In 1978 the global semiconductor industry was experiencing rapid changes. Manufacturers and Suppliers of semiconductor equipment were experiencing a capacity crunch. Automatic equipment was experiencing a threshold of delivery demand. The semi-automatic and manual equipment industries were staging a comeback, and intense demand left many suppliers caught off-guard. Ahead of the competition, Process Technology emerged as a leader in the surface finishing world. After years of dedication and refining products, Tom Richards, Founder of Process Technology, innovated the entire industry by developing safe, customizable heaters that would serve as the new industry standards.
For Tom Richards, the vision and mission were always clear; provide clean and safe heating. Today, the legacy of Process Technology, carried out by Jody Richards, Tom’s daughter, the current President of the company, and recently named EY Entrepreneur Of The Year™ – East Central Winner stands out from the rest of the lot for the same reason. Jody grew up in the business and understands what it takes to succeed as a company focused on innovation. Jody recollects when there was a considerable challenge for the surface finishing industry to fit 13 inches heaters into much smaller-sized tanks. “It was a problem that desperately needed attention. My Dad resolved the issue with sizing options, as well as orchestrating many other changes in heater safety and design.” As Process Technology established itself as a market leader, Tom’s innovation-led mindset included the first Teflon heaters that went on to be used by the semiconductor industry for years to come. “Process Technology has been in the semiconductor market since the beginning,” says Richards.
In the years since, Process Technology has made numerous acquisitions, including Thermo Quartz and ThermX, leading to its grounded Quartz heater. In 1986, the business continued to make inroads as the leading manufacturer of surface finishing equipment through its acquisition of RTC. Next, PTFE (Polytetrafluoroethylene) immersion heaters were introduced, followed by H2otShot Quartz and TIH Inline heaters in 1998. Shortly after moving to its current manufacturing location in Mentor, Ohio, Process Technology made a significant purchase of Lufran Inc, a manufacturer of industrial heating and cooling equipment. The addition of DAC™ (Demand Anticipation Control) technology made substantial improvements to the line. The business continued to add expertise to its brand portfolio with the inclusion of Tytan Instantaneous Water Heater in 2005, and 316 Stainless Frontier and SHB/SHC Inline Chemical/Solvent Heaters in 2013. In 2018, Process Technology purchased Dynatronix, a manufacturer of direct-current, pulse, and pulse-reverse power supplies.
Process Technology is proud of having the cleanest products in the market, an ever-increasing requirement in the semiconductor industry, and next-generation chips.
Process Technology has undoubtedly made great strides to currently serve many industries, including semiconductor, solar, medical, automotive, aerospace, printed circuit board, flat panel display, jewelry/watch, electroplating, and aquaculture. Today, the company enjoys an impeccable reputation of expertise in Ultra-High-Purity heating, a requirement in manufacturing semiconductor chips. According to Richards’ the most significant challenges lie in continually keeping up with the semiconductor industry, one of Process Technology’s core areas of strength. “The biggest challenge we faced was in the semiconductor industry because of the frequent upgrades to mobile phones. We have to gear up to produce a newer generation of chips each time it happens. The product development cycle has shortened, and a product which previously turned around in two years is now in demand in mere months”, she says.
A testament to the company’s rapid and sharp rise is its approach towards customer’s challenges. Process Technology leaves no stone unturned when it comes to business opportunities. As an industry leader, they are adept at following and understanding the evolving customer needs and pain points. “Cleanliness used to be measured in parts per million – Now that measurement isn’t good enough. We at Process Technology are continually innovating to be more precise. People now want precise temperature controls, safety requirements have increased, and the data collection requirements have gone up. We treat such challenges as opportunities, and that is how we approach them”, points out Sid Srivastava, Head of Strategy, Process Technology. This philosophy has allowed the company to remain relevant and abreast of changing technology and business trends. One of the key design aspects Process Technology has followed and adapted to brilliantly is safety, which is a crucial aspect of manufacturing and designing critical equipment. Using best-in-class products to adhere to safety regulations and custom processes has become the norm. Recently, Process Technology had to develop a solution to safely heat Isopropyl Alcohol, an extremely flammable chemical, for one of its customers. The team’s engineers successfully addressed the challenge with an optimized solution for the customer to heat their aviation fuel safely and cleanly. The answer, SHX-EX, comes from a new family of SHX products designed as a compact high-performance heater designed to safely heat isopropyl alcohol (IPA) up to 90°C while meeting the most stringent cleanliness requirements. The SHX family of products extends application support to next-generation semiconductor node technologies and wafer cleaning flammable solvent heating, acid heating, and corrosive chemical heating processes.
Some of Process Technology’s most innovative products offer excellent resistance to aggressive acids, harmful vapors, and flame with industry-leading functionality and agility. One of Process Technology’s customers based out of Singapore, manufacturing semiconductor chips, was facing an issue with carbon emissions. Process Technology Electric Immersion Heaters provided an easy solution for its customer to conduct precise electric heating with zero carbon emissions. The customer replaced their boiler with several of Process Technology’s heaters. Process Technology also has an ultra-pure water heater used to clean semiconductor chips with zero carbon emission.
Products and Culture
The array of Process Technology products includes Lufran DI water and chemical heaters, quartz heaters, metal heaters, coils, exchangers, and power supplies. Process Technology is proud of having the cleanest products in the market, an ever-increasing requirement in the semiconductor industry, and next-generation chips. The company’s power supplies have seamless control and connectivity. A typical power supply would require months of engineering time to meld with the control system, which is an enormous investment by the customer. Process Technology’s power supplies are plug-and-play with a control system, both fundamental and tangible benefits.
“Moving into the future, we are adapting to a few major trends; First, greater automation, where there is a need for information, control, data, and analysis. Second, reducing the carbon footprint by using electricity instead of gas. And greater automation, driven by IT, data and precision”, affirms Srivastava.
Process Technology believes that innovation is more than just a luxury and redefines it by perceiving it as a whole cultural package to understand customers on every level. States Richards, “Being very close to customers and understanding their needs, not only their current needs but also future evolving needs requires a culture of regular experimentation.” The company believes in failing fast and learning from those failures while keeping the customer in mind and experimenting with in-house solutions. “An openness to learn, new trends and ideas, and evolving technologies, which we can bring inhouse and apply to our current set of products or even future products while in tandem staying close to our customer, understanding their needs and solving their problem. This whole package brings about innovation, and this is the core of our culture”, according to Srivastava. Customer challenges are considered business opportunities. Process Technology invests heavily into learning and expanding its engineering capabilities. Engineers train to understand customer needs and pain points to solve issues while being encouraged to innovate, experiment, and leave no stone unturned in the problem-solving process.
The Roadmap Ahead
The very foundation of the company’s differentiation lies in its culture. Being constantly innovative, not being satisfied with the status quo, seeing and approaching things in unique ways have contributed to what Process Technology stands for today. “We invest into the products of the future, products which are sure to succeed. We are working right now to bring in information technology. We are changing and adding automation to many products”, says Srivastava. “Additionally, we are looking at further expansions into solar and medical industries where we already have a strong presence and are looking to expand even further. Power supplies, mining, and metal production industries are all future growth areas with potential for us”.
For a company that introduced many firsts in the industry, including standardized thermal protectors, a grounded Quartz heater, a PTFE heater, and UL certification for immersion heaters, the idea of continued growth and innovation could not be more spot-on. Making better, cleaner, safer products is how Process Technology operates. The environment is transparent, and everyone is encouraged to share ideas. And as for Jody Richards, accolades are just recognition, “Our vision and mission is to continually innovate products, processes, and automation, always thinking ahead, imagining what is possible, and thus driving the future.