The best part about being a TetraTech engineer is that you can build a product that can be used anywhere.
“We build everything from mobile phones to tablets and PCs to smart home devices,” said Dan Coughlin, who’s been at Tetra for a decade and leads its Advanced Technology group.
It’s a unique opportunity for the tech company, one that’s been ripe for innovation.
It started with a single chip, which Coughlins father created for his high school in New Jersey, in 1997.
“The first thing he did was make a transistor out of a wire, then he took that to his mother and said, ‘Hey, this is my son.
I need to make this into a transistor.
I want him to use it for anything I need.'”
The son, who had just turned 12, spent a decade developing and prototyping a series of inventions, including a laser, an electronic gate, a microphone, a camera and an electronic clock.
It was the beginning of a legacy that would span generations.
But by 2000, the company was struggling.
The chip that made it possible was not as cheap as it could have been, and the supply chain was not going to stay strong.
In the early 2000s, Coughls son, Scott, left the company to focus on his college degree, then the next year the company folded.
Coughlers son was gone for good.
“Scott was an amazing kid, but it just didn’t make sense to me to stay on,” Coughlins son, Chris, said.
So he and his brother, Chris Coughlan, bought a small chip shop and began tinkering with an Arduino-like chip.
They found that, like the transistor, the design of the Tetra chip made it easier to make, and it also had the added advantage of being cheaper than competing devices.
They were able to make a basic Tetra transistors prototype and eventually build a working prototype, and then, with the help of a few friends, began to scale the company.
“It’s kind of like the Apple of electronics, except it’s made from silicon,” Cufflin said.
The company now has a dedicated chip-making facility and a manufacturing operation in New York City.
And while they’ve struggled to stay competitive, they’ve been able to sell a few high-end products to customers around the world.
Cufflins son is now a professor at the University of New Hampshire and is developing a new technology that will make chips smaller and easier to manufacture.
And, with Tetra, he is building a new company to help with that, using a new manufacturing technique called low-temperature superconducting, or TSMC.
That technique, developed by the University, is being used in a number of applications.
For instance, it allows for better performance and more efficient manufacturing.
And it can be applied to many other industries, such as automotive and electronic components, and even in the automotive industry.
It makes the technology more efficient, and Cufflins hopes it will help with the next wave of transistor technology.
“For the next few years, we’re going to see these next generation transistors go from being something that can make the transistor out there to something that you’re going do with your phone,” Caughlin said, “like a Bluetooth or a car.”
But as we head into the new millennium, the future of transistor chips is looking bleak.
A number of companies have already filed for bankruptcy and other legal actions in the wake of the recent Apple bankruptcy filing.
And if that doesn’t change, it will soon.
“What we’re seeing in the next couple of years is that the market for chips is going to be pretty bleak,” said Andrew F. Gaudette, director of research at the Electronics Manufacturing Association, a trade group.
“There will be a lot of companies that are just trying to survive and that will be the ones to make chips.”
Coughlis father is one of them.
And he’s hoping the Tetrapro-like company can help.
“I think that it’s just a really exciting time in the history of transistors, where everybody’s just going to want to use them, to the degree that the transistor market will be able to support it,” Couglins son said.
“So I think that’s the real opportunity, and I think it’s something that I think we can do.”