Editor’s note: Celebrate Technology’s Technology Achievement Award recognizes coverage area companies that have made significant contributions to technology development over a number of years. Four companies were selected to receive the 2004 award.
Ramtron International Corp.
Ramtron International Corp., founded in 1984 and a leader in the semiconductor industry, makes memory chips that save data when power is lost.
Its proprietary product, Ferroelectric Memory Technology, has uses across the board-for customers in the automotive, metering and computer industries. “We can write data faster than the competition. We can write data much more frequently-we can write billions of times to the memory device, whereas our competitors may only be able to write a million times,” said spokesman Lee Brown.
For Ramtron’s automotive customers, the memory technology drives the GPS navigation system and DVD equipment.
But a more salient application is “smart” airbags for vehicles. The new generation of airbags store sensory data in the system-where the driver is sitting, if there is someone in the passenger seat and how much he or she weighs-from which the airbag can make a “decision” at the moment of impact.
But the largest customer base for Ramtron is utility companies, who use the memory technology for digital electric meters. How much power being consumed at any given minute is stored in the memory chip and then transferred up the power line to the power company. The utility company can then make determinations about power usage: the need to distribute differently, or the need to buy more power.
For the computing industry, Ramtron makes chips that very quickly write a buffer memory in the controllers.
“When power goes down, the information sitting in the wires waiting to be written to the hard disk is stored, in transit, so it doesn’t get lost,” Brown said.
Lee Brown, 41, has worked for Ramtron for 14 years. He is married to Donna, and has one son, Matthew, 17. He graduated from UCCS.
The legacy of the late Dick Petritz remains in Colorado Springs, if you ask Simtek Corp. CEO Doug Mitchell.
“It’s trite, but true. He created a work environment camaraderie that is somewhat unusual in the industry.”
Petritz, who worked at Texas Instruments with Mitchell before founding Simtek, had a Ph.D. in physics and even determined how many products in the semiconductor industry would be built. “Dick Petritz was in that class of people who were terribly instrumental in the semiconductor industry, though he’s not nearly as well known as [Gordon Moore or Andy Grove],” Mitchell said. “He was totally a technical contributor, and merged into becoming a business leader and venture capitalist, and created a number of very successful companies.”
Simtek is what is known as a “fabless” semiconductor company. Smaller than Intel or Atmel, the company creates a market niche based on factors other than the direct manufacturing of semiconductors. Simtek designs the chips, then markets and sells its products, subcontracting its manufacturing to large corporations in the Far East.
Its main product is Memory Integrated Circuits, and the company has implemented a capability in SRAM (static random access memory) that blends the nonvolatility of flash memory with the high performance of SRAM.
“If you’re operating with our chips, data gets preserved, data gets saved; it didn’t know the power was gone. Automatically,” said Mitchell. “The second-generation products move the core design onto a much more advanced process. There’s more memory in a single chip and a bunch of new features.”
Mitchell, 55, earned a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from University of Texas and an MBA from National University in San Diego. He is married to Ellen and has three children and six grandchildren.
The Spectranetics Corp.
With the only laser technology approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use within arteries, The Spectranetics Corp. has found its calling in health care technology.
The CVX-300 Excimer Laser System can remove tissue in arteries without damaging the artery wall and is instrumental in treating complex cardiovascular diseases in which stints and balloons are not as effective as they could be. “We recently received approval to treat peripheral diseases, such as blockage in the leg,” said CEO John Schulte. “As we treat these patients, we think we can prevent many amputations and improve their quality of life.”
Critical limb ischemia, a severe form of peripheral arterial disease, gives rise to 100,000 amputations below the knee annually. The first symptom is walking pain, which quickly progresses to pain while sitting, wounds that won’t heal and leads to losing tissue in one’s foot.
Another medical use of the laser technology is for pacemakers, which control the heart’s rhythm, and often have to be replaced every few years. Tissue grows around the pacemaker, and often becomes infected or breaks the wires. Usually a mechanical sheath, like a knife, is used to pull out the pacemaker-an inexact process. The laser, however, elegantly removes the offending tissue.
“We offer a unique clinical benefit with our laser technology,” Schulte said. “For peripheral arterial disease, a condition that is dramatically underdiagnosed, it is an excellent treatment option that can save many limbs and lives.”
The Spectranetics Corp. has been in Colorado Springs for 20 years and employs 155 people. Schulte earned his bachelor’s degree at the College of the Holy Cross and his MBA from Boston University. He is married to Marybeth, and has three children: Michael, 25, Emily, 21, and Patrick, 19.
With 3,500 customers-some of which are Sony Pictures, The Home Depot and Costco-Stellent Inc.’s flagship product, Universal Content Management, is a household name in software.
Headquartered in Eden Prairie, Minn., Stellent was founded in 1992 and designs and implements software that helps companies organize documents and business processes.
UCM manages Web sites, financial documents and records needed for compliance to government regulations. “It manages all phases of the document life cycle: creating, approving, publishing, searching, retrieving and archiving,” spokesman Chris Ryan said.
In 2001, Ryan started working for Optica, an imaging software supplier that specialized in turning paper-based documents into electronic files that could be shared, routed and secured in electronic repositories.
Optica was acquired by Stellent in May.
Universal Content Management, Ryan said, “enables you to streamline work processes and manage all the data. It makes you a lot more efficient an operation to have good business management software.”
Centralized companies, especially, benefit. Boxes of documents are shipped to individual stores by snail mail, approvals are made by hand.
“An invoice is now routed, and somebody goes on a computer and says yes or no and clicks a button. Things are faster and more secure & it’s driving up accuracy, speeding up the process, and driving down costs.”
Stellent has 525 employees, and its second-largest office is in Colorado Springs (100 employees). A truly international company, it has offices in the United Kingdom, Germany, Japan, Argentina, Canada, France, Korea, the Netherlands and Mexico-as well as Chicago and Boston.
Robert Olson is the founder and CEO. Chris Ryan, 49, is happily connected and unmarried, and has two sons, Michael and Colin.
By Jennifer Knight, contributing writer