AFM Workshop

AFM Companies - History

Start of the U.S. Atomic Force Microscope Industry

Because the founder of AFMWorkshop has been working with AFM technology since its invention, we are often asked for background about the history of AFM and the companies who started AFM technology in the United States. While it’s difficult to identify the very first USA AFM Company, there were three AFM Companies that began selling AFMs around the same time during the late 1980's.

These three AFM companies were the AFM Manufacturer TopoMetrix, associated with CalTech and founded by industry pioneer Paul West, the second AFM Vendor was Park Instruments, founded by Dr. Park, a Korean entrepreneur; and the third AFM company was Digital Instruments, founded by Virgil Ealings, a professor at UCSB.

All three AFM Companies were acquired by Veeco Instruments, the first AFM Vendor to have a monopoly share of the United States Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM) market. Veeco then became the only AFM Company selling AFMs in the USA until after 2000 when several new US AFM Vendors were started.


United States AFM Vendors after 2000

More than one AFM Company started to market AFMs in the United States after the turn of the century. Two of the primary AFM Manufacturing companies were Asylum Research and Pacific Nanotechnology. Molecular Imaging was an additional USA AFM company that offered AFMs, primarily to electrochemists.

During this time period, several non USA AFM Companies also began selling AFMs in the United States. The primary AFM Company from oversees was the Russian AFM Company, NT-MDT. Another foreign AFM Company offering AFMs in the USA was a Swiss company, NanoSurf. NanoSurf is an AFM Vendor that specialized in compact AFMs for satellites, and is now owned by a German company Lab 14.


United States AFM Companies Now

There are more than one AFM Companies in the United States now. Bruker is an AFM vendor that acquired Veeco and several other AFM Manufacturers. One AFM Manufacturer that Bruker purchased is Anasys, and another AFM Vendor that Bruker purchased is the German AFM Company Witech. Oxford Instruments, a British instrument company, acquired another USA AFM company, Asylum.

Currently, the only independent and privately owned American AFM Manufacturer in the United States is AFMWorkshop, Inc. AFMWorkshop is an AFM Company that specializes in offering robust and powerful AFMs intentionally designed to be affordable; AFMWorkshop’s affordability goals are to facilitate furthering the democratization, diversity and inclusion of scientific education and research.


Foreign AFM Manufacturers

There are many AFM manufacturers based outside of the United States. For example, NanoMagnetics is a Turkish AFM Company, Nanonics is an Israeli AFM Vendor, and Hitachi is a Japanese AFM Manufacturer. Each AFM company addresses a specific market segment.

One of the larger companies that manufactures AFMs is Hitachi, based in Japan. The South Korean entrepreneur who started the AFM Company named Park Instruments in the 1980's, started a new AFM Company in Korea named Park Systems. This AFM vendor offers large AFMs for inspection in the semiconductor industry.


Chart – History of AFM Companies

The following chart illustrates the timeline for AFM Companies worldwide. Dr. Paul West, the founder of AFMWorkshop started Quanscan in 1984, QuanScan was the first company on this chart and was founded to develop dense computer memory using AFM technology. Quanscan was renamed TopoMetrix in 1990.

As mentioned above, TopoMetrix was one of the first AFM companies to offer AFMs for sale. In 2000, Dr. West was a founder of Pacific Nanotechnology, an AFM vendor that offered the NanoR AFM. When Agilent purchased Pacific Technology in 2009, Dr. West started AFMWorkshop, the first AFM Vendor to offer a complete line of affordable, robust, and powerful AFMs for research, industry and education.

AFM Company History Diagram