MrSeb writes: "In the shadow of major semiconductor manufacturers, a little-known but crucial company called Applied Materials has plied its trade for almost 45 years. Inside every Intel, GlobalFoundries, and TMSC silicon chip foundry, there are Applied Materials machines performing some of the finest handiwork known to man. It isn’t just chips, either: Applied provide the systems that enable Samsung and LG to make LCD displays, and Suntech and JA Solar to create photovoltaic solar power cells. Basically, if a company deals in silicon wafers, it’s almost guaranteed that Applied Materials equipment governs most or all of the fabrication process. But what exactly is the relationship between Applied Materials and its customers? Better yet, if GloFo and Intel both use the same machinery, why is one stuck at 45nm, while the other is forging ahead with 22nm FinFETs? Here, ExtremeTech takes a walk through the halls of perhaps the most important but least celebrated company in all of Silicon Valley."