Most of the metrology world critical in micro and nano device manufacture is less familiar to design engineers steeped in circuitry, but with the acquisition of DI in ~1998, Veeco had purchased the world's leader in nanoscale imaging metrology - based on scanning nano probe techniques.
DI was a bit rare in advanced world leading nanoscale imaging instrumentation, homegrown in Santa Barbara and lead by one of the best scientist businessman leader anywhere, Dr. Virgil Elings.
The origins of Veeco was not steeped in metrology, but by purchase of Wyko and especially Digital Instruments it became a world wide nanoscale metrology leader, not circuits EE metrology, but nanotechnology metrology ( a new market ).
DI lead the world in that and still does, although other firms have their specialties in AFM instruments, Veeco's AFM product lines are broadest in scope. Some of the best AFMs come from a firm founded by alumni of DI - Asylum Research also in Santa Barbara where DI is based.
Yet from a business decision, by choosing LED lighting markets over AFM nanoscale imaging for size and rate of growth is pretty obvious business wise, and focus on one's best opportunities is needed for capturing success.
So I'd say Veeco via Digital Instruments and Wyko to a lesser degree is/ was a leader in (nano) metrology - worldwide.
And yet is it a feather in Veeco's cap to have garnered a leading position to hopefully close up to 130 MOCVD system sales to China as the preferred factory machine ( poss $260m sales opportunity).
Quite telling, and yes Aixtron and some other MOCVD suppliers did not seem to come close in the bidding?
The improved gas distribution showerhead in the new Veeco MOCVDs seems to be a useful advance over poor irreproducible gas showerheads in MOCVDs of yore, and this is important to LED and laser yields and parametric distributions. Key advance.
Veeco - the history of the firm had thin film metrology initially from Sloan in Santa Barbara.
The roots of Veeco are in power supplies and leak detectors and vacuum coating from Sloan( of Santa Barbara). Veeco had developed inhouse, a workhorse gridded ion beam etching tool used most often in etching advanced compound semiconductors and some metal films that could not be gas plasma etched ( ie non volatile species ). IBM for one like Veeco's ion beam etch process equipment for many years likely even to this day for various unusual microelectronic and data storage processes.
Veeco went through a spate of acquisitions of various process equipment firms in disk drive related markets, buying CVC ( Consolidated Vacuum Corp - recently sputtering ), Ion Tech - a leader in ion beam sputter coatings for thin film DWDM optics, and systems for disk drive processing, and Commonwealth scientific, with comparable ion beam systems and a line of well respected component ion beam guns.
After that buying spree, Veeco went on to buy Wyko for interferometric optical imaging ( and metrology ) both of optical surfaces - smoothness and curvature measurments and MEMS and Hard Drive heads ( in microscope white light interferometery ). Wyko shared this market with Zygo and in disk drive head manufacture of thin film heads, interferometry was a key metrology technology used in manufacturing the thin film head structures ( and plated coils ).
After Wyko, Veeco acquired Digital Instruments (DI), a firm which had about 50% of world wide leading market share of Scanning Probe Microscopes - commonly referred to as AFMs Atomic Force Microscopes. Notably DI dominated the Japanese market for nanoscale AFM instruments. That was amazing, and a huge credit to Dr. Elings and his team.
To me, Veeco was never a star in metrology. They have finally found its niche--LEDs, solar and storage.
Here's my question: AMAT was looking to buy them at one time. Will AMAT buy Veeco to get into the MOCVD biz?