochure too, so we brought attention to the fact that it’s a system, not a series of unconnected events that make a cleanroom.
CA: What year was that paper written?
DD: In 1979. Right in that period of time we did something that was quite interesting. We created a guy called Particle Pete. And Particle Pete was the absolute epitome of what you don’t want to do in a cleanroom and we provided a fitting poster. The poster came about because I was over at National Semiconductor at a break and all the people came out of the cleanroom in their cleanroom uniforms, sat down on the grass, ate lunch, and then went back in the building. And so we said, “What are those guys doing? What can we do about that?” So my partner and I… and I’ll bring up a very important person in this whole thing, Jim Moore, who was a competitor that joined the company in 1973 and a very interesting and tremendous person…we sat down and talked about it. So he took our marketing guy and they went up to North Beach [San Francisco] and started looking for someone as a model. And they saw this guy walking along the street and they stopped him and they said, “Wonder if you can help us.” And he said, “Well, what are you thinking about?” “We want to take some pictures of you,” and he just said, “What? What kind of pictures do you want to take? This is North Beach,” and then they explained it to him. So we got this wonderful character with the beard and we dubbed him Particle Pete and he’s a walking encyclopedia of what’s wrong with cleanroom garmenting and cleanroom operations and we really had a good time developing the poster. Every fab area in the Valley had a poster of Particle Pete. So that was something that brought attention to the fact that here was a part of the whole systems approach that was being neglected. You know, you can’t do that. You just can’t get mustard and grass stains all over your uniform and go back in and try and make a clean product.
CA: So at all the fabs were people walking outside in their cleanroom uniforms?
DD: In one form or another. There was very little control of the garments [going] in and out of facilities. So we forced that issue pretty strongly. The whole thing of putting together this system of what you do and how you get equipment and everything in the cleanroom and how you build it initially was extremely important. There was a dramatic change that occurred in the late 70s and early 80s. The 70s were a defining period for the semiconductor industry as to what they had to do from a contamination standpoint. And then in the 80s there were a few other things that came down that we thought were very significant in the success of the company. Dryden Engineering at that point realized that there were all kinds of issues involving personnel and equipment and other things that were simply not looked at and we created the first particle-per-wafer-pass independent laboratory where we would test equipment for contributing particles-per-wafer-pass through a machine. We could define that and show them where the issues were and give a document to them as to how they could fix it or fix it right on the spot. So it was an independent PWP testing lab.
I want to say this. In companies you get opportunities and sometimes the opportunities are created by your own people and some are brought to you and through the history of Dryden Engineering a lot of people brought a lot of things to us…they knew there was a problem or they had thoughts on a product and then we would take it and develop it. And one of those products that was very significant in the industry was the Perkin-Elmer aligner. An engineer, Rick Ruddell, came to me and he said, “We’ve got a real problem on this thing. I know that you are in laminar flow but is there anything that you can do to get this piece of equipment under temperature control because it doesn’t work unless you have the whole thing under temperature control?” So he and I jumped on a plane. We went down to Los Angeles to Integrated Air Systems and jointly sat down and worked out a plan to develop a temperature control laminar flow unit which became the standard in the industry and hundreds of them were furnished. It wasn’t our idea but the implementation of it and some of the refinements that were put into it and the servicing of those units in the field fell on our shoulders. So that was a real interesting period of time.
CA: So this product was sold by Integrated Air Systems?
DD: Yes. See, we represented them all over the United States for a long time, all over the world as a matter of fact. That was basically an exclusive product handled by Dryden Engineering Company no matter where it went until such time as we relinquished that and helped Integrated Air set up reps around the country and around the world.
Another one is the Shield System…TI and others had done a lot of studying on the sources of contamination in the cleanroom and that data is extremely interesting. I’ll try and summarize it in my own words here. Most of the contamination was coming from the people. According to the TI study this represented about 30 percent of the particle contamination found in the cleanroom. Our studies showed that most of the particles came from the head and neck [from] breathing, skin flakes and dandruff. So we created a self-contained system that became the standard around the world for covering up and sealing the head, then evacuating the head covering through a fan system and filter system. We could stop probably 99 percent of all of the contamination coming from the head and that was a very big innovation. It was used in semiconductor [manufacturing] around the country and then eventually…within a year or so adapted by Intel…and there were probably 30,000 systems sold around the world.
CA: Thirty thousand of your systems?
CA: Is that something you could patent?
DD: You know, it was one of those basic concepts that was already there because doctors were using the idea of isolating the head in orthopedic surgery for replacement of hips and all that sort of thing. The concept was invented by a doctor in England, Dr. Charnley, and a friend of mine started his own company manufacturing this product for the medical field and then, as we have always done, we introduced it at a tradeshow just to catch some interest. We obviously realized that the system, as it was designed, would not work [in the semiconductor industry]. In the medical profession [there] is a surgical suite in which a surgeon stands there so he can plug into a vacuum system. So he had an umbilical cord coming down. He just plugged it in [and] he would stand over the patient. In our case you had to be mobile. That’s when we came up with the whole idea of a light, self contained unit. Intel put a couple of systems into their mask making facility, tested it out and immediately implemented it throughout all their fabs because they could see the difference right away.
CA: When was this introduced?
DD: That would have been in the early to mid-80s.
CA: So at this stage Dryden Engineering was still mostly a rep company but you had these products?
DD: No. We’d made a decision by then to get into our own products and we started moving toward a objective of having no more than 10 percent of our income come from being representative. You can understand what happens to a rep. You get successful and then you are too successful and someone that’s shortsighted at the parent company says, “Let’s get rid of them. We don’t have to send them X million dollars a year.” So we made a decision in the mid-80s…we started developing these products and we ended up meeting our objective in the early 90s of getting out of being a rep except for maybe 10 percent of our income.
CA: Let’s switch topics. What about the quality issues, when Japan overtook the U.S. in semiconductors. Were the Japanese doing all the right things and the Americans were doing the wrong things?
DD: Well, you know, they just keep improving. They [the Japanese] did little steps. We did a lot of things in the semiconductor industry here in [Silicon] Valley that were totally wrong. We were making major jumps in technology without taking advantage of, or without understanding what the consequences of those steps were. The Japanese do it on a step-by-step basis. I think they worked on the contamination control side very, very thoroughly and they watch all of their products, they watch all of their gases and liquids and everything very carefully.
CA: Was there a Dick Dryden equivalent in Japan?
DD: Well, there was the professor who really raised hell with all of the U.S. semiconductor makers. He came over here and consulted with AMD and others. A very influential guy, Professor Ohmi. He put a lot of pressure on the whole issue of cleanliness and contamination control. He had a lot of influence on the world and on Japan in particular. A little different concept than what we were because we were more into the practical, day to day applications and the invention and utilization of new products. He was academic all the way.
CA: Is there any way to quantify how yields improved? I mean, can you say, it was 10 percent and then it increased to 20 percent after this happened? Can you link increases in yields to some of these breakthroughs?
DD: Well, yield is a very nebulous subject. It’s very tough and anybody that tries to sell a product on the basis of yield is in trouble because there are just too many variables in it. You try and pick out a specific area where you know you can have an effect at reducing the number of particles on a wafer or other surfaces. From Dryden Engineering’s viewpoint, we never tried to sell yield. But, we saw some very interesting things happen. Once the contamination from people was reduced to the 5 to 10 percent range, then the other issues started coming in…the materials and the process equipment. There was a huge contribution by the process equipment. And that’s still being worked on obviously, and that’s why particle-per-wafer-pass issues were critical. That’s why independent testing of all robots and everything else was critical.
That brings us to another very interesting point in our history…we invented the Q111 Surface Particle Detector. Now that is a patented item. What we wanted to do was develop a means by which we could test any surface other than the wafer as to what the levels of contamination were…so we developed a system that within six seconds can tell you the number of particles on the surface per square centimeter or square inch at 0.3 microns. What that did was focus everything right back to the equipment because in the cleanroom they spend hours and hours and hours cleaning all the walls and everything else and then when you get down to it, with this surface particle detector we could tell where the contamination was. We would test the walls and get X number of particles per square and we would check other surfaces around the equipment and we would check the floor in the cleanroom and get a number of particles per square and then we would get to the process equipment, the outside skin of the process equipment, and find that that was 2 or 3X what it was on the floor. Nobody could do that before. Next, the Q111 was used to check the surfaces and parts inside the process equipment. Now, this is not a scientific instrument like the KLA-Tencor or but it gives you a number right away and one that you can effect by cleaning properly. The Q111 is now the de-facto standard, world wide.
CA: What about SEMICON and SEMI, what has been your involvement there?
DD: Well, SEMI was real important to Dryden Engineering Company. We were one of only 13 companies that were recognized after 25 years as being at every SEMICON West show. SEMICON West is important because that gave us an avenue to show off our capabilities. The most important thing is that it gave the people in the industry, both at the OEM level and at the IDM level, a place to come and see what was new in contamination control and I can’t tell you how many times people would come up to the booth and say, “What’s new? What have you got going? What’s going on in the industry?” So when you look at contamination control, it was sort of a sideline item that people didn’t focus on as much as they probably should have. They were looking at process and everything else but when it got down to it, there were always issues that Dryden Engineering was addressing well in advance of others -- the Shield System, the surface particle detector, product testing -- so people would come to us on a regular basis at all the shows and say, “What’s new?”
CA: Do you have any recollections of how the first SEMICON show went?
DD: Yes I do. Phil Gregory said, “You’ve got to get into SEMICON West’s first show, it’s going to be a high technology show.” And I said, “Well, tell me about it.” which he did. We agreed and took a 10-foot booth and it was at the Hall of Flowers [in San Mateo], and probably no more than a third of the hall was taken up by this new show called SEMICON West. And Phil said, “You are going to enjoy this because it’s a high tech show.” So I got there with laminar flow and air guns and all the other things that we were showing and I was right in-between Y.A. Tittle selling insurance on the left and Encyclopedia Britannica on my right. [laughs] So much for the high tech show! But I’ll tell you, Y.A. Tittle brought us more business than anybody. Everyone wanted to talk to him and they had to go by our booth to see him, so we got a tremendous play. [Editor’s Note: Tittle was a quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers and New York Giants]. And in ’96, they recognized Dryden Engineering as one of 13 companies that had been in every SEMICON show at that point. So SEMICON West was very enjoyable and profitable for us over all those years.
CA: Can we just bring it up to date with what happened with Dryden Engineering in the past few years?
DD: Sure. I had sort of set a timeframe after we got into the mid-90s that it would be nice to get out of the business and sell the company and I’d set a date on that of 1998. Then a gentleman from back east, Frank McBride, called me and came into the office…and he was with a company out of Ohio, MPW Industries, and they were looking for ways to expand their business. They were doing clean-up service business in the smokestack industries, not janitorial but tank cleaning and everything else. So they wanted to do the same thing in the cleanroom business. As they went around the United States, they kept hearing, “go see Dryden Engineering, go see Dryden Engineering”, so they came out and we started our talks in August and we sold the company to them. They bought Dryden Engineering and four other companies and, hence, they came up with the name Pentagon Technologies. We sold that in December of ’98 and since then they have become a very interesting company, probably the leading company in parts cleaning and fab construction protocol. I negotiated a real nice contract with them to be an employee for five years. After I transferred as much as I could as a mentor to CEO Frank McBride I helped out where I could but was not involved in the operation of the business. And then that all terminated a year ago in May. So now I’m foot loose and fancy free, working on committees at SEMI and keeping my fingers in the industry.
Dick Dryden was interviewed November 7, 2006 by Craig Addison of SEMI.