Albert Soffa, co-founder of Kulicke & Soffa Industries (www.kns.com) and pioneer of the first wire bonder, died Sunday, April 10. He was 84.
April 13, 2005 -- An engineering maverick who helped shape today's modern IC packaging industry, Albert Soffa formed a partnership with Frederick W. Kulicke, Jr. in 1951, which eventually became Kulicke & Soffa Industries - the world's leading supplier of semiconductor equipment.
"Al Soffa was one of the true pioneers in the development of modern semiconductor equipment," noted Kulicke & Soffa Chairman & CEO Scott Kulicke. "Through his innovation with my father, they introduced the first manual and automatic wire bonders, which opened the doors to the manufacture of more advanced IC technology."
Born November 2, 1920, Albert Soffa earned a BS from Drexel University in Mechanical Engineering in 1944 and a MS in Mechanical Engineering from Harvard in 1945. He was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from Spring Garden College in 1982. He met Frederick W. Kulicke, Jr., while working as a patent engineer at Proctor Electric (now Proctor-Silex) in Valley Forge, PA. The pair began moonlighting together as machinery builders and, eventually, formed a partnership on July 18, 1951, which became Kulicke & Soffa Manufacturing Company.
The company originally engineered and built large specialty machines, but quickly made a name for itself in the semiconductor industry when it developed a machine for Bell Labs that could make transistors. Within the semiconductor industry, that machine is noted as the first wire and die bonder.
Over the years, Mr. Soffa guided Kulicke & Soffa in the development of the automatic wire bonder and future generations of bonders. He became President of Kulicke & Soffa Industries in 1962, and then rose to the rank of Chairman of the Board in 1967.
Under his leadership, the company grew to become the market share leader in automatic wire bonding equipment. In 1985, Albert Soffa earned the prestigious SEMI (Semiconductor Equipment and Materials Institute) award for his contributions to the advancement of wire bonding technology.
As Scott Kulicke states, "Kulicke & Soffa's success is based on technology leadership. That part of our corporate culture has its roots in Al's intellectual curiosity and love of knowledge."
When he retired from the company in 1986 and the board in 1992, Mr. Soffa remained active in professional, educational and philanthropic organizations. He served on many boards including the Board of Governors of the Ben Gurion University of the NEGEV in Israel. He was also a Trustee of Drexel University and a member of Mechanical Engineering and Mechanic's Industrial Advisory Council.
Mr. Soffa was also past president and a member of the board of directors of the America-Israel Chamber of Commerce, Central Atlantic Region and an Emeritus Board member of the University City Science Center, which strived to create a culture of innovation and competitiveness based on the collective and connected assets of its members. Additionally, he served on the Board for Checkpoint Systems, Inc., a security equipment manufacturer.
Interested in the development of future technologies, Soffa was a board member of the Ben Franklin Technology Partnership of Southeastern Pennsylvania, which helps stimulate the growth in the region by supporting new business start-ups, early and emerging stage technology firms. Abroad, he supported infant industries in Israel through his work in the creation of "technology incubators". Specifically, he established the Ma-Ayan Technology Ventures to assist entrepreneurs with innovative and economically feasible ideas to prepare an industrial prototype and professional business plan.