Oral History Interview with Chikara Hayashi
Conducted by William Sproul (WS)
WS: It’s a real pleasure Dr. Hayashi to have the honor to do this oral history with you. I’ve known you for several years and have admired your work and accomplishments in the vacuum industry. I would like to start out by asking you a bit about yourself. Where and when were you born?
CH: It’s my great pleasure and I feel honored to have this opportunity. I was born in Tokyo, 1922.
WS: Did you go to school in Tokyo?
CH: Yes, at the University of Tokyo.
WS: What happened after the University of Tokyo?
CH: I graduated from there in 1944, almost the end of the war. Then I was picked up to the Navy to serve as Inspector or Controller of my section. Actually I was engaged in my section as vendors for supplying optical lenses and prisms for periscopes and binoculars.
WS: And was this for vacuum technology?
CH: Yes, including AR coating.
WS: That early on?
WS: Well we have a tie then. I was in the Navy too, but more than 10 months. I see from some of the information you provided me you were also at the Naval Arsenal. That’s where you did the AR coating?
WS: What happened after you finished with the Navy?
CH: I went back to the University of Tokyo to work for the Nuclear Physics Department under Professor R. Sagane, who was one of the three professors to whom Dr. Kelly (in his book, MIT press) gives credit as hidden founder, Japanese of the post-war restructuring of the top organization for science activity in Japan. Sagane was a member of Prof. E.O. Laurence team at Berkley; cyclotron, synchrotron and nuclear physics team before the war. He worked there for about 17 years in total. A famous side story is that Prof. W. Alvarez, also a key stuff under Laurence, wrote a letter to Sagane on August 9, 1945 at Headquarters Atomic bomb command asking for using knowledge for ending the war. Bunches of copies of the letter were dropped with the atom bomb at NAGASAKI; it reached him after the end of the war.
WS: Was vacuum technology involved in your time at Tokyo University?
CH: Oh sure.
WS: What were you doing?
CH: We were trying to make components for particle accelerator for nuclear physics, which needs vacuum technology and other key technologies. So I was engaged in vacuum technology.
WS: And then from the University of Tokyo you got involved with Ulvac at some point. How did that come about?
CH: As I said, I was engaged in nuclear physics, at least studying to be a nuclear physicist. But after the War, everywhere in Japan was devastated, so there was no budget to get sufficient materials except for paper and pen. Actually, I got some raw material from occupied Army Arsenal and used them by myself to make vacuum systems. For example, vacuum valves, the piping and even pumps were made in our laboratory by ourselves. Physicists are not well trained to do that. After all I thought, we couldn’t make particle accelerators while we are quite active as physicists. I decided to go into the industry to help develop and in the recovery of the Japanese economy. The first thing was how to get money. That’s why I joined Ulvac.
WS: Was that the beginning of Ulvac when you went to work for them?
WS: So you were one of the original employees?
CH: Yes, one of six people. One or two were mostly money management and the rest were technical. Of course, I was one of the technical people.
WS: And today Ulvac has how many employees worldwide?
CH: Approximately 3,500.
WS: It has grown from 6 people to 3,500? That’s great.
CH: That’s right. And annual sales worry me, from about 1.3 to about 1.6 billion US$, depending on the year.
WS: Within Ulvac I know eventually you became chairman of Ulvac. What different positions or posts within Ulvac did you hold before you became reached that top spot?
CH: Oh, I started as an R&D manager in title and worker in the floor and street. I joined Ulvac because the chairman of Ulvac, the founder, who was the very famous president of an electrical company in Kansai area. Kansai means western part of Japan and sometimes represent KANSAI ZAIBATSU: ZAIBATSU means financially powerful circle. And he told me “Why don’t you join Ulvac because I promise to make a research institute for vacuum technology for you.” So I thought, “Oh that’s nice.” But it didn’t happen. And after all he asked me to be a President to make it happen.
As I mentioned, our purpose was to help recover the Japanese economy. So, I had no way to object. I accepted to be a president since 1971. I took the presidency for 15+ years, and then I was chairman. Then I got retirement age. So at the age of 70 I retire, but actually I have been with Ulvac year after year. Still I remain as chairman emeritus to give advice.
WS: So how much time would you say you spend, on average, there?
TH: Gradually decreasing, but today still about 30 to 40% at Ulvac. And the rest of my time is in public service to the local government and to science and technology societies.
WS: Where did the name “Ulvac” come from?
CH: That is from “ultimate in vacuum.”
WS: Well that’s English words. Was it always that or did it have a Japanese equivalent?
CH: At the beginning we had a different name: Japan Vacuum Engineering Company. When I took the presidency, I thought “technology, technology.” I’m not limited to Japan, so I wanted to change the name. I asked people who wished to vote for the name, and we came up with “The Ultimate in Vacuum.”
WS: In your time as president I know you stayed active technically; you didn’t just run the company. What would you say is your major technical achievement within the company?
CH: Oh within the company? While at the University, I used my time to work with ultra high vacuum, mostly for basic knowledge development. Then plasma came to my interest, or my company’s interest. That was 1960s. For example, Don Mattox, he was the mentor for me on ion plating; About 1960, Ron Bunshah started metallurgical conference, and at one of that conferences in New York I heard Don’s presentation. Today, I see ICMCTF with Ron Bunshah as one of the founders.
WS: The first one of the coating conferences was held in 1974. Prior to that, they were vacuum melting conferences. Held every two or three years.
CH: Your memory is great. In 1966 or 1967, Don made a presentation on ion plating Al on nuclear fuel capsules. He said it didn’t come to field use. So, I asked him “That is a nice technology that must be commercially available.” So I did it. That was the first application of ion plating to titanium nitride. I did it because Mattox’s presentation was stimulating.
WS: I remember very early on the very beautiful gold coatings that came from Ulvac with you hot hollow cathode ion plating process.
CH: You remember that?
WS: Oh yes. I remember that.
CH: That was in [?Anaheim] many years ago, Ron helped me in academic way for materializing nitride coating. Today, all over the world, titanium nitride, titanium carbide, and their alloy are widely used.
WS: So you were involved in the metallurgical coatings and in melting materials. What else in you career would you take great pride technically in developing?
CH: It was not after all a good business for our company, but I used the company money to develop super-conducting materials. A professor at the NIHON University asked me to help (to support him develop super-conducting materials). But my company was not so strong and very small (in 1970), still learning. So I went to the government, the Science and Technology Agency, and asked those officers if they could help. They said “No system is available to support univ. professor directly, but if your company accepts the development of the super-conducting materials, then we can give your company money for it.” So, I was engaged in the development of super-conducting materials in cooperation with the professor.
WS: Which ones in particular?
CH: Niobium titanium for large magnets (including for accelerators, fusion apparatus and levitated train). Later another professor (Dr. TACHIKAWA) at Tokyo University wished to help us develop Vanadium-Gallium tape, which showed the highest super-conducting properties. But today, vanadium is considered toxic, and replaced by Nb-Sn-Ta etc., also developed by TACHIKAWA.
WS: You’ve also been active over the years within Japan, promoting science and technology. You’ve been an editor of a journal. Which journal was that?
CH: I was once the vice chairman of the Applied Physics Society (4 years) and a board member for many years. I also worked as editor-in-chief of the Japanese Journal of Applied Physics. Actually, the Japanese Journal of Applied Physics was launched in cooperation of Physical Society and the Society of Applied Physics Japan. Both asked each four or five members organize a committee to start the journal. I was one of the members. Of course the financial issues are more important in those days. Prof. K. KINOSHITA, GAKSHUIN University was the first editor-in-chief, and American physical Society and AIP gave a financial support to JJAP. Issues of vacuum technology (vacuum science) cover many articles in the back. Besides JJAP, since 1950-60s I worked with the Vacuum Society of Japan, and also for British journal of “Vacuum” as a member of the editorials.
WS: You’ve also been a lecturer or visiting professor at many universities, is that correct?
WS: What universities?
CH: Tokyo University, TOHOKU University, Nagoya University, KEIO University etc.
WS: What did you lecture on, vacuum science and technology?
CH: Yes, vacuum science and technology, super-conducting materials, ultra fine particles, metallurgy, coatings….
WS: You also mentioned that you’ve been involved with the government, with helping them. Have you been involved shaping science and technology policy for Japan?
CH: As a professional, but not as a policy maker. Policy making bores me.
WS: Did you then advise the policy makers? You had influence on the direction they took?
CH: My role in one of those committees was to assess the proposals coming from everywhere in Japan (from the universities, from the commercial companies, from the government institutions) and to assess which ones should be funded.
WS: So from that standpoint, you had an influence on what work was done within the country.
CH: Oh I’m ashamed of that. That kind of work is very difficult, as you know.
WS: I understand. I’ve been involved in that. There are always too many good projects and not enough money. What about your work with ultra-fine particles, what did you do there?
CH: Ultra-fine particles, again, three professors from Japanese universities, made a team to work on ultra-fine particles in early ‘70s—actually observation of ultra-fine particles for use in physical, chemical research. And then, they came to a conclusion that those ultra-fine particles should be used as a magnetic material because magnetic recording was based on fine particles. These in the market at the time were micron-sized particles. If we go down to ultra-fine particles, recording disks, in that case tape, would be hundred times higher figure of merit than those that was available. So we started production of magnetic ultra-fine particles. And then we put them on tape. And that was the start of industrial applications of ultra-fine particles.
WS: Did Ulvac get involved with the manufacture of that?
CH: A subsidiary company, Vacuum metallurgical Company, I used that company to help produce such ultra-fine particles. Of course other activities are needed to support that production until ultra-fine particles could make money. Not quite successful yet. With ultra-fine particles, it has been very difficult to make money. Now the ultra-fine particles is changed its name to nanoparticles.
WS: So you were ahead of your time?
CH: Perhaps yes. Almost 30 years ahead of the change in the naming. Then the government asked me to take the project lead for ultra-fine particles. That happened in 1981, when Japanese goods and products were rushing to the United States, and U.S. industrial people or political people started saying that Japan was using basic science knowledge “stolen” from United States or Western Europe. So the government stated that we should work on basic science and technology that would be useful worldwide. The first project was my ultra-fine particles project. I joined to convince the Ministry of Finance, that this kind was scientifically at the edge worldwide and certainly usable in the 21st Century. It hadn’t been used before, and I am quite happy now to see what is going on worldwide aimed at industrial use.
WS: You said earlier that when you first took your job with Ulvac, they said that they would setup your research lab, but that didn’t happen. But it did happen under your leadership, right? Ulvac now definitely has the research lab and supports it?
CH: Right. It now has four labs. One that was instituted for super materials. When I took the presidency, Ulvac was not necessarily in good shape. I thought that in order to make the company successful, we should do something in between our customers and us, bridging different expertise activities. That means the process must be made in cooperation with customer and equipment manufacturer intensively. So to do that I made the super materials institute. That was very hard. Board members, outside board members, said “you are running almost bankrupt”, and “research doesn’t make money.” They closely watched what I did. The activity of the institute has been the reason, I believe, that Ulvac is now one of the major vacuum equipment manufacturers worldwide.
WS: It’s very important. Through all of this work with your company and everything, you still had time for your family? I think you told me the other day that you have three children and how many grand children now?
CH: Three grandchildren. 18-year-old boy, 15-year-old girl, and 8-year-old boy. I have two daughters.
WS: So you’re now an active grandfather as well?
CH: Ha ha! Yes, and enjoying it.
WS: And you’ve also had time to be a member of many different scientific and technical societies. Can you go through some of those?
CH: Working as management of the company, especially as president, is very difficult to go out in scientific societies. I didn’t, however, give up what I had to do for myself. So, if I have spare time (holiday, Sunday) I start thinking about advanced science and technology. The basis of physics. Because of that, I was picked by many science academies and societies, mostly in physics and vacuum science and technology. Applied Physics, the Vacuum Society, Atomic Energy Society, Industrial Science…domestically.
WS: And of course, the SVC.
CH: The SVC has been very enjoyable.
WS: How did you get involved with the SVC?
CH: That’s because of Mike Plaisted. Mike is a great person (for me). He was a person who wished to work with me when he was the vice president of Sylvania. Big company. One day I got a call from Mike (from USA to my home in Japan). He said, “I’d like to work with you.” I said, “Really? That’s amazing.” So Mike was the first president of Ulvac North America, located in east coast.
WS: Is that how you ended up in Kennebunkport Maine?
CH: Right. Later when we were up, because of Mike and other sales people successfully got the order for sputtering systems (IBM Burlington); that was the first computer-controlled vacuum coating systems, as far as I know. And IBM took our expertise and we got people from IBM because of Mike. We had to make a service station in Maine party because Mike liked Maine.
WS: Then what? So Mike was the one who got you involved with the SVC?
CH: When Mike took the presidency of SVC, I thought that should be a nice surprise. I first participated in the SVC at Boston, 10 years ago. I looked at SVC as more interested in real industry—that means money.
WS: They understand that it takes money to pay for all these things, yes.
CH: I have been working, not 100% for money. Money is maybe 20% of my interest. I used to have more interest in AVS and the ICMCTF where I participated as one of the members from the beginning. But at Boston, I thought “Well I’d rather go to ICMCTF than here.”
But this time I wanted to see what had happened after many years, and especially for the time being because of the war and a recession in the United States. But I was surprised to see very nice organization. The Conference is well organized and some speeches are going to the basic sciences.
Right before this I participated at the Web Coating panel discussion. And their discussion was with the penetration of water vapor or other kinds of gases through polymer films. This is very difficult and very advanced edge of surface science. Maybe more difficult than semiconductor processes. I thought this is a very interesting subject. I thought that this conference would be nice if we could combine the semiconductor people who had done much work on surface sciences. The combination with that kind of science and technology to web coated products used industrially as a capacitor and for the preparation of foodstuff and pharmaceuticals. Those areas are now coming up to restructuring modern ecological lifestyle.
WS: Or in the case of materials like OLEDs that they want to put a web, how do you protect those and the science and technology that it will take to provide that protective barrier?
CH: There is more interest for me in that (among average citizens) than in semiconductors. Semiconductors are inorganic except the photoresist and few others. But in web-coated films, they are used for daily life. That means they have to be made very safe biologically using a combination of plastics with non-toxic and inorganic materials, which may work as the barrier for penetration of water vapor. That is very important for the future of vacuum technology. We should work vary carefully on environmental protection and life science and bioengineering. Those areas use super molecules or very highly ordered synthetic molecules. Those are (often positively functional) organic materials, which are very rare in semiconductor and other industries. So, that combination will look to the future.
WS: So is Ulvac in its laboratories involved in this?
CH: Web coaters are our product. But that film, our customers are working in that right direction.
WS: But you said Ulvac gets involved in the process?
CH: Oh sure. We have the basic R&D (process and materials) budget ratio on the surface side of engineering.
WS: So you’re pleased in the direction of the technical content of the meeting.
CH: Oh yes. Now the SVC is getting to be one of the best also for (industrial) scientist, especially for my interest.
WS: Yes. They seem to have this balance between the technology side and the science side—and the business side, because they understand the need to do business to keep all these other activities going.
CH: Of course there are several people (in my group) who I don’t think worry about that. But there were many interesting papers out there (at the SVC conference).
WS: So you’ve seen over the years that the SVC has been very valuable to you and to Ulvac?
CH: I think so.
WS: I know you are a frequent participant. Are other members of your company coming regularly as well?
CH: No. Unfortunately aged scientists and engineers like myself feel reluctant to take long-range trip. Young people under thirty, even Japanese young people, can have good experience to learn valuable things and use English. So, maybe they should come.
WS: So maybe you could encourage them.
CH: Sure. I do.
WS: Looking at the economy and industry today, how do you see Japan, are they poised to come out of their economic problems? What do you see happening?
CH: The recession came mostly for three reasons in my opinion. One is that financial people did the wrong things like a financial company did here decades ago. But the Japanese case was worse because they move very slowly, and that affects industry to borrow money. They don’t give loans to many active companies now. That is one reason.
The second reason is that the government is quite slow. The U.S. Government was quite fast—sometimes too fast.
WS: Yes, sometimes too fast. That is another discussion. But you do see Japan coming out of the economic doldrums that they’ve been in?
CH: Oh I think that fortunately, we are close to China. China is growing fast economically, though we see some signs or symptoms of the Chinese economy slowing down. With regard to the advanced technology area of semiconductors or use of web coatings or vacuum technology materials, they use money now. Our sales are big now in Asia, not in United States.
WS: When you say Asia that includes China, but what proportion of the sales to Asia are now to China?
CH: At the moment less than 10%, but China, Korea, and Singapore are the giants in Asia. Maybe Taiwan will soon come up again in the next year in their economy, which is now a little bit slow. In fact we have made one manufacturing plant in Ninbo, which is 120 miles south of Shanghai to produce vacuum pumps, not vacuum systems, but tiny pumps.
WS: What has been your experience with that outsourcing of your manufacturing? Meaning your quality standards.
CH: We train Chinese people. And Chinese people, if they are well paid, they work hard. So that pump manufacturing company is making, percentage wise, big profit.
WS: Do you see more of your manufacturing business going to China?
CH: I think so. Unless we go to China, the Chinese market will not be open wide. As a matter of fact, the pump plant expect orders for 20,000 pieces per month to manufacturers from in China, not in Japan.
WS: So it is really picking up?
CH: Yes. And the Chinese are apparently changing their minds. It used to be that cost was the biggest factor for them. Because of that, we couldn’t sell much in China. For example, ion plating, and Don Mattox is here; I went to China and made presentation on ion plating and ion plating equipment (~20 years ago). They didn’t buy our system, but they made 400 ion-plating systems by the year 2000 (I heard from our agent in China).
WS: Just based on your lecture?
CH: I can’t say that, but maybe it helped. A professor of Beijing University, about ten years ago, said that out of this 400, the industry used only 6 or 7. All others didn’t work. That was the old China. Now China is importing technology from the United States, Europe, and Japan, they have greatly improved their products, and are exporting them.
WS: Do you have any qualms that they will just take your technology and not honor the intellectual property rights you have?
CH: That is a problem. Yes. But until they could catch up, those kinds of vacuum science and technology issues were not easy for them to learn. Like I said, ion plating systems they made, but it didn’t work. Now that they have some money, or a bigger amount of money, from their exports to United States and Japan, in due time they will have a full economy. They can use that money to buy high-priced products. So, we can sell now. Very recently, we got an order for over $30 million for systems. They are coming up. They know by their own experience that Chinese manufacturing companies got such capabilities like the United States has and Europe has by buying equipment first from Japan, from the USA or/from Europe. They are more quick in selling the product they make by using those goods (equipment). It’s happening now.
WS: What do you see as the future of Vacuum Technology?
CH: Vacuum technology is ever expanding in applications. One area is for new materials like semiconductors, like very strong magnetic materials, and maybe plastic coated products. Then environmental energy (and waste processing) issues are coming. You (Dr. Sproul) are working with an energy devices company now. You know the fuel cells, some are composed of nano tubes and nano materials.
. . .Many of those produced by using vacuum technology. Bio industry area, Up to now (no major application of vacuum technology) except for freeze-drying, freeze-drying, however, is going to be very important if we take into consideration the transportation costs. Delivery at the right time means that fresh product must be dried and then shipped to the consumer site.
Then of course there’s IT. Everybody talks about IT, that’s communication. Further we should see hybrids or robotics and semiconductors for IT and bioscience and industry. Some scientists and engineers are studying (challenging) extensively now in bio-s. We are close to start studying how to control the vacuum space in solids or liquids, between atom assemblies.
WS: I’ve seen some reports of computing done with molecules.
CH: Interesting. Inorganic materials (engineering macro materials), passive solid materials, can be made bigger and bigger if necessary, but atoms or molecules are the same size in inorganic materials. But organic materials, like DNA and super molecules, chemists can make them as long and as large as they wish to have. In future I’m afraid that those kinds of materials composed of synthesized gigantic molecules could expel ordinary sheet metals. Nanomaterials could be stronger than steel.
WS: The question was raised the other night that “Do we have very promising aspects?” There are things we don’t know about them, so we have to approach them with a little bit of caution.
CH: Oh yes. Recently I read a great book “Prey” by MICHAEL CHRICHTON. Three years ago I participated in a conference on carbon nanomaterials, and nanomaterials are 10 years old. I told the editor of “Science” and the chairman of NEC (the sponsor of Dr. S. Iijima who discovered carbon nanomaterials) that this is about the time we should start studying toxicity or possible hazard of using nanoparticles. “Why? Will you people do believe that carbon is neutral and not toxic as an atom?” But if you think about, for example, argon and that kind of inert gas, people die if the environment is covered with it. Actually, I once happened to see three people who went down to the bottom of a large consumable arc furnace for welding work, and argon is heavier than air. So they suffocated and died. That kind of thing could happen when you use nanoparticles or nanomaterials (dispersed and agglomerate easily in media).
WS: Well we do have to be careful.
CH: Yes, but don’t stop the investigation or application of nanoparticles.
WS: This has been very interesting. Do you have anything else you would like to say?
CH: Perhaps I talk too much!
WS: It’s been very enjoyable. I know our two companies interact in a business level. We supply power supplies that you use.
CH: You joined Advanced Energy. We, Ulvac, much depend on using several of your products.
WS: I know one of your big products that they go into is the flat panel display. You are very active in that market.
CH: Yes. That keeps surprising us. The United States industry didn’t take that high volume flat panel display business. I would think that the reason, for example, would be TV, which is thought as source of the big volume of flat panel equipment demand. Japan has been the big manufacturing source of entertainment type products (Sony, Toshiba, etc.). We have customers ready in Japan for flat panel displays. The other reason is that the USA was very strong in semiconductor manufacturing. Once Japan was strong but competing with the USA, Japan lost position, partly because of political reasons. Because of that, the USA is too strong and didn’t show serious interest in disc or display business. Display is one-tenth of semiconductor business (I heard this from a big man in the United States) and strategically not critical product apparently.
But I thought the other way. Logic kind of things are not much related to the people’s emotions, but display is related to those kinds of beauty things. People wish to have better picture products. Small improvement could be large in the display industry. Small change could mean big volume. So it continues to develop.
Commodity kind of things, it is said, really embodies other kind of advanced edge technology without using that display. It’s a high-volume production type business. High-volume production type businesses sooner or later stops high rate growth. Now, we see this even in the semiconductor business. Though it may, however, go up again.
I had this kind of experience with a cosmetic product company that used to be a big company for high-volume consumer product production. Those kind of services to the society would be cheaper to build and quality should be nice. In order to get cheaper the high-volume production needs to be done. But it wasn’t true. High-volume production generates excessive consumption. It is not necessarily good for the society. Environmental pollution and other troubles come along. High quality and reasonably long-lived production must be the solution. If you look at the computer in the past three years, it changes models every six months. The old is now garbage. So I think the displays should be nice.
WS: From what I see it’s getting larger and larger substrates, bigger and bigger equipment, going towards the best production.
CH: In the display business, the difficulty for us is the customer shops all over with the giants in the display business right in Taiwan and Korea. Those giants in the display business are now asking for big panels. I actually found today and they ordered through us over 1.5-meter display substrate. They have good reason to go shop because of the competition. They ought to make big substrate and cut it into pieces after. That is a way to get cheaper products.
WS: Well it certainly challenges the vacuum industry to produce systems that can do that.
CH: Actually, the vacuum itself of course is important. Even in display processing we need ultra high vacuum. In a sense it’s the partial pressure. Of course in semiconductors also. The magnetic alloys also need reasonably high vacuum, not ordinary high vacuum but very high vacuum to reduce contamination. The big panel, the difficult part for display is the base plate of that is very thin; for 2 meter by 1.5 meter the thickness could be 2mm or less. I had a surprise that a glass manufacturing company could make it. If we go thin, the defect disappears. Glass gets stronger. That was a wonderful surprise. Materials have something like that. And if you go to super molecules, that might be the next star here in ten years.
We have lots of things to do in the future for vacuum science and technology.
WS: And the basis that your career has set for this is being used and going forward and definitely contributing to what we can make today and use today.
CH: When I joined the foundation Ulvac, I thought that sooner or later the atomic age would come and be engaged in industry use, technology based on atom would prevail. And some people laughed at me and said, “When is it coming?”
WS: It’s here today. I think we are there if we extend that definition to include manipulating the atoms on the surfaces as we do in nanotechnology, then we’re here.
CH: We are definitely working in that direction.
WS: Thank you very much for some very interesting conversation. It’s been a pleasure to sit here with you and reminisce like this.
CH: Thank you very much for your patience to hear my poor English.