In 1986, 5 scientists formed a company to improve the safety of environments in which semiconductors are manufactured. Thirteen years and an extraordinary 182 SBIR grants later, the company matured out of the SBIR Program.
Today, ATMI is a global leader in specialty semiconductor materials and packaging products. It employs close to 800 people throughout the United States, Asia, and Europe, generates more than $350 million in annual revenue, and boasts a market cap of almost $600 million. “Without the SBIR Program, ATMI would barely have existed, and would not have been able to become the public company it is today,” says ATMI founder, Gene Banucci. After all, “Creativity without the opportunity to create doesn’t do much.”
In particular, SBIR contracts bestowed upon the company the credibility it needed to obtain subsequent funding from other sources. And the capital came at a critical time when ATMI faced product challenges. The most demanding challenge was figuring out how to safely transport, store, and deliver toxic gases, such as arsine and phosphine. To this end, ATMI devised a system called SDS, or Safe Delivery Source. SDS works by trapping gases in a novel, nano-porous adsorbent at pressures below atmospheric levels, thus dramatically reducing fabrication downtime.
In almost 20 years of delivering SDS cylinders to the semiconductor market, with over one billion wafers manufactured, there hasn’t been a single, reportable incident. Recognizing this feat, the Department of Transportation approved SDS in 2006 as the first and only toxic gas product for flight transportation.