Our visit to the St. Jeoire facility of Replisaurus/SET got off to a glorious start with dinner Wednesday evening at the lovely Hotel Baud, in nearby Bonne, France, where we were staying. Patrik Möller, Replisaurus co-founder and CEO Jim Quinn, flew in from Kista, Sweden, for the occasion, and Gilbert LeCarpentier, international product manager, SET, and Emmanuelle Greneche, marketing communications manager rounded out the party. I could tell right away from the easy banter, personal anecdotes, laughter and general camaraderie around the table that we were in for a treat. Two things became clear; this group is enthuiastic about this technology, and have become as close as family in bringing it to fruition.
The story of how all these people came to work together goes like this. Möller first conceived of Replisaurus’ core technology, electrochemical pattern replication (ECPR) while getting his engineering degree at UC Berkley in 2000. The concept was to essentially replace disposable and costly lithography photomasks and lithography and plating processes with a reuseable “smart” master technology and electrochemical process that combines a six step process into two steps. (Quinn likes analogies – so think replacing the film in a traditional camera with the memory card and digital processing.)
Möller completed proof of concept work back in Sweden, while getting his masters degree, and partnered with long time friend, and Mikael Fredenberg to get this start-up company off the ground. They entered any competition they could find to get grant money and approached Swedish business incubators to raise the capital. They got their first round of funding which took them through 2006. Then they started a search for a CEO, and through VC investors, Wellington Partners, were connected with Jim Quinn, who had experience in a photomask start-up, as well as a long history with SUSS MicroTec.
As this novel process required a dedicated toolset, the original business plan called for partnership with an existing tool company. But Möller, Fredenberg, and Quinn quickly realized they would be better off going into the equipment business as well and develop their own tools. So what started out to be one start-up quickly turned into the equivalent of 3: one for the concept, one for the tools, and a third for developing the master. The connection with SET begins there, because at the time, they were SUSS’s die bonder division, and Quinn knew they had the capabilities with their core competency in alignment and the bonding concept required as a base platform for the ECPR transfer process.
About the same time that Quinn was getting involved, Gael Schmidt, owner of SET was in the middle of a management buyout from SUSS (in 2007). Interestingly enough, his father had first started SET in 1975, out of his home in St. Jeoire, and had been acquired by SUSS MicroTec. (I remember this part well, because that was the year SET’s Kadett won the Attendee’s Choice Award at SEMICON West, on the same day the papers were signed, and we weren’t sure if we were awarding the prize to SUSS or SET.)
A year after the buyout from SUSS, Replisaurus acquired SET and began working on the print module for the masters.
Ironically, the location of SET in St. Jeoire bears a close resemblance to SUSS MicroTec’s bonder division in the Green Mountains of Vermont Waterbury VT. (Lecarpentier agreed with my observation, except he noted that St. Jeoire has a higher aspect ratio.) There’s a lot more to this story, but this is how it all began, and how all those who came to dinner got together in the first place. – F.v.T