David W. Mann and GCA

If you have poked around my site much, you may have noticed a section on the history of semiconductor lithography. It still needs a lot of work, so anyone who has any good information to share, I would appreciate it.

In particular, I’m trying to find out the year and circumstance around the purchase of the David W. Mann Company (maker of photorepeaters for mask making) by GCA (who eventually turned the technology into wafer steppers). Any and all help would be appreciated.

34 thoughts on “David W. Mann and GCA”

  1. David W. Mann
    The David W. Mann Company manufactured precision measuring instruments and manufacturing equipment in Lincoln, MA. A pioneer in photolithographic technology for the semiconductor industry, the company was sold to GCA Corporation in 1959. Burton H. Wheeler, Jr. was appointed general manager of the Mann Products Division and, later, an executive vice president of GCA. In 1961 the division produced the first commercial photorepeater for mask making and in 1978 introduced DSW (Direct Step on Wafer) technology that is still used to day.

    I found this at http://www.computerhistory….

  2. I do believe the years noted are in error. I first used a David W Mann 1080 Photorepeater in 1966. A photorepeater was the predecessor to the wafer stepper. The model 1080 had a unidirectional X-axis drive motor and an optional ratchet crank Y-drive. The model 1080 was produced by I believe it was a model 971. The photorepeater model number sequence was 971, 1080, 1280, 1480, 1795 (maybe the first g-line for photoresist) and 3095. It was maybe somewhere around the 3095 that GCA purchased the company. The first wafer stepper was made by mounting two fixed distance alignment microscopes on a single barrel photorepeater. I believe the idea was brought by IBM to GCA, at least that is what I was told by an experienced GCA employee at the time. Well, back to the point, the GCA buyout of the Mann company was likely in the early 1970’s. One could look up names an companies in the Kodak Microelectronic Seminar publications to see the year of the name change. I have the entire set of publications, so let me know if you need the details researched and I will look up the year the presenters company name changed to GCA. By the way, Bert Wheeler can usually be found walking around at Semicon West every year.

  3. I joined GCA in 1978. I was hired by Howard Lovering, who was the physicist responsible for the optical designs of the first DSW (Wafer stepper). Bob Barnes was one of the original D.W. Mann employees along with Burt Wheeler. Grief Reiser, and Bob Scruton (sp) worked out the details of adapting an HP interferometer to a lead screw driven stage. Grief Reiser, took the already existing optical grating idea on the lead screw measuring instruments to the next level of precision, using the then relatively new HeNe Laser. Bob Scruton was a chief engineer in the "skunk works" at GCA. Aubrey Tobey, was responsible for Marketing and Sales, but more importantly, for convincing Milton Greenberg, then GCA CEO and founder, to build the first DSW Wafer Stepper. There were countless others at GCA who contributed, but I don’t recall all of their names…J. Neroda

    References: The Davistown Museum
    "Ruling engines: The Mann engine. The second engine, installed at the Laboratory has been producing gratings since 1953, was originally built by David W. Mann of Lincoln, Massachusetts. Bausch & Lomb equipped it with an interferometric control system following the technique of Prof. George Harrison of MIT. The Mann engine can rule areas up to 110 x 110 mm, with virtually no ghosts and nearly theoretical resolving power. While the lead screws of the ruling engines are lapped to the highest precision attainable, there are always residual errors in both threads and bearings that must be compensated to produce the highest quality gratings. The Mann engine is equipped with an automatic interferometer servo system that continually adjusts the grating carriage to the correct position as each groove is ruled. In effect, the servo system simulates a perfect screw." (Christopher Palmer, 2002, Diffraction Grating Handbook, 5th edition, Richardson Gratings, Rochester, New York).

    "Notable advancements in masking occurred in 1961 by Burt Wheeler (right) and a team from the David W. Mann Co. when they introduced the first Photorepeater." (Great Moments in Our Industry Become Defining Moments in Information Technology. Semiconductor Magazine, July 2000, 1(7)).

    "That same year [1959], a one-year-old company known as Geophysics Corporation of America (GCA) acquired a small manufacturer of comparators called David W. Mann, and began to build on Mann’s precision motion capability to tackle the problem of precisely aligning circuit patterns between successive layers of a silicon wafer." (Jay Stowsky, August 1987, The Weakest Link: Semiconductor Production Equipment, Linkages, and the Limits to International Trade, BRIE Working Paper #27, Berkeley Roundtable on the International Economy (BRIE), University of California, Berkeley).

  4. I was a precision hand scraper/hand lapper employed by D. W. Mann co. from 1959 to 1968. If my memory still serves me correctly, it was somtime during the mid-sixties when GCA acquired Mann co.
    If Mr. Wheeler is still alive I’m sure he would remember me as I still remember him.

    1. Good to know there are a few X D.W. Mann employees still around. Although we didn’t socialize much I remember you. I was in business with Dick Forrestall for a while and still see him occasionally.

      Dick Ryan

  5. I worked for GCA from 1981 – 1988 in various Marketing and Product Management roles. My primary mentor was Austin O’Malley. Marketing Mgr for the photomask making products: 3600 Pattern Gereators and 3696 photorepeaters. Great guy Austin, but short sighted. I can still remember the day he yelled at me for typing out an urgent quote on a Wang word processor telling me that professionals NEVER sit behind a keyboard…

    My final position was to run the photomask making systems group as it was unfortunately in decline due to the growing e-beam mask making equipment. We introduced and sold the first excimer laser based litho system, the 4600L pattern generator and an I-line based photorepeater 6696 to try and keep the product line alive. All unsuccessfully.

    Survival of the line was possible by getting into the multi-level ceramic printing business that contact printing was performing, badly. We even took an order from IBM for custom photorepeaters that included millions of $$ in NRE and some nice guaranteed volume of systems, but the GM made us return the order and $1MM initial NRE check (really!) because he thought we didn’t have the people required to pull off a new system. Sigh. The salesman actually cried in returning the check.

    One of my responsibilities as Mask Making PM was support for old legacy products, all the way back to optical comparitors for surveillance photography. I still have a file of data sheets and images of products going back to the early 60’s and shipment lists of all products pre-dating the model 4800 wafer stepper. If anyone is interested in that history, please contact me!

    Peter Bealo

    1. I worked with Peter both at GCA in 1984-1985 and later at Raytheon. I worked as a ME in the Wafertrac group during the end of life for the track group as the Wafertrac 1006 was being rolled out. I recall the during that period that a lot of components for building many steppers and coaters were purchased and inventoried and the orders never materialized. When we needed to buy new components for development projects we found the company’s credit was not good because they had not paid for all the components already inventoried. Not a good time to work for GCA so moved on and worked in the business for a few years until I took a job at Digital during it’s death spiral.

    2. Hi Peter: I remember you very well and it is fun to see the history as it developed. I am Bernie Piwczyk and i am certain that you remember the e-beam project at GCA. I now live in New Brunswick, CA and still working on advanced projects. It would be still interesting what is happening with the old gang although Bill has passed away. My e-mal is bpp@gsinet.netmoryou an dial 506-502-5042
      Cheers, Bernie

      1. Hello Bernard.

        As a former GCA employee I was searching some info on the Company and ran across some interesting conversations from some 5-6 years ago. Since your conversation is just recent I am taking the liberty to contact you, also am I writing you an e-mail.
        Regards, Eugen Hubacz

        1. I was employed at GCA Int. for the track systems for 7 years.
          I remember your name but not how we were connected.
          I wonder if it was not Frank Gusdorf.

          Simon Buren

    3. The last 4600L was installed at Plessey in the UK. I worked on the 6696 Photorepeatot that also had the optional Smart Set metrology tool. This used the SXS (site by site) alignment system to analyse the position of fresnel zones printed on the mask. The 6696 was basically a 6300B wafer stepper without the AWH (automatic wafer handler) and AWA (automatic wafer alignment) modules. It did have, however, the amazing RMS (reticle management system) which was designed to remove one mask simultaneously as loading a new mask on the platen and do an automatic mask alignment using small square fiducials. It was amazing to see it operate. Both 6696 and 4600L (and older 3696 and 3600F) were decommissioned when the Ateq Core 2000 was upgraded to 20x and included two pass options which could print a complete 5” mask in 30 minutes rendering all the old GCA tools obsolete. I was trained at Ateq in Beaverton Oregon in 1988 and was the first Core engineer in Europe. I continued to work on Core and Alta tools until my retirement (next week) in April 2024

  6. Another thing worth noting in the death spiral of GCA was how little upper management knew of the corporate state after Milt G. left the CEO slot.

    One day not long after Milt left and Peter S. was given the reins I wandered to the optics lab and spoke with (contributor above) Jim Neroda. I was doubtlessly whining how one of the BACUS organizers had been strong arming me to provide some sort of door prize to an upcoming BACUS conference and since GCA had financial issues could not provide anything. So Jim asks how would I like a stepper lens to offer up, perhaps mounted as a paper weight. I jumped on the idea but cautioned that (at the time) these cost $15K or so and the company wouldn’t gladly free one up! So Jim took me to a couple steel cabinets and shows me their contents: they were full of OBSOLETE stepper lenses (predecessor of Zeiss 10-77-82, whatever that was), at least 100. Over one million dollars of excess-and-obsolete inventory in two cabinets!

    I put in a paper (no computer systems yet!) req for a $15K lens for a paperweight. Peter S. comes down to my office the next day asking if I’m out of my mind. So I tell them how many excess-and-obsolete objective lenses we own. Peter turns deathly white and says “Show me!”. After seeing for himself he mutters “I had no idea”. But being the excellent CEO he was immediately tells me to req out another 10, have them mounted on plaques and he’ll give them to the CEOs of our major customers. Good man Pete! Somehow I accidently reqed 11, and one ended up in my obsolete and antique technology display, where it remains today.

    1. I own a couple David W. Mann instruments that I purchased from Liberty Tool Co. in Maine several years ago. One is a sweet X-Y hand scraped stage property no 665 / s/n 108004. 150mm x 100mm with handwheels graduated in 1/1000mm. The other is a 777 and seems to be some sort of ruling engine. Both are beautifully crafted. I would hate to purchase these in todays dollars as it must have taken hundreds of hours to make each. I also have some circular hand scraped V rotary slides with upper V matching scaled tops. I don’t know much about these parts, however, I am impressed by the workmanship.
      Can you tell me what these were used for and any other useful information?

      I have some paperwork that indicates that these were shipped to Robert Barnes as obsolete equipment.

      V. Kelly

    2. One of my colleagues at GCA, Steve Johnson, had a Zeiss 10-78-37 5x stepper lens on his desk as a souvenir in the early 90s at Plessey Semiconductors in Manchester. We both worked for GCA, Steve was tech support and I was a FSE. When General Signal pulled the plug on European operations, Steve went to Plessey, I went to Ateq.

  7. I recently ran across some early photos of the the D W Mann Co products and related documents. I knew Howard well. Austin O’Malley is the one that originally told me about the DSW idea originally coming from IBM and that was confirmed a number of years back by Bill Toby.

  8. Hi, I have one of these machines sat in my kitchen. It got a 110v servo motor for the y and x is done manually. Says on the label “DAVID W MANN CO. PRECISION INSTRUMENTS SERIAL NO 108039”. It came out of a semi-conductor factory in Lincoln England called GEC Plessey, was Marconi. Please tell me if it is worth not conventing to CNC if it is a piece of history. Contact Des Damian Butterworth on FB if interested in buying. Thanks for shedding light on what it is.

  9. Don’t know how accurate, however ran across a potentially interesting treatise “Chronology of Lithography Milestones Version 0.9 May 2007 Atsuhiko Kato
    ” A snippet follows here: “1959 – GCA acquires David W. Mann. Later develops step & repeat cameras GCA/David W. Mann was the first firm to make a two-stage step and repeat mask reduction device (photo-repeaters) available to semiconductor manufacturers commercially. They first showed the device in the spring of 1961 and sold the first one to Clevite Corporation. Nikon optics was used for these equipment.

    source [ http://studylib.net/doc/11741138/chronology-of-lithography-milestones–atsuhiko-kato ]

  10. I have been working on GCA steppers ever since I finished college in early 1993. I was working at SEMATECH in Austin, photolithography area with GCA XLS’s in both both I-line and DUV bays. I know, I came in pretty late and during a down turn but I just loved wafer steppers and was right up my alley that I have remained stubborn towards USA lithography, I wish we would bring stepper/scanner technology back to USA.
    We, Stepper Care Services, Inc still buy, sell, refurbish, maintain under contract or by call, GCA steppers from 6000, 8000, ALS, AUTO-STEP and XLS, we still get a call now and then for 3696’s and 4800’s and recently had the oppurtunity to service the first 300mm wafer stepper which was a GCA stepper bridge and column fixed over a 300mm base that was made by Dick Ziegra, also one of the old GCA keys and ways scrappers that had his own business of refurbishing and upgrading GCA stepper up until a few years ago. Dick Ziegra still makes my chucks for me, he does excellent machining. We mainly deal with 200mm bases these days because of the extra room for manual load of odd substrates and ability to go from 5mm to 200mm substrates. We are currently refurbishing a AUTO-STEP that just arrived from a 10yr stint in Taiwan and goes right back out the door, already sold.
    We currently have 20+ 200mm I-line wafer steppers in our to facilities in Buda, Tx.
    I remember stories of the time GCA went under and there were many of the last of the last people that took many of the lenses that were perfect and ready to install into steppers and rolled them out into the parking lot and smashed the input and out put lenses with sledge hammers. That was done again in the late ’90’s when Ultratech Stepper bought us (ISI, Integrated Solutions Inc), $300K to $4M each Tropel lenses were taken out to the parking lot to again be destroyed with sledgehammers. Ugh!
    GCA still lives on. This AUTO-STEP is renamed “Sidney” and will find a new home in RTP, NC around Thanksgiving this year of 2017.

    1. Brandon, I worked at GCA 1979-1982 assembling and testing the 4800 DSW. I was working for Red Pittman when I started. While I was there I designed a bunch of setup tools/fixtures. Someone I met maybe 10 years ago told me that all my laser alignment, microscope adjustment tools… etc were actually put in the field service kit, and still in use when he told me about this… -Alan

  11. Hello,
    I have a engine rule made by the david w. mann co, Lincoln, MA.
    I would like to know what iy might be worth.
    Thank you,

  12. I worked at D. W. Mann Co. starting in the Glass Lab in 1968, until the end of 1989 as Product Line Mgr of Water Steppers. Does anyone remember when we did the moon disc for Sprague? It was left on the moon during the 1st moon landing 50 years ago.

      1. Hi Bernie
        I left GCA in 1984 to join you and Al at Leitz-IMS.
        All these years later I am still doing software. We had a lot of fun back then.

  13. David W. Mann measuring engines were highly prized at astronomical observatories like Van Vleck, Yerkes, Harvard-Smithsonian, and many others for measuring astronomical photographs on glass plates. Often the goal was to determine the distance to nearby stars by “trigonometric parallax.” In other programs the goal was measuring the motion of asteroids and comets for orbital computations. Instruments used before the Mann products came along were often made by the firm of William Gaertner in Chicago. I have several measuring engines by Mann and Gaertner at a museum called The Astronomical Lyceum in Magdalena, New Mexico.
    –John W. Briggs, 970-343-0618.

  14. Bud manley
    I worked for Mann co after Wentworth inst
    I started and was responsible the lead screw production.the screw was initially used to drive the stages on the photo Steelers.later on I was a field engineer for the co.

  15. In 1961 I was employed as a machinist and going nights to Northeastern University when my good friend Paul Mansfield, an engineer at D.W. Mann Co., arranged for an interview for me saying I would fit in nicely there. I started as a draftsman, later moving on to assembly and later was named Field Engineer. I left the company in 1967. When I began working there, the company had been neatly fitted into what had been a restaurant on Rt. 2A in Lincoln, Mass. Six years later it was located in a snazzy new corporate headquarters at a new office park in Burlington, Mass. The C.E.O at that time was Burt Wheeler, a great boss, listener, and a natural leader I was told that during W.W.II he survived many missions over Germany as a B-24 pilot. Wow! The culture of pride in the instruments they produced could be seen in every detail. Off the shelf machine screws weren’t deemed good enough so every fastener was custom made. Fifty years later I’m still amazed at the many brilliant minds and the decent and interesting group of people employed there. Friendships made at Mann Co. I still value today. Many people went on after leaving Mann Co. to great success on their own.

    1. Hey! My name is David w Mann. I am the great grandson of the founder of the David w Mann company. Edward Mann was my grandfather. I appreciate all these post especially yours. I enjoy learning more about my family. I was 17 when Ed passed in 2003 and didn’t get a chance to ask him about what I’m learning here. Thanks again
      -Dave Mann

  16. I was a contract truckman for NorthAmerican Van Lines Electronics&Exhibits Climatic Division when the Almac NA agency in Framingham engineered a contract with GCA for my services loading, transporting and unloading GCA steppers from ’85 to ’89. I also made trips to Tropel to bring back lenses. Worked with Ken Lavers and his great crew. My tractor and semi-trailer were also used as part of the GCA display at Semicon West. I have a few pics and my bunny suit from those clean room deliveries.

  17. In 1976 I was part of Lovering’s team in the area of laser interferometry.
    I managed to suggest a way to objectively assess the quality of line edge definition, which he appreciated.
    On the side I produced artistic renderings of Mann’s machines.
    Warm memory goes to Tobey’s home where with Burt and others we sung Christmas carols together.

  18. In 1967 I was part of Lovering’s team in the area of laser interferometry.
    I managed to propose a way to objectively assess the quality of line edge definition, which he appreciated.
    On the side I produced artistic renderings of some of the Mann’s machines.
    Warm memories go to Tobey’s home where, with Burt and others, we sung Christmas carols together

  19. I was hired by Dick Z. in 1980 to maintain the 4800’s and was part of the Tech. Support for the last 2.5 years i was there and worked on 3095,3996, 3000, 3600, All DSW’s, Wafer Trak and went on to 3 party service with Dick and during that time I was able to work on a 971(my mother operated one of these in 1965) and get it working again with Dick, and throughout the endeavor I was involved with many leading-edge technologies that lead the industry to advancements. All in all when I departed GCA I found out that Peter S. was a strong supporter of mine, but field service took its toll in 1995 and I had to leave it behind, Dick was a great influence in the industry and strong supporter of keeping the GCA equipment going to this day, and from time to time I come across people that was involved with this equipment and have fond memory’s of that time

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