WHO WE ARE -- AND WHAT WE DO
(A message from our founder)
LOCATION AND LONGEVITY
Interlab Incorporated, a small, privately held manufacturing company, is approaching its fiftieth birthday. From the site of our founding in 1958, in a small cubicle on the ninth floor of 437 Fifth Avenue, NY, a series of moves has brought us further and further away from the City, and closer and closer to the ground, to our present location in Danbury, CT, where the company now leases a ground-level 32, 000 square feet factory from my wife and me. We tell people that we started at the top and worked our way down.
For our plastics fabrication activities, we also rent a small facility about a mile away.
WHAT WE DO
Interlab serves the most
critical markets for wet chemistry
processing equipment and systems. Its
average complement of 50 employees designs,
manufactures and sells sophisticated
cleaning, etching, coating,
photo-lithographic and other wet chemistry
processing systems to semiconductor and
microcircuit fabricators, to medical implant
manufacturers, and to the precision optics
and ophthalmic industries.
The technology upon which the company's product designs are based, has evolved from its work with IBM and the Bell system in the early days of semiconductor development. At that time there were no suppliers having the necessary processing knowledge to serve the applications at hand. Those of us in the wet-chemistry processing business had to learn the new critical technology from our customers' contributions to the overall body of knowledge on which critical wet processing relies today.
Since rinsing and drying steps are by far the most numerous of all of the procedures in semiconductor wet processing, Interlab devoted most of its early development efforts to these two areas.
Over the years, the company has accumulated some twenty five US and foreign patents relating to rinsing, drying, and automation technology. Other specialized areas of its portfolio embrace ultra-pure water production and handling, and laminar flow process environment control.
EXAMPLES OF WHAT WE DO
1) Interlab's critical
cleaning technology has been applied to
substrates ranging in size from intra-ocular
lenses to the 100-inch reflector optic of
the Hubble Space Telescope. A few words
about the latter example may be of interest:
At the time that the Perkin Elmer Company was involved in the grinding and polishing of the reflector optic, they were casting about for a means of applying a critical cleaning and drying process to its surface, prior to its introduction into the enormous vacuum chamber that would give it its mirror coating. In this case, even a sub-micron particle left on the surface of the optic would impede the transmission of incident light, and would thereby obliterate vast areas of the distant universe that the instrument was intended to explore.
Cleaning of its surface was thus a task that required the application of micro-circuit cleaning technology on a scale hitherto undreamed of.
Jack Kurdock, the Perkin Elmer department chief in charge of the project, had learned something of Interlab's work in the development of critical cleaning equipment for the semiconductor industry before there were any established processes. After first inviting Interlab to re-equip its optical cleaning laboratory to state-of-the-art levels, he employed the company as consultants in devising a method for cleaning the Space Optic surfaces. Subsequently, Interlab was appointed to design and build the cleaning equipment itself.
2) More recently, the
Space Technology Division of the Pilkington
Company in the UK, having developed a new
and critical optic device, searched for
more than a year for a manufacturer who
could demonstrate a cleaning system capable
of achieving cleanliness standards more
stringent than any that Pilkington had
hitherto required. Unable at that time, to
find a suitable European source for the
equipment needed, Pilkington scientists
eventually visited the United States to run
tests at the Interlab factory. The tests
were successful, a contract was signed, and
a highly successful installation followed.
Today, thirteen years later, it is still in
MULTI-STATION TURN-KEY PROJECTS
Two other projects that serve as examples of Interlab's diverse engineering capabilities, are those undertaken for Kodak, and later for the Xerox company. Both firms needed a vendor to equip their new research laboratories. Kodak had constructed a new building for the purpose and had decided to place responsibility for all of its wet chemistry facilities with a single vendor. The project involved equipping the laboratory with a series of environmentally-controlled chemical processing stations together with an extensive array of critical rinsing and drying positions.
Kodak, on learning of somewhat similar projects that Interlab had undertaken for IBM and Bell Telephone Laboratories, awarded us the contract. Their opening statement at our final briefing on the project, may be closely summarized as follows: "So that there shall be no confusion about vendor responsibilities, Interlab shall take the water as it is supplied to this facility from the lake, purify it to ultimate quality for laboratory use, and furnish all point-of-use filtration and rinsing equipment, including the interconnecting plumbing and controls. For those positions requiring heated rinse water, Interlab will furnish non-metallic heating equipment as necessary to avoid any measurable influence on water resistivity.
Interlab will furnish all
wet-processing stations and shall be
responsible for the selection of materials
of construction appropriate for use with the
acids and caustic chemistries involved. As
applicable, processing stations are to be
environmentally controlled and in compliance
with Federal Standard 209, class 100
With the exception of general plumbing components, all facilities and their Sub-systems were of Interlab design and manufacture. These embraced:
The water treatment systems, inclusive of in-house design and construction.
Reverse Osmosis sub-systems.
The non-metallic water heating consoles.
The fabricated process vessels and processing consoles.
The non-contaminating nitrogen heating systems.
The Micro-Rinse instrumentation and control modules.
Ultrasonic generators and transducers.
One of Interlab's more recent interests has been in the field of eyeglass lens processing. Some years ago, in the early days of anti-reflective coatings in the USA, one of the first champions of that process, the Coburn company, invited Interlab to design a special cleaning system that they could resell as part of their own product line. In this case the requirement arose because the CFC (ozone-depleting) solvent cleaning systems that they had planned to import from Europe, were not acceptable in the United States. Coburn had to have an efficient water-based cleaning process to market with their vacuum coating chambers, and they could not wait for their European supplier to develop one. They were in any case very much in favor of using a domestic source. In this case the outcome was a little different from previous examples, for it gave Interlab an opportunity to develop and refine the cleaning system, and standardize on an optimum design rather than produce its usual one-of-a-kind custom unit.
As Interlab established
itself in the eyeglass lens processing
industry, other opportunities presented
themselves. After studying existing
practices in primary (hard) coating
technology, we gained expertise in this
specialized field too, and were soon
designing and manufacturing critical coating
equipment of our own. Our following in this
area is now serving to significantly enhance
our position in the eyeglass processing
industry as a whole.
Today, the Interlab SONISCAN and SONICOAT cleaning and coating systems serve as the current industry standards for integrated cleaning/hard coating applications, and for pre-AR Coating preparation.
Howard M. Layton