Company Background

KLA-Tencor was formed in April 1997 through the merger of KLA Instruments (KLA) and Tencor Instruments (Tencor), two long-time leaders in the semiconductor equipment industry. Prior to the merger, both businesses served a segment of the inspection and metrology area; with KLA focused on defect inspection and Tencor placing its emphasis on metrology.  KLA Instruments was first established in 1975, with its first product emerged on the market in 1978—an automated inspection system that reduced photomask inspection time from eight hours to 15 minutes.  In 1977, Tencor Instruments established its name, and first introduced its product—the Alpha-Step stylus surface profiler. This tool provided significant improvement in step-height measurement, a critical parameter in measuring film layer thickness.  Together KLA-Tencor continues to serve the semiconductor equipment industry and also a number of other industries, including the light emitting diode (LED), data storage and photovoltaic industries, as well as general materials research. With a comprehensive portfolio of products, services, software and expertise, KLA-Tencor helps nanoeletronics manufacturers manage yield throughout their fabrication process. Designed to accelerate development and production ramp cycles, KLA-Tencor’s products and solutions help customers achieve higher and more stable, while improving overall profitability. In 2011 KLA-Tencor celebrated its 35th anniversary (1a).

The company continues to invest in R&D, more than 10% of revenues, to develop process control and yield management equipment for sub-65nm processing. In fact, KLA-Tencor employs more people in R&D than it does in manufacturing (2).

In 2010, KLA acquired Ambios Technology, a Santa Cruz, California-based manufacturer of SPM/AFM systems originally established in 1996 (1a; 4). Prior to Ambios' acquisition, Ambios acquired Quesant Instrument Corporation in 2006, a supplier of scanning probe microscopes (4).

Suppliers and Buyers

The company gets about 70% of sales from customers in Asia. The two largest customers are leading global semiconductor manufacturers, Samsung Electronics and TSMC. Each company accounts for more than 10% of sales (2).

Strategic Partnerships

KLA-Tencor created partnerships with the Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB), the International Applications and Installations Engineering Team comprises a group of highly skilled engineers within a mobile and flexible framework that enables them to quickly respond to customers' on-site support needs. KLA-Tencor has a team of application and installation engineers in Singapore to improve the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of its engineering services for its growing customer base throughout the Asia-Pacific region. The team is located at KLA-Tencor's Woodlands facility in Singapore.  Many factors led to its decision to select Singapore as the location for the new team. In addition to serving as a key hub for the greater Asia-Pacific region, Singapore is widely recognized for its excellent infrastructure, skilled workforce and high educational standards. In addition, KLA-Tencor has received strong support from the Singapore EDB for the program (1b).

IMEC, Europe's leading independent nanoelectronics and nanotechnology research center based in Belgium, is in a joint-development project (JDP) with KLA-Tencor to accelerate the adoption of optical critical dimension (CD) metrology technology for next-generation (65-nm and below) semiconductor applications. The JDP will focus on two key areas: extending the use of optical CD metrology in current applications, such as shallow trench isolation (STI) and gate, to the sub-65-nm node; and expanding the proliferation of optical CD metrology into new applications, such as 3-D contact and via layers.  KLA-Tencor's SpectraCD 100 system will be the optical CD metrology tool used by IMEC for these development efforts. The SpectraCD 100 has already been adopted by leading logic and memory manufacturers, as well as lithography tool suppliers, worldwide (1c).

KLA-Tencor KLA-Tencor joined SEMATECH's, a global consortium of chipmakers, Lithography Defect Reduction program at the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering (CNSE) of the University at Albany.  As a member of the Defect Reduction program, KLA-Tencor will collaborate with SEMATECH engineers at the industry-leading defect reduction center for extreme ultraviolet (EUV) tool and materials technology. Specific areas for collaboration include defect source identification and elimination using leading-edge metrology, printability, and characterization methods to advance mask metrology infrastructure and metrology source development, as well as overall EUV manufacturability and extendibility.  EUV lithography (EUVL) is a method using a source wavelength 15 times shorter than current lithography systems, enabling semiconductor scaling to resolutions of 10 nanometers (nm) and smaller. A lower defect density is essential for advanced lithography processes and for inserting EUVL technology into high-volume manufacturing, which is projected to be introduced for the 22nm half-pitch node in 2012—2013 at leading integrated circuit (IC) manufacturers. In order to prepare EUVL for manufacturing, a concerted effort is required that focuses on defect reduction and mask metrology infrastructure, source development, and overall manufacturability and extendibility (1d).

Innovation and Technology

KLA-Tencor announced the installation of its first process control systems capable of handling and inspecting 450mm wafers: a new configuration of the market-leading Surfscan® SP3 platform called the Surfscan SP3 450. Fully automated, these unpatterned wafer inspection systems are designed to meet the demanding defect and surface quality characterization requirements of the 20nm node and beyond, enabling control of the manufacturing process for 450mm polished silicon and epitaxial silicon substrates. The Surfscan SP3 450 also delivers critical capability for manufacturers of 450mm process equipment, such as wet clean tools, CMP pads, slurries and polishers, film deposition tools and annealing systems (3).


Chip manufacturing

  • eDR (electron-beam defect review)
  • Klarity (data management)
  • Puma (patterned wafers)
  • SensArray (lithography, plasma etch, implant)
  • Surfscan (unpatterened wafers)

Reticle (circuit pattern mask) manufacturing

  • TeraScan (defect inspection)
  • LMS IPRO (pattern placement metrology)

Wafer manufacturing

  • FabVision (data management)
  • SURFmonitor ( surface and defect inspection)

Solar manufacturing

  • ICOS PVI-6 (optical inspection)
  • LED manufacturing
  • Candela (defect inspection)

Microelectromechanical systems

  • IRIS (sealing inspection, defect review)

General purpose/lab applications

  • Alpha-Step (stylus profiling)
  • MicroXAM (optical profiling) (2).

For more information, see the KLA-Tencor location page.


  1. KLA-Tencor Corporation (2012). Retrieved on October 30, 2012
    1. “Company Overview” from www.kla-tencor.com/company/company-overview.html
    2. “KLA-Tencor Partners With Singapore Government To Establish Engineering Services Team” from www.kla-tencor.com/corporate-releases/kla-tencor-partners-with-singapore-government-to-establish-engineering-services-team.html
    3. “IMEC and KLA-Tencor Partner in Sub-65-nm Lithography Process Control” from www.kla-tencor.com/corporate-releases/imec-and-kla-tencor-partner-in-sub-65-nm-lithography-process-control.html
    4. “KLA-Tencor™ and SEMATECH Partner to Advance EUV Lithography Technology at UAlbany NanoCollege” from http://ir.kla-tencor.com/releasedetail.cfm?ReleaseID=586322
  2. Hoover’s, Inc. (2012). “KLA-Tencor Corporation Company Profile.” Retrieved on October 30, 2012
  3. Nanotechnology Now (2012, July 10). “KLA-Tencor Announces Installation of First 450mm-Capable Surfscan® SP3 Systems.”  Retrieved on October 30, 2012 from  www.nanotech-now.com/news.cgi?story_id=45540
  4. Nanotechnology Now (2006, February 8). "Ambios Technology, Inc. acquires Quesant Instrument Corp." Retrieved on May 4, 2013 from www.nanotech-now.com/news.cgi?story_id=13658