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Virtual storefront

Ever been busted by a supervisor for surfing eBay when you should be rewriting that tech note or monitoring the etchers' plasma flows? Wouldn't it be great if you had an excuse to visit the online auction site during working hours? Type "semiconductor equipment" into eBay's search engine and voilá! Refurbished chipmaking gear is only a purchase order away.

After another few clicks, the only eBay storefront dedicated to semiconductor tools pops up on your screen. At press time, 27 items were listed for sale there, most of them pumps and RF components. The big-ticket piece was an Edwards Drystar pump listed at $6000, while cartridges for chiller filters held up the bottom end at $50 a pop. No auction action at this store—all prices were set.

The proprietor is Precision Technicians, a semiconductor equipment refurb outfit located in Mesa, AZ. According to eBay's records, the company has been hawking tools on the auction site since February 2002. PTI's online customers seem quite satisfied with their transactional experiences, based on the overwhelmingly positive feedback scores from the past year or so.

When asked for more details about the company's storefront, PTI's Rick Nelson said in an e-mail that "our presence on eBay is merely an experiment...We have not had the time or the empirical data to quantify the advantages of using eBay or develop any meaningful statistical breakdown of eBay sales."

Whether or not PTI's eBay experiment pays off on the bottom line, it's comforting to know that a replacement cryopump is only a few clicks away.

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