Usage Rates

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Overview of KNI Lab User Fees
Note: Rates below are valid beginning October 1, 2019 and are subject to change

  • Fees are incurred on a pay-as-you-go basis. (tools are charged by the hour or portion thereof)
  • Caltech/JPL/Academic lab members are NOT charged the base rate for calendar months of non-use.
  • Precious metal usage (e.g. Au, Pt, etc.) is charged by the gram or portion thereof. Market prices are passed on to users and do not include Caltech F&A fees.

Beginning October 1, 2019, the KNI will apply soft-caps to the Tool Groups' hourly rates. Soft-caps are discounts that will be applied to individual members' usage that is accrued after the Tool Groups' monthly usage “thresholds” are met. There are two soft-caps:

  • The First Tier locks in a 50% reduction off the initial hourly rate for a given Tool Group.
  • The Second Tier locks in a 75% reduction off the initial hourly rate once a 2nd threshold is passed.
  • At the end of the month, one average monthly rate per Tool Group is calculated and applied to all hours logged by all lab members.

Important notes about the soft-cap cost model:

  • The soft-cap system should be viewed as a collective effort among all lab users.
  • Lab Members do not simply get the discounted rate by waiting to use a Tool Group after a threshold has been broken.
  • Preference is not given to individuals or specific research groups for logging more hours than others.
  • This cost model will be most effective if usage starts strongly at the beginning of the month, so lab members have more time in the latter part of the month to use tools at discounted rates.
  • Rates reset back to their initial price on the first day of every calendar month.

Caltech Academic Usage Rates


KNI Monthly Base fee: $667.14 (soft-cap does not apply; see below for details)

TF-30 STEM in Keck Building: $62.50/hour (soft-cap does not apply); lab members who only use the TF-30 are exempt from paying Monthly Base fees.

Note: Rates for JPL, Non-Caltech Academic, Government, and Corporate KNI lab members will be subject to Caltech's F&A (indirect/"overhead") costs. The F&A rate for fiscal year 2020 is 66.5%

Monthly Base Rate

The Monthly Base Rate is a flat fee charged per lab member, per month. It includes the use of:

Carbon Evaporator, Critical Point Dryer*, Direct-write Laser (DWL-66)*, Electrical Probing Station, O2/Ar Plasma Cleaner, Parylene Coater, Profilometer, Rapid Thermal Processor, Scriber-Breaker, Spectroscopic Ellipsometer, Tecnai TF-20 TEM, Wafer Bonder, Wafer Stepper, Wire Bonder, chemical wet benches, fluorescence microscope, optical microscopes, related metrology, miscellaneous support tools, and general supplies (e.g. gowning, chemicals, equipment reservation software, etc.)
(*New to monthly base rate)

Example of Soft-Cap Rate in Use

By October 17th, KNI lab members collectively hit the Tier 1 threshold by accruing 292 hours on the EBPG 5000+ and 5200, combined. Hours logged on either system after that point are billed at $33.54/hour. On October 24th, lab members collectively hit the Tier 2 threshold by accruing 354 hours on the tools. From that point forward, time logged on both systems is billed at $13.77/hour, up until 11:59 pm on October 31. At the end of the month, KNI will sum the hours logged at each rate and determine the effective hourly rate for the EBPG Tool Group for October. If 400 hours were logged on the EBPG Tool Group in October, the effective hourly rate will be $56.09/hour, rather than the initial hourly EBPG rate of $67.07 (see formula, below). This effective hourly rate will be applied to every hour logged by every user in the entire month.

Soft-Cap Formula


Corporate Memberships

For information on the KNI corporate lab membership plan, please send an email to with details regarding the number of people looking to join as KNI lab members, equipment needs, anticipated start date, and information about the company. Startup companies may qualify for limited-term reduced rates.