Commonly known as Intel and stylized as intel is short for Integrated electronics. The fact that “intel” is the term for intelligence information also made the name appropriate. Intel primarily makes processors for Apple, Lenovo, HP, and Dell. It is the second largest chip manufacturer in the world based on revenue after being overtaken by Samsung. As of 2018 the company counted 107.400 employees and made $70.8 billion revenue of which $21.1 billion profit. Intel Corporation was founded on July 18, 1968, by semiconductor pioneers Robert Noyce (chemist) and Gordon Moore (of Moore’s law), and widely associated with the executive leadership and vision of Andrew Grove. Physicist Arthur Rock was a major investor and helped the company find new investors. At first Intel wanted to take over the semiconductor chip market with a new technology to replace magnetic-core memory. After this Intel made the first commercially available microprocessor (Intel 4004) in 1971 and further continued to develop these chips. This processor was also used in the personal computers of IBM which were a growing success. Along with the campaign ‘intel inside’ Intel became one of the largest and most profitable hardware supplier to the PC industry. In order to stay on top of the market intel purchased other companies such as McAfee for $7.68 billion and 10% of the shares of ASML for $2.1 billion.
Currently the Intel largest competitor is AMD (Advanced Micro Devices). However, as PC sales are declining since 2011 the company also starts to focus on new technologies. It started for example with self-driving cars in 2017 and is now one of the biggest stakeholders. The company is also one of the first in the sector to research consumer acceptance, after an AAA report quoted a 78% nonacceptance rate of the technology in the US.
“Applied Materials is one of the most important U.S. companies you have probably never heard of.”
Applied Materials is a company that supplies production techniques for the semiconductor industry and display manufacturing. They do materials engineering at atomic level up to industrial scale. The company was founded in 1967 in a garage, like many other companies in Silicon Valley. Today they make $17.3 billion in revenues every year and spend $2 billion on research and development.
The company is costumer-oriented, so most of their research is determined by their customers. However, in order to stay ahead of their competition they also focus on new developments and better understanding. They take care that their research is broad and deep, making sure they know exactly how and why something works instead of just finding out that it works. This makes them an innovative company. They get on average three patents every day and now have more than 12,750 patents in total.
The company is very big and internationally active. They have manufacturing locations in 17 countries, but their research and development mainly takes place in Silicon Valley. Their employees are also very international. At their location in Santa Clara there are almost no American employees. Applied Materials believes that they can achieve more by putting different cultures together.
During our visit we saw the work environment. They have large open offices subdivided into many small cubicles where their desks are located, just like in the movies. This is very typical for American offices. Applied Materials is a very big company, so one will not know every colleague. However, usually they are working in teams of about five persons. Typical for this company is that there is an enormous amount of employees with a PhD degree. Many of them are physicists, but there are also a lot of mechanical, electrical and chemical engineers.
During our visit we had a lab tour in the Maydan Technology Center, passing by the very big cleanroom. The devices in here were some of their products used as a demo device and for testing. The devices that we saw were PVD (physical vapour deposition), ALD (atomic layer deposition) and a dielectric deposition device. Their devices can deposit one layer of material at a time and can process approximately 10 to 40 wafers every hour. We also saw a characterisation device for wafers (Surfscan SP7) which can locate defects on the sample very precisely. After the tour our tour guides gave a presentation about the company and its vision followed by a Q&A session.
Typical for this company is that they both manufacture at a large scale as well as doing research to improve their knowledge and understanding. If you compare their research to research being done at universities, the main difference is the budget. The budget at Applied Materials is so big that they almost have no limitations. However, Applied Materials is still a company so most of the research is expected to make a profit in the end.