KLA was named after its founders, Ken Levy and Bob Anderson. The word “Tencor” came about because the founder of Tencor, Karel Urbanek, wanted a two syllable name that would be easy to remember.
KLA Instruments was first established in 1975, with its first product emerging on the market in 1978—an automated inspection system that reduced photomask inspection time from eight hours to 15 minutes. Shortly thereafter, KLA Instruments went public and expanded its inspection product portfolio to include patterned wafer inspection systems. Two years later, KLA further broadened its offerings into the wafer metrology business through optical overlay and line-width measurement systems. During the subsequent few years, the company expanded its product base through the development of software solutions to help integrate inspection and measurement data for yield management analysis—ultimately forming the industry’s first yield management software services group to provide customers with expertise in yield enhancement through engineering consulting services.
1977, Tencor Instruments established its name, and first introduced its yield management product—the Alpha-Step stylus surface profiler system —just seven months later. This yield management solution provided significant improvement in step-height measurement, a critical parameter in measuring film layer thickness. In 1984, Tencor Instruments launched its first Surfscan product—a particle and contamination defect system based on laser scanning technology, which soon became the production standard. By the late 1990s, Tencor had broadened its yield management product offerings to also include defect review and data analysis tools. Following an initial public offering in 1993, Tencor then acquired Prometrix, a leading supplier of thin-film measurement solutions, and further expanded its yield management product offering. At the time of its merger with KLA, Tencor had revenues of approximately $403 million and 1,400 employees around the world.
Since the merger in 1997, KLA-Tencor has acquired the following companies:
KLA-Tencor continues to serve the semiconductor equipment industry and also a number of other industries, including the light emitting diode (LED) and data storage, as well as general materials research. With a comprehensive portfolio of products, systems, services, software and expertise, KLA-Tencor helps nanoelectronics manufacturers manage yield throughout their fabrication process—from research and development to final volume production. Designed to accelerate development and production ramp cycles, KLA-Tencor’s yield management products and solutions help customers achieve higher and more stable yields, while improving overall profitability. In 2011 KLA-Tencor celebrated its 35th anniversary.