NAPA -- As the semiconductor market has flourished over most of the past three decades, so has Royce Instruments, a designer and manufacturer of high precision innovative integrated circuit (IC) chip wire test and assembly solutions with worldwide sales and a technical presence in over 30 countries around the globe.

Founded in a Mountain View garage in 1983, privately held Royce Instruments (royceinstruments.com) today is a standalone subsidiary of V-TEK, Inc., offering two product lines including wire-bond and die-bond testing, as well as solutions for picking and the sorting of semiconductor devices into waffle packs or Gel-Paks.

Royce offers its products for semicustom die handling in the medical device, laser diode/LED photonics and telecommunications industries (for smartphones and other hand-held devices). The company's products are used by major semiconductor IC manufacturers as well as by defense and electronic assembly contractors, aerospace companies and most of the world's largest auto and medical electronics device manufacturers.

[caption id="attachment_95469" align="alignright" width="360"] Royce Instruments AutoPlacer MP300 die sorter is one of several die sorters and bond testers in the company's product portfolio. The MP 300 is designed for automatic die sorting operations from semiconductor chip wafer maps.[/caption]

"Our bond-testers perform wire pull tests vertically, and solder ball, die bond and zone shear tests by moving the bonds horizontally," said Greg Heras, Vice President, Worldwide Sales.

Located at 831 Latour Ct. in Napa, Royce Instruments has 15 full-time employees plus a network of distributors and commissioned representatives.

"We sell our equipment through agreements with independent representatives and distributors in Europe and Asia, including China, Southeast Asia, Korea and Japan. On both continents distributors buy our products for resale and take title to them as well as install, train and service our equipment. We also sell our products in other upcoming markets such as Russia, Brazil, India, Australia, Turkey and Israel." In the U.S., Royce sells through manufacturers reps serving similar companies offering non-competing product lines for joint-demand products.

The semiconductor industry has two distinct production phases. At the front end, companies take a base silicon wafer and fabricate IC devices using a photo mask layer with a mounting pattern, followed by several succeeding process steps.

The second, or back-end assembly and test phase involves semiconductor wafers that are sawed into individual chips.

Royce Instrument's equipment is used both in the die sorting stage just after the sawing process, and again in the test stage just after the wire or die bonding process.

During the die sorting stage, a customer needs a pick-and-place process to remove IC chips from adhesive tape, then using a vacuum tool to grab and place the chips into useful trays, bins or packs in preparation for the next processing step.

"Royce is also well positioned to take advantage of emerging opportunities with micro-electromechanical systems (MEMS) devices -- die-level components of first-level packaging -- as well as new medical microsensing applications involving blood samples and bodily fluids, as well as products made with gallium arsenide," Mr. Heras said. "Our products work especially well in an era of thinner, more fragile dies that have become standard in the semiconductor industry."

Approximately 50 percent of Royce Instrument's business comes from bond test equipment sales and 50 percent from die sorter equipment sales.

Royce equipment tests the durability of electronic bonds, can determine their force strength and also can perform destructive wire and die testing. Reports are then produced describing the robust nature of the bonds -- or weaknesses used as a basis to improve a critical process.

"Our bond testers sell in the $20,000 to $80,000 range and die sorters sell between $65,000 and $230,000, depending on customer required customizations. Our biggest markets are in the U.S. and China that include major corporations as well as small to medium sized startup institutions," Mr. Heras said.

"Royce Instruments is a reputable and well-known supplier in a specialized industry and has established strategic alliances with key companies that have opened new channels of opportunity."

For example, a global leader for die- attach and wire bonding equipment, sells its equipment used in conjunction with Royce's to U.S., Asian and European customers. Additionally, the Japan based worldwide leader in wafer dicing and back grind systems sells Royce equipment as joint demand solutions into the North American market.

Royce partners with these high-end industry leaders to bundle its products with theirs -- since most customers prefer to deal with a single vendor.

He said demand for semiconductors is growing, following a slump during the recent recession. Innovative integrated circuit development, and related test equipment, is one key area where America continues to maintain its leadership in the world market.

 "As our customers' technology and product offerings evolve, we are continuing to expand and develop advanced equipment to meet their needs and maintain our position as their supplier of choice."