link Magazine 2022, #South NL Special

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LET’S CREATE SUCCESSFUL SOLUTIONS TOGETHER Frencken is the connector in the high-tech chain: for semiconductor, analytical equipment and medical technology that make a real difference to the quality of our lives. Add more value to your product development, manufacturing operations and business processes with Frencken as your partner.

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5 INDUSTRY MARKET NEWS 10 INDUSTRY POLICY Dutch equipment sector important in EU battle for world hegemony in semicon

14 SERVITIZATION Philips and Thermo Fisher Scientific: increased turnover with digital services

20 INDUSTRY POLICY Nexperia manager calls for greater ‘alignment’ of Dutch semicon ecosystem

24 HUMAN RELATIONS With ‘tribe thinking’, Sioux is committed to solid growth on its own campus

27 SUPPLY-SECURITY Growing appetite for silicon forces German automotive to take control of production



The Dutch high-tech industry can only win with big tech. To differentiate ourselves from competitors, our products must offer unique advantages or work in smarter ways. This links technology innovation closely to business strategy: it must provide the competitive edge for future products. As a small and agile country, The Netherlands is big in technology. We have sufficient examples and a rich history of setting the standards. To stay ahead, there needs to be a sense of urgency to keep on taking the next big steps in innovation. Complacency is always a risk. We are simply too small to be technology followers. Dutch industry needs innovations where it already has strong markets and can quickly scale up. New products also require big tech. The focus needs to be on process and manufacturing technologies like equipment and automation. The longer the big tech value chains we can establish in the Netherlands and the EU, the bigger the economic impact – since there only exist so many opportunities that match our joint competences.

At the invitation of Link Magazine, Joep Stokkermans is the guest editor-in-chief of this special edition. Photo: Gerard Verschooten

customers push ERIKS to unprecedented level

32 CO-ENGINEERING Settels differentiates itself with physics knowledge to translate prototypes into working machines

The right focus will simplify choices. The revenues from industrial success will fuel continued research in the areas that count. We can learn from Asia and the US, who set an example by setting a strategic focus. Combining this with our entrepreneurial strength and excellent knowledge base will result in the triumph (survival?) of the fittest.

36 CO-ENGINEERING NTS closely aligns communication with the profile of its international customer

39 DIGITIZATION Digital engineering becoming the licence to operate in the aerospace industry

44 LEADERSHIP 3T is growing: ‘It does reflect well on us that we work for ASML’

47 CONTINUOUS IMPROVEMENT Motion specialist PM has grown with increasing customer demands

The million dollar question is: how can we be sure that the innovative steps are big enough? Nexperia uses TRIZ Systematic Innovation to generate breakthrough solutions. What we like about TRIZ is that it provides focused feedback to the team: a ‘right’ solution solves a problem in full, without compromises. A right solution is cost-efficient – or, even better, free – and it is important that it has no harmful side-effects; often it will provide additional benefits. To convince yourself, you can apply these criteria to any successful innovation; it’s a simple test which proves the value of TRIZ and offers a guideline for the big tech innovations Dutch industry needs.



This special issue is a supplement to the April 2022 issue of Link Magazine. Link Magazine is a management journal that discusses contemporary forms of co-operation between companies themselves and between companies and (semi)-government bodies, universities and colleges of higher education. Link Magazine is published six times a year.

APRIL 2022 PUBLISHED BY H&J Uitgevers Mireille van Ginkel Bosscheweg 76, 5151 BE Drunen The Netherlands +31 10 451 55 10 +31 6 51 78 41 97

ADVISORY COUNCIL ing. P.A.M. van Abeelen (ISAH), J. Beernink MSc (Golden Egg Check), ing. D.M. van Beers (Festo BV), P. Berting (Huisman), J.C.A. Buis MBA (RR Mechatronics), ing. B. Draaijer (V en M Regeltechniek), F.M. Eisma (Trumpf Nederland), ir. R. van Giessel (voormalig ceo Philips CFT), H. Gijsbers (Thermo Fisher), ir. M.H. Hendrikse (NTS-Group, HTSM-boegbeeld), ing. J.B.P. Hol (Legrand Group), ir. T.J.J. van der Horst (TNO), S. Kleijngeld (Inther Group), dr. ir. M. Peters, dr. ir. D.A. Schipper (Demcon), E. Severijn (Siemens PLM Software Benelux), J.A.J. Slobbe VMI), H.G.H. Smid (Variass Group), ir. W.W.M. Smit MMC (DBSC Consulting), ir. H.H. Tappel (Bronkhorst High-Tech), W.B.M. van Wanrooij (IBN Productie), ir. S.J. Wittermans (ASML) EDITOR IN CHIEF Martin A.M. van Zaalen FINAL EDITING Lucy Holl,

THE FOLLOWING PEOPLE CONTRIBUTED TO THIS ISSUE Bertus Bouwman, Jan Broeks, Hans van Eerden, Wilma Schreiber, Joep Stokkermans, Marjolein de Wit-Blok TRANSLATION Powerling Nederland, Bunnik COVER PHOTO Gerard Verschooten GRAPHIC DESIGN Primo!Studio, Delft PRINTED BY Veldhuis Media, Raalte SUBSCRIPTION € 77,00 per annum ADVERTISING OPERATIONS John van Ginkel +31 010 451 55 10 +31 6 53 93 75 89 ISSN 1568 - 1378 No part of Link Magazine may be copied or reproduced without the publisher’s permission. This publication has been compiled with the utmost care. Nevertheless, the publisher cannot be held liable for any inaccuracies. No rights may be derived from this publication.

Special High-tech The Netherlands - April 2022


We bring high-tech to life Sioux Technologies supports the high-tech industry with:

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INDUSTRY MARKET NEWS THESE DAYS, KNOWLEDGE WORKERS WANT TO STAY IN A COUNTRY THAT’S ‘SAFE AND PROMISING’ About 80% of highly educated knowledge migrants want to settle permanently in the Netherlands. This is the outcome of a study by international recruitment agency Ravecruitment and researcher Intelligence Group among highly educated migrant workers. The Netherlands has about 375,000 international knowledge workers. About 60,000 of them come from outside the EU (source CBS). In the study among highly educated highly migrants, 8 out of 10 of this group indicated they wish to apply for a Dutch passport and to settle permanently in the Netherlands. The report ‘The current state of mind of the highly skilled migrant in the Netherlands’ by Ravecruitment and Intelligence Group outlines how highly skilled migrants currently experience working in the Netherlands and what the expectations are in the near future. Many organisations,

corporates, start-ups and scale-ups, consider attracting foreign talent to be crucial for international competitiveness and growth (source: Ministry of Economic Affairs). ‘However, not much is known about this foreign talent in the Netherlands’, says Gijs Notté, director of Ravecruitment. ‘Do people find living here appealing? Do they spot career opportunities? Do they want to stay here? This study answers those questions and is therefore of great interest to organisations that work or want to work with highly skilled migrants. It appears that many of the highly skilled migrants would like to stay here.’ This finding is in stark contrast to an earlier 2014 study by the PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, which showed that half of the knowledge workers who arrived since 2000 had already left the

Netherlands after eight years. ‘So whereas highly skilled migrant previously mainly worked temporarily in the Netherlands, Photo: Brainport Eindhoven they now appear to be primarily a permanent asset. This is highly score (8+) on the question desirable in order to bring the whether they would recommend labour market more into balance the Netherlands as a country of and contribute to economic residence/work. development, organisational The report ‘The current state of growth and diversity and stability mind of the Highly Skilled of the workforce’, says Notté. Migrant in the Netherlands’ is 80% of the highly skilled migrants the result of a collaboration outside the EU indicate they wish between Ravecruitment and the to apply for a Dutch passport. Intelligence Group. A total of 275 This is mainly based on the fact highly educated migrant workers that 90% consider the Netherlands of 60 different nationalities a safe country. Furthermore, participated in the study. They 80% feel welcome in the current work in the Netherlands at organisation and 78% see companies ranging from start-ups sufficient career opportunities in and scale-ups to corporates. the Netherlands to realise their More than 60% work in IT. ambitions. They then give the Netherlands a very satisfactory

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Special High-tech The Netherlands - April 2022



HANNOVER MESSE THE NETHERLANDS WILL DEMONSTRATE HOW CLOSE SUPPLY CHAIN COOPERATION LEADS TO SUSTAINABILITY From 30 May to 2 June, some 2,500 companies will be displaying their technologies for the factories and energy systems of the future at the Hannover Exhibition Center. Under the lead theme of ‘Industrial Transformation’, they will demonstrate how connected production facilities can operate more efficiently and conserve resources as well as how to generate and transmit energy sustainably. Among these companies will be a large number of exceptional firms from the Netherlands. ‘In view of the current global political situation, the topics at Hannover Messe are more relevant than ever’, asserted Jochen Köckler, CEO of Deutsche Messe, at the Hannover Messe preview event. ‘The heart of the matter is how we can ensure security of supply and growth in a dynamically changing world – politically, environmentally and economically – while counteracting climate change. Innovative technologies will play a key role in this’, he added. Exhibiting companies include corporations like Siemens, Bosch, Schneider Electric, Schaeffler, SAP and Service Now, joined by numerous medium-sized industrial enterprises such as Beckhoff, Festo, Harting, Pepperl+Fuchs and Ziehl-Abegg. Accompanying them will be major research institutes like Fraunhofer and Karlsruhe Institute for Technology (KIT) as well as roughly 100 startups that see Hannover Messe as an ideal platform for networking with industry. GREEN ENERGIES When it comes to CO2-neutral production and energy security in Europe, renewable energies and green hydrogen have a key role to play. Many companies are already leading the way with concrete solutions. In view of the current energy supply debate, the subject of hydrogen is gaining further prominence at Hannover Messe. ‘We have offered the largest European platform for the hydrogen and fuel cell industry for years. In Hannover, more than 200 companies – including Iberdrola, Saint Gobain, Emerson, ElringKlinger, Siemens, Phoenix


Impression of the digital Hannover Messe of 2021. The event will be live again this year.

companies cannot be completely vertically integrated and keep everything in-house. So it’s better to do business with a supplier that can exchange ideas with you at a high level. Victor Koppelaar of Global Fairs, the representative of Hannover Messe in the Benelux countries: ‘At the trade show, Dutch suppliers will demonstrate that by working together in a truly open way – showing each other everything, even the margins you are making – you can really boost innovation and speed. Plus you can work more sustainably, with reduced transport emissions and a better understanding of the opportunities that circularity offers. Firms need to become CO2-neutral within a very short time-frame, and that will be much easier to achieve local4local, within European supply chains.’

Photo: Hannover Messe

Contact, Enapter, Bosch, Hexagon Purus, Nel Hydrogen, Hydrogenious and GP Joule – will present solutions for a sustainable energy supply based on hydrogen derived from renewable energy sources’, said Köckler. DUTCH COMPANIES A number of Dutch companies will also be showcasing their innovations at the Hydrogen and Fuel Cell platform in hall 13, including Hygear, developer and manufacturer of on-site hydrogen production systems. VONK, solution provider for power conversion, will also be presenting there, as will Resato, provider of scalable hydrogen filling stations and IHI Hauzer, specialists in coating bipolar plates in fuel cells. There will also be Dutch green hydrogen start-ups in hall 3, where ‘Young Tech Enterprises’ will be showing their innovations to the world. DUTCH PAVILION One place where Dutch industry will be presenting itself at Hannover Messe this year is hall

Special High-tech The Netherlands - April 2022

8, where the Holland High Tech Pavilion will be located. With a joint public-private presentation and collective programme under the title ‘Integrating industries for a smart sustainable future’, Dutch companies and industry bodies will be demonstrating how smart and sustainable solutions can be developed by working together closely nationally and internationally. ‘Together with our strategic partners in Germany and within Europe, we are developing smart integrated value networks that enable us to make, maintain and recycle products energy-efficiently. These networks offer Europe autonomy and technical leadership at important control points’, says a spokesperson for the organisers, FME. Companies represented at the pavilion will include: BMTEC, Technolution, Studio Mango, Laevo and Sorama. SOURCING PARTNER In addition, the Netherlands wants to present itself as a strong and reliable sourcing partner for German industry. ‘The fact is,

COMBAT CLIMATE CHANGE Europe is seeking to become climate-neutral by 2050. More and more companies have set ambitious goals and are in the process of completely converting their production and services. Hannover Messe exhibitors supply the required technologies. Not only can the production of virtually all goods be made more resource-conserving and energy-efficient with the help of state-of-the-art machinery and equipment. Also solutions from mechanical and plant engineering, electrical engineering and the software and IT industry can vastly improve the control processes of complex systems, thus boosting innovation and reducing greenhouse gas emissions around the world. Recording the CO2-footprint across entire supply chains is often the first step towards climate neutrality. Hannover Messe exhibitor Siemens has developed software that captures emissions data throughout the supply chain and combines it with data from the company’s own value chain to determine a

Artist’s impression of the Holland High Tech Pavilion. Illustration: FME

product’s actual carbon footprint. Exhibiting at the event will be Dutch start-ups active in the fields of AR, AI, quantum mechanics and quantum computing. ECONOMIC POLICY PLATFORM German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Portugal’s Prime Minister António Costa will jointly open Hannover Messe. This year, Portugal is the Partner Country of the world’s foremost industrial trade fair. Other political dignitaries, such as Frans Timmermans, Vice President of the European Commission, have also confirmed their attendance. In addition to the exhibits at the show, attendees can look forward to a first-rate supporting programme. The four conference stages cover topics like automation, cloud and infrastructure, F analytics and data management, digital platforms, robotics, IT security, artificial intelligence, renewable energies, green hydrogen, energy-efficient and CO2-neutral production, digital

energy management, the circular economy and much more. STRENGTHENING DUTCH-GERMAN PARTNERSHIP At the time of going to press, the Dutch contribution to the programmes has still only been ‘pencilled in’. The intention is to hold a dinner with the German partners at executive level on Sunday 29 May with the aim of fleshing out the details of the Dutch-German Innovation and Technology Pact signed previously. The theme will be the same as the theme of the pavilion: ‘Integrating industries for a smart sustainable future’. On Tuesday 31 May, the Dutch delegation wants to hold a ‘Europe Day’ featuring various activities to enhance industrial high-tech cooperation in Europe. Subjects covered will include: Smart Mobility, European Data Spaces, sustainability and Smart Industry, Industry 4.0. On Wednesday, the focus will be on strengthening regional partnerships.

BENEFITING FROM DIGITAL EXPERIENCE The complete programme will not only be available to visitors onsite, but will also stream simultaneously via the Hannover Messe website. Koppelaar: ‘Meeting people digitally doesn’t really work. So we are very pleased that the trade fair will be taking place physically again. But we have gained a great deal of digital experience over the past two years which we continue to benefit from. Provided they give

their permission, everyone who attends the trade fair will be digitally visible. Which means it is now very easy to see who is present and who it is important to get in touch with. And we offer a good match-making platform: even if you are unable to come to Hannover yourself, you can establish valuable contacts at the trade fair.’

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Special High-tech The Netherlands - April 2022



CLEAN EVENT 2022 CLEAN PRODUCTION ESSENTIAL FOR DUTCH HIGH-TECH Some products in high-tech industry only work if they are free from contamination. In order to achieve this, there is an explicit focus on surface cleanliness during the entire pathway from design to delivery. This is the theme of Clean Event 2022, organised by Mikrocentrum, which will be held on 17 May. What this involves and the role that Dutch industry plays in it is illustrated by the working method of Thermo Fisher Scientific, manufacturer of electron microscopes.

Impression of Clean Event 2020. Photo’s: Mikrocentrum

It is barely conceivable that a single particle that is not even visible to the naked eye could completely disrupt the functioning of a product. Yet this is the reality in equipment for applications in the medical world, aerospace, semicon, laboratories and automotive. Knowing what you are measuring Cees van Duijn is a specialist in the processes around cleaning components and products and says: ‘A surface is never clean. For high-tech products, it is

CLEAN EVENT 2022 All the disciplines that play a role in achieving and maintaining optimum surface cleanliness will come together at the Clean Event 2022, to be held in Veldhoven on 17 May. For the programme and tickets, please visit:


therefore important to clean the surfaces prior to the assembly process. The complexity of the required cleaning processes depends on the material to be cleaned and the type of contamination. Using different measuring methods, such as surface voltage measurement or residual gas analysis, different types of contamination can be revealed.’

100% ENTRY CONTROL A company that deals daily with components which need to be ultraclean is Thermo Fisher Scientific, designer and manufacturer of electron microscopes. Rients de Groot: ‘Electron microscopes use electrons instead of visible light to render very small elements visible right down to the atomic level. The internal vacuum in these instruments is extremely sensitive to contamination, both molecular and particle contamination. A particle that reaches the electron bundle will disrupt the imaging, while molecular contamination

can affect the specimen being investigated.’ In order to ensure optimum operation of its microscopes, the firm focuses on surface cleanliness all the way from the design stage, through the manufacturing processes and cleaning, to assembly, packaging and delivery to the customer. Ton van den Broek: ‘Since there is a vacuum inside an electron microscope, we need to choose materials at the design stage that do not emit gases in a vacuum environment. Because these processes impair the quality of the vacuum and therefore the reliable operation of the microscope.’ All components from suppliers are also subjected to 100% checks on arrival and then cleaned again. Only in this way can the company meet its own high cleanliness standards. Following the appropriate cleaning process, the components are dried and baked out in a high vacuum oven (diffusion cleaning). This ‘draws out’ any remaining contamination from the pores. Finally, the components are enveloped in the inert gas nitrogen

in order to prevent chemical processes taking place on the surface that could contaminate the parts. Rients de Groot: ‘The same level of care is then observed in the assembly of all the components – for example, by starting assembly within 24 hours – and finally in packing and transport to the customer.’ LEADING THE WAY IN CLEANLINESS Cees van Duijn concludes: ‘There are various reasons why Dutch industry leads the way in ‘cleanliness’. For example, there are many firms specialising in this field in the Eindhoven area; primarily suppliers developing high-tech machines or devices that operate under a high vacuum. Companies like Thermo Fisher Scientific work with extremely high levels of cleanliness, while ASML has a very extensive supply chain. Finally, in the Netherlands we have VCCN: the Netherlands Association for Contamination Control. Their activities include developing ISO standards which are applied worldwide. As a country, we can only do that because we are taken seriously by the rest of the world in this field. Which is a good thing, because accurate equipment and hence the need for surface cleanliness will only become more important.’

The event connects the industrial cleanliness value chain.

Special High-tech The Netherlands - April 2022




‘WE WILL REALLY HAVE TO FIGHT TO STRENGTHEN OUR POSITION’ Following the US, the EU has now also proposed a Chips Act. The aim is to bring a bigger slice of the crucial semicon pie to the continent. In Europe, the billions of euros in subsidies will end up with a limited number of companies and institutes in just a few countries. Naturally the Netherlands is one of them, given its strong equipment sector led by ASML. But it is important that the focus is on the complete value chain, including the chip fabs. ‘Europe will really have to fight to strengthen its position, by going back to doing more itself.’

Semicon markets by region in billions of dollars (Gartner, ASML, April 2021)



espite the war in the Ukraine and the resulting global political tensions demanding all of his attention, President Joe Biden did manage to attend a meeting with the leaders of the US semiconductor industry in mid-March. Which demonstrates the enormous importance the country attaches to strengthening this sector, ‘of fundamental importance for the US economy and for a range of production sectors in the US’. On the agenda was the CHIPS for America Act, a piece of legislation that aims to strengthen the semiconductor industry. In June of last year, the Senate released $39 billion for building chip fabs and $11.2 billion for R&D activities around semiconductors. The participants at the semicon summit wanted to


know when the relevant subsidies, tax breaks and research funding would be available.

EU CHIPS ACT The realisation has also dawned on politicians in Europe that a substantial slice of the semiconductor industry needs to be assured within the EU as quickly as possible. Whereas the Americans complain about the fact that semiconductor production capacity in the US has fallen from 37% in 1990 to 12% today, the European share of the semicon global market has fallen further, from 20% in 1990 to 8% now. The European Semiconductor Industry Association, by the way, keeps it at 9.4% now, barely less than the 10.1% share that the EU had 1995, according to ESIA. Remains that it is a meager share. So the EU has drafted its own Chips Act, which it launched in February, to restore that share to 20% by 2030. With a

Special High-tech The Netherlands - April 2022

raft of measures, the European act aims to free up €43 billion in public and private funding in order to enhance the ‘technological leader-ship’ of the European semicon sector and prevent future shortages of chips.

A TENTH OF WHAT IS NEEDED As far as Bram Nauta is concerned, that €43 billion, spread over 10 years, is only a tenth of what is needed in order to get market share back up to 20%. Because over that period, the market will double. And €43 billion is roughly the amount China spends on its semiconductor sector annually. ‘So at best, the extra money will be enough to keep the share at the current 8%.’ But the professor of IC Design at Twente University says he does understand that pumping €430 billion of tax money into a sector that has been making big profits for many years is not realistic. ‘So those billions of euros of public money need to be used primarily for tomorrow’s semicon. That means training enough people – especially in IC design, because there is a real shortage of specialists in that field – and research into new IC technology. The money needs to be spent in such a way that it boosts the profits of companies in the sector, which they then reinvest in their activities in Europe. That way, you could achieve a lot.’

GERMANY The Chips Act aims to build on the existing world-class European semicon sector, made up of R&D organisations and networks, chip fabrication plants, equipment manufacturers and specialist suppliers. The European semiconductor ecosystem is concentrated in a limited number of countries. Leuven in Belgium is home to IMEC, generally regarded as the most important research institute for this sector, alongside the Laboratory of Electronics and Information Technology (LETI) in France and the Fraunhofer Institute in Germany. Infineon and Robert Bosch have major chip manufacturing facilities in

Dresden in Germany, while an important equipment manufacturer is Sentech Instruments in Berlin. Additionally, major suppliers of the equipment manufacturers, such as Trumpf and Carl Zeiss SMT, are located in southern Germany.

GROWING FOOTPRINT French-Italian chip manufacturer STMicroelectronics is headquartered on the other side of the border, in Switzerland. An important British semicon company is ARM, which focuses on the design and development of computer processors, memory controllers, graphic processors and storage devices. Austria is home to front-end equipment manufacturer IMS Nanofabrication and ams OSRAM, manufacturer of a range of sensors for sectors including automotive and medtech. Ams also has a major facility in Italy. Italy is also home to LPE, which produces components for power electronics applications. This semicon footprint is growing. Infineon has invested €1.6 billion in a new plant in Austria. Bosch is investing a quarter of a billion in a new wafer fab in Germany. The investment announced by Intel in mid-March takes things to the next level: up to €80 billion in various EU countries, throughout the semiconductor value chain, including an advanced mega factory for semiconductors in Germany and a new R&D and design hub in France.

NETHERLANDS: COMPLETE VALUE CHAIN And then of course there is the Netherlands. The Netherlands is regarded as being one of only a few countries in the world, along with the likes of the U.S. and Japan, to have a relatively complete semiconductor industry value chain within its borders. This includes applied research, chip design, chip architecture, the production of chips, the equipment required to make them, plus system integration and applications. With regard to chip design and architecture, the Netherlands is home to several innovative businesses, including the multinational semiconductor manufacturer NXP Semiconductors. Headquartered in Eindhoven, the company generated more than $11 billion (2021) in the automotive and the industrial and internet of things (IoT) applications market. The company is also strong in the communication infrastructure and mobile markets.

ASML AND SUPPLY BASE The Netherlands is also home to several companies that provide equipment to the semiconductor manufacturing industry, including ASML in Eindhoven, generally acknowledged to be Europe’s most important semiconductor company. It builds the EUV chip machine which TSMC and Samsung use to manufacture the most advanced chips

SEMICON HUB ISRAEL: JUST OUTSIDE EUROPE, BUT MUCH CLOSER TO THE US Taking a step back and looking at the European semicon hubs, you notice that a lot of activity in chip and chip equipment production is also concentrated just outside the continent, in Israel – with strong connections with firms in the US in particular, but far fewer with those in the European hubs. For instance, Intel has a big foundry in the south of the country. It is situated there, says Kobi Kurtz, director of Kurtz Marketing & Management, due to the reliability and high level of education of staff, but also because of wage costs. In that part of the country, they are substantially lower than in Tel Aviv, 50 km to the north. Another reason why Intel is Kobi Kurtz, director of Kurtz Marketing & Management. Photo: KMM located there is because it also has a site in the north, close to Haifa and the technical renowned Weizmann Institute of Science. In 2019, university Technion, that specialises in designing the American semicon company KLA acquired chips and chip architecture. ‘This is where the Orbotech, which is based to the south of Tel Aviv origins of Intel’s presence in Israel lie’, explains and specialises in equipment for inspecting PCBs Kurtz. ‘The story goes that Dov Frohman, born in and flat panel displays, says Kurtz. Amsterdam by the way, personally brought Intel The examples cited by Kurtz reveal intensive to Israel for part of its chip production. Frohman is collaboration with the American semicon industry. the inventor of EPROM (erasable programmable But he points out that there is also some read only memory – ed.). This technology was collaboration with the European chip industry. the precursor to flash memory and was of huge For instance, Orbotech has been working with commercial value to Intel. Which is why the Holst Centre for years. ItoM (an Eindhoven agency Americans felt it was fair to locate some of their specialising in designing RF CMOS transceivers production activities in Israel.’ Intel’s presence in for IoT applications) has ‘a lot of customers in Israel’. Israel has recently grown further with the acquisition In order to encourage new partnerships, Kurtz and – for $45.4 billion – of Tower Semiconductors, his agency (based in Rotterdam and with a rich a fab specialising in the production of chips for network in Israel) organises annual visits to Israel specific applications, likewise located in the north for entrepreneurs in partnership with the BOM of the country. development company. One of those trips took Also situated in Israel are equipment developers place in the second half of March, with participants and constructors, at the front-end of the semicon including Smart Photonics, Prodrive, Louwers chain. An important name is Applied Materials, Hanique and ItoM. ‘All firms which are interested which has its biggest R&D site outside of the US in the Israeli semicon market. Previous trips have in Israel and develops and builds metrology and generated a lot of business for the participants.’ inspection equipment there. Another company in this semicon segment is Nova Instruments, based just to the south-east of Tel Aviv, close to the

in Asia. In addition, Besi Semiconductors is headquartered in Duiven and ASM International in Almere – two other equipment manufacturers whose turnover runs to billions of euros. Trumpf and Carl Zeiss are part of ASML’s supply base, as are a large number of Dutch firms, including VDL ETG, NTS and Prodrive as first-line suppliers and Hittech, BKL, ERIKS and VHE as second-line suppliers – all firms that meet the highest global standards in terms of accuracy and cleanliness.

‘DOING MORE OURSELVES’ Given all the strengths already present in Europe, Bram Nauta believes the opportunities lie in manufacturing chips for sensors and actuators for automotive and the

Internet of Things and RF chips for wireless communication. In addition, Europe will need to invest heavily in ‘the big system of CMOS chips with a lot of processing power and embedded memory, for example’. ‘We currently don’t make them in Europe at all. That market is primarily in the hands of US companies like AMD, Intel and Qualcomm who manufacture them in their Asian factories. Europe needs to start doing the production of that type of IC itself. We could then integrate RF chips and the sensor electronics in them to produce complete CMOS modules. Because suppose the Americans decided to start producing and integrating their RF chips and sensors TO BE CONTINUED ON PAGE 13

Special High-tech The Netherlands - April 2022


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themselves, we would then lose that market too. We will really have to fight to strengthen our position, by going back to doing more ourselves again.’

FABS ARE MORE CRUCIAL He believes that strengthening the semicon equipment segment alone is not enough – the fabs are more crucial. ‘With ASML, ASMI and Besi, this segment is particularly well represented in the Netherlands. But that doesn’t make Europe any less dependent on the chip manufacturers in Asia. China is going to invade Taiwan. It’s going to happen – sooner or later, an invasion is coming. China is keeping quiet about Russia so that in future Russia will keep quiet about China. In that scenario, if Europe imposes sanctions, China could withhold TSMC’s chips from us. What will we do then – go back to pen and paper? Yes, Asia is currently dependent on the equipment manufacturers here, but China is investing heavily in its own wafer stepper. In ten years’ time, they’ll have their own ASML.’

IPCEI Because the European Chips Act is based on public-private partnership, in which both government and business invest money, it makes sense that much of that money will go to the big players in these European hubs.

together knowledge, partners and money around pre-competitive themes in micro-electronics without falling foul of rules on state support and competition. An IPCEI is an integrated European project consisting of multiple national projects set up by companies and/or research institutes in various EU member countries that complement one another, have synergy and demonstrably contribute to the EU’s goals. An IPCEI project must have a significant impact on the EU’s competitive position, on sustainable growth, on tackling societal challenges or on value creation throughout the Union.


Bram Nauta believes that chip fabs are crucial for Europe because: ‘China is keeping quiet about Russia so that in future Russia will keep quiet about

China. If Europe imposes sanctions, China could withhold TSMC’s chips from The specific goal of IPCEI us. What will we do then – go back to pen and paper?’ Photo: UT Microelectronics 2 is to strengthen the European electronics industry by means of an advanced The Hague and Brussels who evaluate the design ecosystem, innovation in the value proposals for ‘technical excellence’, relevance chain via research and development, for the market and ‘proportionality of the expansion of European manufacturing requested funding’. capacity and initial industrial applications for high-value semiconductors and related ‘NO DOUBT NXP AND ASML’ technologies. The Dutch government has Bram Nauta and his group did not submit an provisionally earmarked €218.5 million as a IPCEI ME2 proposal. ‘I didn’t know anything about it. I imagine it was deliberately starting budget for projects submitted for kept quiet. Which national projects will be IPCEI ME2 by Dutch proposed in Brussels? No doubt they will industry and research be the proposals from the two biggest institutes. Over the past semiconductor companies in the Netherlands: months, the Ministry of NXP and ASML. I don’t have a problem with Economic Affairs and that. I’m sure a lot of the money will find its Climate Policy has way to our projects, into research and training selected a small number people. In order to keep up, the Dutch of the submitted semicon sector needs four times the number proposals and sent them of specialists it currently has. We train them to Brussels for a further here.’ selection round over the coming months, when the final choice will be made. Which national proposals have been forwarded and why has not been made public. At the time of going to press, Link was not able to establish the backgrounds of those in


And thanks to the Important Project of Common European Interest (IPCEI) on Microelectronics and Communication Technologies scheme, it is possible to bring

• • • •

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Special High-tech The Netherlands - April 2022





The shift from selling products to service subscriptions is an important pillar in the servitization business model. Even for large companies like Philips and Thermo Fisher Scientific, the required digital transformation is still a major challenge. This emerged from their presentations during the ‘Servitization: Design for Service’ workshop at the High Tech Campus Eindhoven in late February. Organising the event was the European Supply Chain Forum of Eindhoven University of Technology in partnership with the Servitization Platform of Link Magazine. ‘This is not so much about operational excellence but about customer value.’

customer smart solutions, for example for their performance improvement or predictive maintenance. ‘The trick is to combine human and artificial intelligence in order to take the best decisions.’ Boosten cites the example of an integrated solution in the field of imageguided intervention. ‘Philips supplies the system along with the required catheters and the software for navigation during the intervention plus cathlab managed services; in this way, we are able to help the hospital manage their lab. XaaS, ‘anything as a service’, is the underlying delivery model for this strategy.’


At Thermo Fisher Scientific, the initial drive for servitization was making the lives of the field service engineers easier with smart tooling. Photo: Thermo Fisher Scientific



hese days, Design for Service also falls under the term DfX (Design for X, in which X stands for manufacturing, assembly, etc.). So says Néomie Raassens of the European Supply Chain Forum when introducing the workshop. In this context, she says, service is primarily understood to mean the product plus the services that can be provided around it. ‘Most Design for Service methods are still mainly product-centred and not primarily focused on the user. That is to say, the user requirements are not included in the design from the start.’ For that reason, this afternoon the focus is on designing/redesigning products with an eye to service delivery,


providing services focused on the user, explains Raassens.

INTEGRATED SOLUTIONS The first speaker is Marcel Boosten, lead architect for Philips Services, responsible for Design for Serviceability at Philips. ‘Our task is to help the business units with the in-design of serviceability in their products. The strategy of Philips as a healthcare company is to transform from a productbased business to a supplier of services and solutions. We supply more and more integrated solutions, combinations of products and services.’ Those services are usually cloud-based, they often work remotely and they make use of big data and artificial intelligence (AI) in order to offer the

Special High-tech The Netherlands - April 2022

By way of illustration, Boosten compares the ‘old’ business model to a XaaS model from the customer perspective. Traditionally, the customer buys a system, for example a complex, expensive MRI or CT scanner, and uses it until end-of-life. ‘The customer draws up the requirements beforehand and then has to make the right procurement choice based on them. This comes with high capital costs and therefore a high entry threshold. The capabilities of the purchased solution are constant over its lifecycle and so, therefore, is the value the customer derives from its use. Added value can come from upgrades. These are often options that the customer decides not to buy initially, but at a later date. Typically, these options already exist at the time of sale. In the ‘old’ business model, the user is responsible for realising that value.’ On the other hand, in XaaS the customer does not have to make an expensive purchase but instead takes out a subscription to a service, so the entry threshold is low. The medical system, which remains the property of the supplier – Philips – functions as the platform for supplying the service. At the end of the subscription, Philips takes the system back in order to refurbish it (completely or as individual components) for a subsequent subscription round with the next customer. Payment for the service may be periodic or based on usage or even results (outcome). ‘We continue to innovate the service with new options’, explains Boosten. ‘In the same way

that the apps on your smartphone regularly receive updates. That’s the key to this model. Customers expect continuous improvement and are prepared to pay for the resulting increase in value over time. The supplier remains responsible for delivering that value – if they don’t, the customer will not extend their subscription.’

SUBSCRIBING TO A ROADMAP Essentially, in a XaaS model customers are subscribing to an innovation roadmap, summarises Boosten. But do customers know what that roadmap is, asks one of the participants in the workshop. ‘Otherwise, they won’t know what they’re paying for.’ No, customers don’t know the innovation roadmap, answers Boosten. ‘We don’t make promises about which innovations we will be supplying in five years’ time. We do promise that we will supply innovations and if we don’t, of course customers can cancel their subscriptions. I expect that customers will above all look at our track record, the innovation we have delivered in recent years, and that they will base their faith in us on that. They are subscribing to our speed of innovation. In the case of an outcome-based service contract, we do make concrete promises, for example a, say, 30% improvement in efficiency over three years. Only if we deliver on that does the customer

Cables and connectors Embedded computing Fibre optics Frequency control

SUPPLY CHAIN FORUM AND SERVITIZATION PLATFORM The ‘Servitization: Design for Service’ workshop at the High Tech Campus Eindhoven was organised by the European Supply Chain Forum (ESCF) of Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e) in partnership with Link Magazine’s Servitization Platform. Philips hosted the event and also gave one of the two presentations: ‘Designing for XaaS’. The other presentation was delivered by Thermo Fisher Scientific, Materials and Structural Analysis division (formerly FEI): ‘Design for Digital Services’. TU/e’s European Supply Chain Forum, which was created over 25 years ago, offers international companies an interactive platform and facilitates knowledge sharing, joint projects and research, with an emphasis on talent development and lifelong learning. One of the topical themes is servitization: the transition from selling products to supplying and maintaining product-service systems (service solutions). In 2020, the ESCF incorporated the Servitization Platform, which had been established by Link Magazine in 2017. Participating in the platform are

pay more. Obviously, that means we are taking on a lot of risk as a company.’

ASML, Lely, Moba, VMI, Tembo Group, Spirotech, Vekoma, Group Schneider, Voortman Steel Group, Thermo Fisher Scientific and TU/e. The platform’s goal is to create broad awareness about the potential of servitization as an ‘enabler’ for continuity and profitable growth, with the pillars of (i) predictive maintenance, (ii) data-driven business models, and (iii) circular economy. The open platform offers market leaders the opportunity to share knowledge and work out concrete action plans. The coordination of the platform is in the hands of ESCF research director servitization Néomie Raassens (senior lecturer in servitization & innovation sourcing at TU/e) and network orchestrator John van Ginkel (publisher of Link Magazine).

• (information about platform) • • • •


from a one-off purchase at the start to recurring revenue spread out across the subscription period. That means Philips has to foot the initial capital costs in one go,

Speaking of risk, an interesting aspect of the model is that for Philips, its revenue shifts


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whereas the future income flow is not guaranteed. A big OEM like Philips has the financial clout to do that, but smaller medical technology firms have problems with this ‘swallow the fish’ model, as Eric Tigchelaar, head of Strategy and Business Development Services and Solutions at Philips, describes it. ‘If you switch to a service model, it means you have a big drop in turnover at the start. But you can more than earn it back. Research among listed companies has shown that if you implement this model successfully, your market value rises by 30% to 40%.’ The model has been catching on in recent years, reports Boosten. ‘Many hospitals are still buying machines, but more and more of them are now asking for solutions. They don’t want to connect everything up and manage it themselves any more. They recognise the value of optimising the total workflow based on an XaaS model.’

DEVOPS The XaaS model revolves around maximising the value that a service represents to the customer. That means Philips needs to know how the customer works and understand

Boosten agrees with this ‘neat terminology’. Nijssen: ‘The core is continuous monitoring and learning which current and new value is important for the customer in their business processes and which has still to be realised.’ The (increasing) value is achieved by means of software-based services, so the development focus at Philips is on the software, in the familiar Marcel Boosten, lead architect cycle of DevOps (Development – for Philips Services: ‘In a XaaS Operations): an endless round model, customers are subscribing to an innovation roadmap.’ of improvements consisting of Photos, unless otherwise design, testing, operation and stated: Vincent Knoops feedback, with releases coming in quick succession. This pertains to the application software. By contrast, the critical parts of the software (critical for business supplying diagnoses as a service? ‘Radiology continuity, embedded control, real-time is not about images but about interpreting control and communication, and safety) images’, says Boosten. ‘So, somewhere there and the hardware must remain outside this needs to be a clinical team that interprets rapid cycle, because in these cases upgrades the images and it doesn’t have to be in the need to be thoroughly tested and, certainly hospital itself.’ But the team won’t be at for hardware, development takes much Philips, adds Tigchelaar. ‘There is a big longer. ‘The hardware needs to be futuredifference between evaluating technical proof, that is to quality and the clinical interpretation of an say it has to last image. Philips has the technical skills, but not for years before the diagnostic skills. That calls for a different requiring kind of expertise and different arrangements a major update.’ on liability. For example, we can use AI to A good example display particular highlights in an image and is expanding the sell that as a service, or make correlations user interface between data, in order to simplify decisionto provide new making. We supply clinical equipment but functionality. not clinical decision-making.’ Adding buttons to hardware is tricky DATA TO INFORMATION and expensive, whereas adding buttons to a At Thermo Fisher Scientific, which develops future-proof touchscreen is very simple. and builds electron microscopes in Eindhoven, they also stay away from the images, in this case those captured by CLINICAL INTERPRETATION customers using their instruments. ‘These Finally, an interesting question relating to are IP-sensitive data; they are the property XaaS is whether ‘anything’ really does mean of the customer’, explains Joris ten Thije, ‘anything’. Because ultimately a hospital programme manager Service Innovation. wants a diagnosis – so, is Philips going to start ‘For service purposes we only use the data from the instrument itself. Fortunately, we had defined the data models early on: this data is created during the customer’s process, this data is generated by our sensors in the device.’ On this point, the positions of Philips and Thermo Fisher Scientific are the same. However, their journeys to servitization have been somewhat different, says Ten Thije. ‘In our case, it initially arose from the need to support the service organisation with information. It was simply a case of making the lives of the field service engineers easier with smart tooling. Five or six years ago we started using data to identify problems more quickly. Our electron microscopes are equipped with many different sensors, but our service engineers haven’t got the time nor

‘CUSTOMERS EXPECT CONTINUOUS IMPROVEMENT AND ARE PREPARED TO PAY FOR THE RESULTING INCREASE IN VALUE OVER TIME’ what is of value to the customer (intimacy), provide the customer with valuable insights derived from the data gathered and finally make real improvements to its service that have value to the customer. ‘Really, you can summarise those three ‘i’s’ as customer value learning’, responds Ed Nijssen, TU/e professor of technology marketing.


Special High-tech The Netherlands - April 2022

the possibilities to perform extensive data analyses. So, we started developing algorithms that turn the raw data into comprehensible, directly interpretable information or generate an alert if a particular value falls outside preset limits. We call this Data to information, and what it yields is a kind of status and health indicator for our devices.’

changer and radically changed Thermo Fischer’s way of thinking, TU/e professor Nijssen concludes. ‘At the same time, it became clear that the target market had to be better defined and the value proposition further refined.’



So, the original drive came from the service side: it was not so much about generating turnover but simply delivering operational service support: ‘fixing things quickly’. Ten Thije: ‘Then a – in my opinion – brilliant person from service marketing, who had a different mindset, presented the insight that the information you get from the data has great customer value and that you need to protect it. If you give the information away to your customers, that value is lost forever. We had to start earning revenue from that data, not so much focused on operational excellence but on customer added value services. That did lead to challenges with our service organisation; the technology that could help with effective service delivery was not widely used. We started selling it by packaging it as a service in a service contract, including 24/7 monitoring of the systems and access to our Connected Care Portal for the customer.’ Viewing the role of data and service through a marketing lens was a game

It is not of interest to all customers though, Ten Thije quickly adds. ‘Universities, for example, buy our systems for research, with one-off funding. They don’t always have money for service contracts and for them maximum uptime usually isn’t the most important thing either. But it is for customers who use our electron microscopes in a production environment. For example in semicon, where the systems operate 24/7, so reliability is very important. In the life sciences, customers work with precious samples, so when an image is being taken of one of those samples, our device has to work; customers are prepared to pay if it means avoiding losing a sample. Then there are customers who sell equipment time to end-users; they need the usage data from our systems to be able to invoice their customers. All in all, we are only talking about a small

Joris ten Thije, programme manager Service Innovation at Thermo Fisher Scientific: ‘The value lies in the algorithms we have developed, not in the raw data.’

part of our customer base. Within this highest value segment, we are growing with our digital services. We are now looking at how we should shape digital services for the other segments. That will require a much higher degree of automation.’

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online connections with all its systems in the field. ‘We only do that for customers with new service contracts. We don’t ask customers without contracts for access just so we can ‘stockpile’ data. Besides, it is often difficult to get permission from the customer’s IT department for online access. If the customer understands the value of data and takes out a service contract in order to utilise that value, they will want to convince their IT department to give us access to the data themselves.’ The participants in the workshop are surprised that operational excellence is not the primary focus. ‘Of course, operational excellence is of value to the customer’, responds Ten Thije, ‘but they do need to be prepared to pay for it. Proactive service is also a cost item, due to the effort and infrastructure we have to deliver. For customers, the value of our service lies in their uptime. The focus is therefore not on the extent of our internal costs but on the biggest downtime problems of the customer. If we solve those, operational excellence is a natural spin-off. If we can prevent sufficient incidences of a particular problem with a new service, we are going to develop it. If it’s less than that, it won’t have value for the customer because the new service will still fail to pick up too many incidents.’

Viewing the role of data and service through a marketing lens can be a game changer, according to TU/e professor of technology marketing Ed Nijssen (front row, in the middle).

there is a middle group of users. If there is a problem, they want to look at the data in a bit more depth. To this end, we have adapted our service cockpit, which provides special data views geared towards the specific problem in context with other signals. Our customers appreciate that.’

VISIBILITY Thermo Fisher Scientific employs its databased value-added services for two purposes. Proactive support with the alerting & service cockpit offers its own field service engineers and customers the right tooling. This enables them to make a diagnosis more quickly,

understand presentation in our Connected Care Portal.’

DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION JOURNEY So, for Thermo Fisher Scientific, the digital transformation did not start with R&D or product business units but in the service organisation. ‘Back then we didn’t yet do Design for Digital Services and were not in a position to focus on service requirements in the design phase, so we initially had to use the installed base and the data we could obtain from it with existing sensors. Gradually we were able to set up a team of developers within the service organisation. Having

ALLOW THIRD PARTIES Coming back to the issue of access to the data, Tigchelaar points to the US ‘Right to Repair Act’: machine manufacturers are required to allow third parties to perform maintenance on their machines. As a result, those parties also have access to the data generated by the machine. ‘If you remove service intelligence from the machine and put it in the cloud, then third parties cannot use that intelligence.’ The raw data is owned by the customer and can therefore also be made available to third parties, confirms Ten Thije. ‘But the value lies in the algorithms we have developed, not in the raw data.’ Those algorithms are designed to support the field service engineers. ‘Raw data is only of interest to a limited group, data scientists and R&D in particular. And then

The ‘Servitization: Design for Service’ workshop was held in The Strip at the High Tech Campus Eindhoven.

‘OF COURSE, OPERATIONAL EXCELLENCE IS OF VALUE TO THE CUSTOMER, BUT THEY DO NEED TO BE PREPARED TO PAY FOR IT’ solve problems faster and sometimes take corrective measures before a problem occurs, for example with preventive maintenance that shifts from time-based to condition-based. If Thermo Fisher Scientific resolves a problem with the help of its tooling, it always opens a service call towards the customer. ‘The customer needs to be aware that we are monitoring their systems and resolving problems. That’s what they are paying for, but if they don’t see it happening, they won’t understand its value.’ Secondly, Thermo Fisher Scientific offers customer insights: for example, information about their usage of their own systems. ‘Often, they don’t know and it comes as a surprise to them. The information comes from the easy-to-

started with two, we now have fifty people working on service innovation. The fact that the initiative came from the service organisation is now an advantage in terms of internal support. They understand how it works and are able to configure the processes accordingly.’ The same goes for the marketing organisation, which has had to gear its sales process to selling services.

URGENCY Product Development within Thermo Fisher Scientific now has more understanding of customer needs and the shift for delivering value from hardware to software, including AI. ‘R&D now also understands the value of logging data for their own development processes’, concludes Ten Thije. ‘To this end, standardisation of data logging is crucial. It has taken time for the importance of that to permeate the minds of a large group of software engineers within R&D. Logging provides them with insights they can use when developing new products. The acceptance of data logging has improved greatly.’ That urgency for supplying digital services has now filtered through to most parts of Thermo Fisher Scientific.

Special High-tech The Netherlands - April 2022




‘SKILLS FOR PRODUCTION OF MICROLED, POWER AND MIXED-SIGNAL CHIPS ARE PRESENT HERE’ Effective coordination of technology and markets would allow the Dutch high-tech industry to achieve more. As far as semicon man Joep Stokkermans is concerned, there is room for the chain to respond more effectively to market trends in the semiconductor industry. For chip manufacturer Nexperia in particular, completing the ecosystem is necessary for innovating, developing and applying semiconductor back-end-technology and equipment – because there is a great deal of money to be made from that technology and in order to improve the balance of power with Asia and the US. ‘In order to keep pace, we need to stay at the forefront of all the knowledge-intensive process steps. Otherwise sooner or later we will fall behind.’

is concrete and verifiable. Where demand aligns with Dutch core competencies, Dutch industry needs to be ready to respond. A semiconductor product needs a front-end process and a back-end process. For our type of chips, the opportunity for the Netherlands lies in new back-and process technology and equipment. This will allow us to offer a unique value chain within Europe. There is a great opportunity for industry, research organisations and universities to define our priorities together.’

MORE FOCUSED CHOICES Joep Stokkermans asserts that ‘in today’s information age, it is more possible than ever to establish an approach to industrial markets and a good industrial strategy for the Netherlands that enjoys broad support’. ‘Based on the figures about emerging end markets, the chain can reach agreement on the core competencies that will have the greatest economic impact, resulting in much more focused choices. That would mean different choices for the semi-conductor industry’, says Stokkermans, who is also innovation director of Nexperia subsidiary ITEC, to which it has entrusted its back-end technology activities. Nexperia and ITEC want to Innovation manager Joep Stokkermans: ‘There is a great opportunity for industry, research organisations and universities to define our priorities together.’ Photo’s: Gerard Verschooten focus on a limited number of niches underlying which, he believes, are fast-growing markets worth billions: microLEDs for the he main way in which the industry He sees opportunities driven by the energy display market, power chips for automotive innovates is by fostering use-inspired transition and the European Chip Act. This and RFID chips for retail and logistics. basic research: useable technology means that Nexperia, which ships more than for which a fundamental research 100 billion products annually (10% of the ‘Outside the Netherlands, significant question still to be answered, explains global total of semiconductor products), resources are being put into these markets. innovation manager Joep Stokkermans. needs to fix its gaze outwards. ‘We are looking We see competitors and foreign governments ‘This type of research question needs to be for new semiconductor materials and ultrafast investing tens of millions in takeovers and answered in the next five years in order to assembly and testing equipment that will acquisitions in order to be able to compete. meet the rapidly growing global demand for significantly contribute to the transition The needs of those markets align perfectly high capacity power chips. At Nexperia we to electric vehicles and energy efficient with ITEC’s core competency: developing and are throwing our weight behind that effort, infrastructure for data centres. Market building equipment for the high-volume, but we can’t do it alone.’ demand within a time horizon of 5 to 7 years low-cost placement of ultra small chips.’

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Special High-tech The Netherlands - April 2022

CLOSE TO THE END PRODUCT ‘But in order to capture those markets ahead of the worldwide competition, Dutch hightech needs to differentiate itself – on the one hand through innovative technology, on the other through a good ‘alignment’ with business partners who can turn the three types of chips into cost-efficient end products. What is needed is a strategic fit between these firms, who by working together can achieve a much stronger competitive position than each one could individually. The closer this chain is to an end product, the greater the economic impact. Ideally, that consumer product or service will be supplied by a Dutch or European company, for example a car manufacturer or parcel service.’ According to Stokkermans, this is the scenario that would allow for optimisation of earnings. ‘For example, we are developing technology with the Dutch research institutes Delft University of Technology, TNO (the Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research) and CITC (Chip Integration Technology Center) which we integrate into our equipment. This enables customers to make unique products using our equipment and processes, in the most economical and energy-efficient way’, he claims. ITEC may have been spun off into a separate limited company in the middle of last year, but it remains part of Nexperia. ‘Within

Nexperia, we are vertically integrated: the ITEC roadmap is closely aligned with Nexperia’s. So working in a single value chain comes very naturally to us.’

PACKAGING Nexperia supplies its chips primarily to the automotive industry, complementing the far more complex ICs produced by NXP, which is located right next to the Novio Tech Campus building in Nijmegen that houses Nexperia and ITEC. The products made by Nexperia and NXP end up in the same mobile phones and modules for electric/conventional cars, notes Stokkermans. Before they can be placed on a PCB, chips and ICs need to be provided with technology to connect them to their electronic environment. This packaging is part of the back-end process referred to above. So for example, electric vehicles need semiconductors made from different materials which are better able to withstand high temperatures. ‘That calls for investment. Since 70% of the cost of most Nexperia products comes from the back-end and that is where we differentiate ourselves, it is also important to stimulate R&D in this area in order to remain competitive in the global market.’ The same applies to manufacturing technology and infrastructure supplied by ITEC, says Stokkermans.

WITH PARTNERS AND SUBSIDIES These days, ITEC also supplies to third parties, but until it was given a more autonomous position vis-à-vis Nexperia, ITEC devised and built its assembly, testing and inspection machines exclusively for a place on the production lines in Nexperia’s three back-end factories in Asia. Nexperia’s front-end factories are in Europe. From there, the wafers with the chips on them are flown to China and Malaysia. There is a historic reason for that division. At one time, the back-end processes were labour-intensive, so they were transferred to the low-wage countries. These days, the degree of automation is also high in the back-end, but the Asian countries have since become very proficient in this area and are loath to give up those activities and the money to be made from them. ‘So we need to come up with a better technology that can package more quickly in order to reduce the cost price of the chip. The semiconductor world has become far more complex and moves more quickly. Every innovation in products also comes with opportunities to innovate processes. We want to continue to lead the way in this area and we can only do so with the right partners and with appropriate government subsidies.’ TO BE CONTINUED ON PAGE 23

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INCREASING SCALE Precisely in order to take that step forward in innovation, ITEC has been made a separate business entity within Nexperia. Until now, it would build between twenty and thirty units of the various types of assembly and testing equipment per year. ‘As a separate business, ITEC can now start also serving Nexperia’s subcontractors, companies like ASE and UTL. But in this form, ITEC can also act in markets adjacent to Nexperia, such as those for RFID and LED displays. A benchmark study has revealed that ITEC’s systems are more reliable and faster and therefore have a cost of ownership which is 20 to 50% lower than those of the competition. From this, the Nexperia management concluded that there is a market for ITEC as a separate entity in which it can sell five times as many systems. That increased scale will generate the development finance needed to further innovate the complex packaging technology and make it even more competitive.’

COMPLETE ECOSYSTEM But in Stokkermans’ view, something else is also needed, which he describes with the word ‘alignment’. ‘It would be great if we could put together a complete semiconductor chain in the Netherlands that could supply the manufacturers of microLED displays, battery

configured in terms of the back-end in order to increase the quality of the chips and reduce the cost price. ‘Because unlike in semiconductors for high-end ICs for smartphones and the like, 70% of the cost price of monofunctional chips is in the back-end. Fully digitised, the production of these three semicon niches – microLEDs, power and mixed-signal chips – in the Netherlands and Europe would be able to compete effectively with Asia and the US’, believes Stokkermans.

DESKTOP MODEL In the production facility on the ground floor of the Novio Tech Campus, bulky chip assembly machines are constructed. These ITEC machines can be used to assemble microLEDs for displays, for example. ‘But in a large display factory you couldn’t manufacture more than ten screens per day (each containing 24 million microLEDs! – ed.) with them. The whole world of back-end semiconductors is working hard to make this process 20 to 40 times more efficient. This machine’, gestures Stokkermans, ‘needs to be – disruptively – innovated further to create a small desktop model containing barely any mechanics. The only thing moving inside it would be the chip. You could then replace this one machine with twenty faster desktop models and you would achieve that required level of efficiency, at the right price. At which point, you could resume display production here in the Netherlands or elsewhere in


management systems and RFID tags with completely packaged power and mixed-signal chips. An ecosystem containing all the parties that would require. So you would get a good interaction between the knowledge developers at the universities and other research institutes such as TNO, CITC, the chip developers and manufacturers like Nexperia, plus the firms like ITEC that build the equipment. That interaction between practice in the factory and science is indispensable in order to achieve better products and better processes to manufacture them. Many of our eastern neighbours never stepped away from that model and it is now serving them well.’

AUTONOMOUS FACTORIES Such improved processes would take place in ‘Industry 4.0 factories’, all autonomously monitored and adjusted as necessary and capable of producing 10,000 wafers per day, each containing half a million chips. The processes would need to be very differently

Europe. The required skills and knowledge are available in our ecosystem. But it requires initial investment and a different approach and mindset throughout the value chain than we are used to. Because in the Netherlands, every company is focused on its own market.’

PILOT FACTORY The back-end technology for the production of smart (clothing) tags and power chips also needs to be completely reconfigured if the ‘market worth billions’ that Stokkermans envisages is to be captured. ‘But that will require a more tightly knit, aligned Dutch ecosystem bringing together all the packaging know-how, academic and applied. Which is why we set up the CITC in Nijmegen. Ideally, this will first result in a pilot factory in which innovative packaging technology can be thoroughly tested. After the pilot, the global players – companies like Nexperia – can design their production facilities and choose locations.’

CHIP ACT SUBSIDIES Stokkermans attests that building up an ecosystem across company boundaries is not possible without government support. Under the European Chip Act proposal, the EU has reserved €43 billion for the semiconductor industry, in order to make Europe far less dependent than is currently the case on the US and Asia for (geopolitically) crucial semiconductors. Not so much in order to start producing advanced ICs but so as to have something to barter with in order to restore the balance of power. The Dutch government has itself made available €218 million for IPCIE (Important Project of Common European Interest), and that sum may increase. There is also the National Growth Fund for the Next Generation High-Tech Equipment NGHT Semiconductors. ‘It is important to use the submitted proposals to set up the most complete possible new semicon chains in the Netherlands and Europe.’ What will the Netherlands focus on? Which chip will be produced by the new EU wafer factory and how will it be packaged in the back-end so that the Dutch economy derives maximum benefit from it? Above all, though, Stokkermans believes, building up that ecosystem calls for a new industrial policy. ‘Real innovation demands a different industrial policy, based on thinking in terms of industrial strategy, as shown by China and the US. In our national consensus culture, that is naturally something we will do together.’

• Nexperia was consulted closely on this article.

Special High-tech The Netherlands - April 2022




‘IN THE GAME OF ATTRACTING EMPLOYEES, YOUR OWN IDENTITY IS CRUCIAL’ Sioux Technologies was founded more than 25 years ago as a specialist in technical software. Electronics and mathematics were added later. It is now the largest independent technical system unit in the Benelux, with competencies such as mechatronics, optics, system engineering, prototyping and assembly. High-tech customers can contact them for anything, from concept to serial production. At the main location, this is now all happening on one campus with seven buildings in the north of Eindhoven. Blood groups are not important. ‘The point is that technicians build very beautiful things together.’ says Giesen. When the lockdown was over, he immediately got a disc jockey in.



t’s about twelve o’clock. A whole procession of employees walks to Sioux Labs, the central meeting place on the Sioux site. Above the door, twinkling lights that spell ‘Entrance’. The set-up is deliberately casual and pleasant, says Leon Giesen, who is responsible for the day-to-day management of the European Sioux branches, together with founder Erik van Rijswijk. Co-founder Hans Duisters focuses entirely on the Asian market. ‘Club House’ Sioux Labs is where people meet and discuss each other, and where customers, students, schoolchildren and many more external parties gather for various meetings. Where you find pizza boxes lying around or the remnants of a barbecue, and where ‘bitterballen’ and beer flow freely on Friday. Home-brewed ‘Sioux’ beer, that is. ‘Unfortunately, we couldn’t really organise anything at Sioux Labs in the last two years’,

ECOSYSTEM Leon Giesen is a member of several boards, he states on LinkedIn. He is also chairman of the supervisory board of MGG, a manufacturer of aluminium castings and assemblies, member of the supervisory board of Frencken Mechatronics and member of the advisory board of Cuyten Maintenance Service. They don’t bite each other, he says. ‘It’s actually a very good thing to do. I contribute my experience and see how other companies operate and where they are heading. It’s mutually enriching. Don’t just focus on your own business, we’re all part of a larger ecosystem.’


IN-HOUSE DISCIPLINES Sioux Technologies has grown strongly in recent years, with the acquisition of mechatronics expert CCM from Nuenen in 2014 being one of the major strategic steps. Leon Giesen: ‘We have thus moved from mono to multidisciplinary. It’s important to have your own assembly competencies, aimed at industrialisation and serial system integration. That enables you to properly guide the transition from pure R&D to production. Sioux wants to be good at prototypes, one-offs, series and complete Life Cycle Management. That requires a single organisation that’s no longer about software, mathematics or mechatronics as separate units. Sioux Technologies is one multidisciplinary system unit. With all our disciplines we can design, build and integrate the most complex machines and modules in their entirety.’ For each project, employees with the most appropriate competencies are put together.

OVERFISHED POND The embedded software branch was already located in the north of Eindhoven. There was land, more buildings were built and that is how the Sioux campus was created. ‘We can build on our own image here. A branch in Brainport has many advantages, but the region is an overfished pond: in the game of attracting and retaining employees, your own identity is crucial. Sioux is all about fun & value: this is a nice company with challenging work. People can grow and increase their market value. Outside of work, there’s also a lot of attention for them, which benefits both

Special High-tech The Netherlands - April 2022

employees and the company.’ The name Sioux comes from an Indian tribe. At the time, founders Duisters and Van Rijswijk chose to oppose the Western focus on shareholder value. They put people first and wanted to focus on standards and values. Giesen: ‘Tribe thinking is popular these days, but we’ve been doing it for years: people and culture are important. There’s nothing artificial about it, that’s how it evolved. It also applies to branches elsewhere in the world. It’s in the DNA.’

GUINNESS BOOK OF RECORDS Sioux Technologies (turnover last year more than 100 million, this year probably 120-125 million) now has about 1,000 employees, including 75 in assembly and the vast majority in development and engineering. This includes many highly skilled people with a Master’s or PhD background. The company has branches in Mijdrecht, Apeldoorn and Delft and in China, Belgium, Germany, Russia, Romania, Singapore and Vietnam. All those cultures, blood groups and disciplines work together just fine, says Giesen. ‘No arguments during projects. Technicians want to build very beautiful things together and for that, they need each other. That’s their motivation.’ Take the Ultra-X, a high-precision and fast detection system for the Spectra Ultra S/TEM, the high-end transmission electron microscope from Thermo Fisher Scientific. ‘It’s regarded as one of the most complicated systems ever built. The Ultra-X technology is a breakthrough that could win Nobel prizes, so to speak. It landed us in the Guinness Book of Records. Our people are very, very proud of that.’ No-one mentions his exact background or from which Sioux branch he descends.

Leon Giesen (among a few employees in the assembly hall): ‘Hans Duisters looks after Sioux Asia, Erik van Rijswijk and I look after Europe. Erik is more the technical conscience, I’m the general CEO. I can play outside, I’m the chief entertainment officer.’ Photo: Bart van Overbeeke

NO OVERPROMISING Sioux rejects a large part of the new requests from customers, according to Giesen. ‘We’re often just not able to fit them in in terms of capacity. Overpromising is something I truly dislike: promising more than you’re able to do or give. An assignment must also match the challenge, so people can really make a

The range of competencies and markets including semicon, medical, telecommunications, agriculture and analytical - ensure great diversity. ‘We don’t have to be good at markets ourselves, we’re good at technology. OEMs have market knowledge. They want us to use our competencies, whether it concerns a

long-term relationships. Thirdly, the company also wants to develop further outside Brainport, such as in Asia now and in America a few years later, so it doesn’t depend too much on customers in Europe. Point 4 emphasises acceleration, that is, letting the turnover grow faster than the number of people, for example through more reuse of knowledge. Giesen: ‘The fifth point is growth. Both the company and the employees must continue to develop. And growth is never a percentage on a spreadsheet, it’s a result of doing things right. Quality, culture, standards and values are aspects we never want to change.’



contribution. When clients start a project with us, we’re both often committed for three to five years. These are long-term commitments. We want to build a valuable, lasting relationship.’ The character was different in the early years. A lot of staff was seconded. Employees were placed with customers, but these days, it only accounts for 20% of the business. ‘Eighty percent of the projects are completed at our premises. We are increasingly assuming full responsibility for developments, preferably at an early stage, almost in the embryonic phase.’ Sioux thus operates as an R&D department of an OEM, or an extension of its R&D department.

high-tech tissue dissection system such as for start-up Xyall or for part of a lithography system for ASML. We prefer to be brought in for our knowledge and expertise. Not for our capacity, capacity is exchangeable.’ Sioux wants to take care of more and more parts of the customer roadmaps.

ACCELERATING The strategy is clear on paper. There are five key points, with maintaining the tier 1 position being the first: there shouldn’t be any layer between OEM and Sioux. That would make things too complicated to understand the end customer properly. Point 2: Sioux is based on sustainable,

Sioux often bears financial risk when developing promising knowledge and innovative products for customers. It also uses a separate investment fund to invest in interesting ideas from very early stage start-ups. This way, it helps OEMs such as solar car manufacturer Lightyear in Eindhoven. Giesen: ‘We’re a very early co-shareholder to enable these kinds of initiatives. Usually, not a single euro has been made yet. Of course there are risks, but they are mainly of a technological nature. Can we help to speed up the market introduction, we ask. At a certain point, other strategic partners come into the picture and we can spend our money on other things.’

• Special High-tech The Netherlands - April 2022





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Special High-tech The Netherlands - April 2022



SUPPLIERS AT FOREFRONT OF EUROPEAN CATCH-UP OPERATION The global shortage of semiconductors has put the handbrake on car production in Germany. With trends like e-mobility and self-driving cars, the German appetite for silicon will only increase, so manufacturers want to take back control. The aim is for Germany to become the global centre for semiconductors. BY BERTUS BOUWMAN


ince the start of the pandemic, the production lines of Germany’s car industry have regularly been idle. This has mostly been caused by the global shortage of semiconductors – a problem that will not yet be resolved this year. On top of that, in the coming years the car industry will only need more microchips, argues Dutch chip machine manufacturer ASML in its ‘position paper’ on the EU Chips Act launched by the European Commission in February. The Veldhoven-based high-tech firm expects a radical shift driven by the move away from the internal combustion engine and the rise of self-driving systems. These trends have been on the horizon for a long time, but due to the shortage of chips the manufacturers have now discovered how vulnerable they are to geopolitical changes. The Chips Act is designed to bring a bigger share of semiconductor production to Europe in order to assure strategic autonomy. With a total of €43 billion in investments, Europe wants to increase its market share of the global chips industry from 9% to 20% by 2030.

COMPETING FOR CHIPS Like ASML, the German automotive sector expects global demand for chips to increase, so a survey reveals. Nearly every technical device contains semiconductor chips. That means cars have to compete with consumer electronics like TV sets, smart phones and fitness armbands. Modern cars no longer work without semiconductors. And in the coming years, driver assistance systems, infotainment and electrification of propulsion systems will mean even more chips will be needed. The development has taken place at lightning speed. Research by the German electronics and digital industry (ZVEI) has revealed that the average car built in 1998

contained microchips worth €120. In 2018, that value had The production line of the BMW-plant risen to €500, in München. Photo: Harry Zdera and by 2023 it is expected to be €600. For a supplier like Bosch, this has meant a doubling in the number of its chips in cars over the course of a few years. In 2016, each new vehicle built worldwide contained more than nine Bosch chips on average, for example in the airbag control system, the braking system and the parking assistant. By 2019, the figure had risen to over 17.

The global increase in demand for chips from the automotive sector was clear even before the pandemic. Nevertheless, car manufacturers were not prepared for the shortage. In early 2020, there didn’t appear to be a problem. The semiconductor industry was experiencing a strong economic upturn. But when the Covid-19 pandemic broke out, car sales briefly collapsed. Panicking, car makers cancelled their orders with large chip manufacturers. This proved to be a major miscalculation. When car sales revived, they found that the semiconductor industry had reserved their production capacity for manufacturers of consumer electronics. During lockdown, consumers ordered smartphones, tablets, laptops and games consoles on a massive scale in order to make the experience of being at home more pleasant. Leaving the car manufacturers out in the cold.

delivered because chips are missing. It therefore regularly delivers cars which are not fully equipped to customers at a discount. In practice, however, it is not always possible to upgrade later. The problems faced by Volkswagen in Wolfsburg are even more severe. There, night shifts for the production of the Golf model were cancelled in early 2022. One production line for the popular Tiguan is at a standstill. In 2021, VW produced 8.1% fewer cars than the year before due to the shortage of chips. For all brands of the VW Group, the figure was 4.5%. At a press conference late last year, CEO Herbert Diess put the figure for the number of cars they had been unable to deliver due to the shortages at 600,000. BMW, too, faced major problems and responded by significantly adjusting production programmes, explains spokesperson Sandra Schillmöller. Even so, in factories in Oxford and Regensburg that normally build nearly 1000 cars per day, production has sometimes had to be halted for several days at a time because components were missing. In certain cases, BMW has delivered new models without touchscreens for a lower price. BMW was eventually able to work away the backlog in the second half of 2021, says Schillmöller. ‘In fact, we are producing more vehicles than in 2019.’



This is why Mercedes-Benz had to cut back production last summer, for example. Beside its factory in the south of Germany, there are car parks full of cars that cannot be

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Special High-tech The Netherlands - April 2022



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Special High-tech The Netherlands - April 2022


not expect the shortages to be resolved this year. The Bavarian marque is focusing on adjusting its own organisation in order to be able to respond to the fluctuations even more flexibly. ‘We have faith in our own flexible production system and working hours models. They allow us to adjust quickly when necessary’, says a spokesperson for the company. Automotive giant Robert Bosch is taking a different approach, relying on the strategy it was pursuing before the pandemic. The manufacturer based in Baden-Württemberg is the only supplier that also produces its own chips. For instance, it makes its own application-specific integrated circuits (ASICS), power semiconductors and, micro-electromechanical systems (MEMS). It is investing billions in their production. The new chip factory in Dresden that opened its doors in summer 2021 cost €1 billion, making it the biggest investment in the supplier’s history. Partly driven by the chip shortage, construction was accelerated and the firm was able to commence production of car chips six months ahead of schedule. In late October 2021 and in February 2022, the company announced new investments in production locations for semiconductors. For instance, it is currently building a new testing centre for semiconductors in Penang, Malaysia. The fully automated smart factory will be used for testing semiconductor chips and sensors from 2023. Bosch also plans to expand its existing semiconductor factory in Reutlingen around 2025. A new, ultramodern cleanroom covering 3600 m² will be built there.

CONTINENTAL: CHANGES IN PROCUREMENT Continental, by contrast, will not be producing its own semiconductors. CTO Gilles Mabire told Automobilwoche that the company did explore that option but consciously rejected it. The Hanover-based supplier wants to be able to respond flexibly

‘WE ALSO NEED TO INVEST IN CHIPS WHICH THE CAR INDUSTRY NEEDS MOST, NOW AND IN THE FUTURE’ to major fluctuations in supply and demand, and to this end it has launched the Strategic Project Semiconductor Management. This digital system is designed to restore the equilibrium within regular contracts between customers and suppliers. In this way, Continental aims to fix orders for the long

term. This will also involve reserving capacity throughout the supply chain, including alert mechanisms that can flag up problems at an early stage. Continental is also looking at new methods of Impression of the Continental-plant procurement within in Ingolstadt. Photo: Joerg Koch the chain. A rolling forecast looks ahead 24 months in order the world in all areas, says Joeres. ‘Europe will to estimate the demand for components. For only be able to successfully compete globally strategic components, the company projects if we are able to bring our own technological a full five years into the future. This planning core competencies to the table. Otherwise we process is intended to digitally link the entire risk our economic competitive position and chain together. ultimately our welfare.’ Mercedes-Benz is also developing new In concrete terms, that means the European procurement processes. Head of the works semiconductor industry needs to invest not council Michael Brecht told the press agency only in the manufacture of chips with the DPA that he expects all car manufacturers smallest structures, says Joeres. ‘We also need to do the same. Diversification is the most to invest in chips which the car industry needs important principle. ‘Car manufacturers will most, now and in the future.’ start buying raw materials and strategic components globally themselves in order to become less dependent on the big suppliers.’ SILICON SAXONY: BIGGEST CHIP CLUSTER The European offensive is also in line with the aims of the new German government under INVESTMENT CLIMATE CRUCIAL Chancellor Olaf Scholz to make the country Even so, more is required than individual the top global location for the semiconductor efforts on the part of firms, say the industry. The ink was barely dry on the manufacturers. A good investment climate coalition agreement that spelled out this goal for the semiconductor industry is crucial in before the American conglomerate Intel order to unleash the chips offensive which the announced it would be building two new chip European industry hopes will make it more factories in Magdeburg, which are due to be autonomous, says Stefan Joeres, director of ready by 2027. Germany is able to subsidise Business Development and Semiconductor Intel’s arrival to the tune of billions thanks to Strategy at Robert Bosch GmbH. ‘Innovation the EU Chips Act. Chair of the European in microelectronics is the key to the green Commission Ursula von der Leyen described and digital transformation of Europe. So it the multibillion euro investment as the first is crucial that we increase our production major milestone for the European directive. capacities in all areas of semiconductor.’ Taiwanese chip giant TSMC is also exploring At Continental, they point to the importance opportunities in Europe. of investing in foundries for semiconductors In Dresden, a two-hour drive from in Europe, in order to ensure that the European automotive sector can avoid similar Magdeburg, Intel’s arrival has been welcomed. fluctuations in the supply chain in the future. Industry body Silicon Saxony called it a major But that will take time, even if everything goes victory for Europe’s leading high-tech cluster. well, says spokesperson Susanne Einzinger. That cluster consists of 400 firms including ‘When you make big investments in new chip manufacturers like GlobalFoundries, facilities, it takes 18 to 24 months to Infineon, Bosch, X-Fab, Siltronic, Zeiss and effectively increase production.’ Jenoptik AG. These high-tech businesses are located in central Germany in a triangle between the cities of Magdeburg, Erfurt/Jena THINKING IN VALUE CHAINS and Dresden. The region is also home to In order to be able to compete with the rest various research institutes with a focus on of the world, Europe more than ever needs semiconductors. As a result, central Germany to think and act consistently in terms of digitisation in resilient value chains, says already has Europe’s biggest chip cluster and it Joeres on behalf of Bosch. ‘The pandemic has hopes to define the European semiconductor shown us that much. Digital sovereignty is a industry in the near future. key factor for Europe’s competitive position and welfare.’ At the same time, it is also clear that Europe cannot eliminate its dependence on the rest of

• • •

Special High-tech The Netherlands - April 2022




‘NOWHERE ELSE ARE WE CHALLENGED THE WAY WE ARE HERE’ The demands which ASML and its ecosystem make of ERIKS are pushing the Alkmaar-based company to an unprecedented level. The firm wants to streamline its approach to these kinds of highly challenging assignments. Theo Kok has been appointed for this task, as head of semicon. His team will bring together the various specialisms present within the company’s seven business units. In addition, a roadshow will be held to establish in which areas ERIKS differentiates itself for customers in semicon and adjacent, equally demanding markets. ‘We are going to showcase those activities more.’



he place where the wafer sits ‘We are a company with a global presence, but nowhere else are we challenged the way we are here in the Netherlands by ASML and its system in an ASML suppliers’, reveals Theo Kok. Photo: Com-magz chip machine is – naturally – subject to very exacting requirements. The silicon wafer Elastomer Research Testing laboratory, the NOWHERE ELSE IS AS CHALLENGING must be positioned extremely stably and the firm boasts a range of unique devices. Each AS HERE material on which it rests, like all the other one had to be specially developed in order The benefit being that it pushed ERIKS to components in the vacuum, must emit no gas to achieve a solution for ASML. For instance, an unprecedented level of performance. ‘We whatsoever. That, in brief, was the challenge because the existing instruments were are a company with a global presence, but which the Veldhoven-based company set not capable of measuring the required nowhere else are we challenged the way we ERIKS, whose specialisms include rubber dimensional tolerances, ERIKS partnered with are here in the Netherlands by ASML and compounds. Those compounds are used for measurement instrument specialist Mitutotyo its system suppliers’, reveals Theo Kok. At seals (such as O-rings, moulded part and to develop an optical instrument that can the time of writing, he has been working gaskets), but they are also extremely well deliver that measuring accuracy. Especially for ERIKS for just two months as head of suited to damping the vibrations generated in for this purpose, equipment has also been semicon. But with previous roles at first-line a machine. And ERIKS has OER compounds developed that can very accurately predict ASML suppliers like Bronkhorst and which scarcely emit hydrocarbons or water the lifespan of the material. Using its most Frencken, he is already fully immersed in vapour. Moreover, it can produce those accurate analysis device, the Netherlands the semicon world. ‘The Netherlands is materials in specific forms with very narrow Organisation for Applied Scientific Research an excellent place to keep on refining your tolerances. But in ASML’s world, expressions (TNO) was unable to measure any emissions. technological expertise. The unique thing like ‘extremely well suited’, ‘scarcely emit’ and This meant ERIKS comfortably met the low about ASML as a customer is that it also ‘very narrow tolerances’ have a completely values for gases demanded by ASML and that makes unprecedented demands in terms of different connotation than in other parts of this type of rubber could be used in the heart quality, logistics, cost and sustainability. industry, even high-tech industry. of the ASML machine. The end result was But we had to do the process development the E-pin: nowadays, the wafers in the wafer and production of the E-pin ourselves. handler rest on three of these pins. A successWe now have a very good idea of which DEMANDING THE ULTIMATE ful solution that demanded the utmost from questions we need to ask in order to be able In Deventer, where ERIKS has concentrated the experts at ERIKS and its partners. to take the subsequent performance steps.’ its expertise in rubber materials in the


Special High-tech The Netherlands - April 2022

ACROSS BUSINESS UNITS The E-pin is just one of hundreds of annual new product introductions (NPIs) from the ecosystem around Veldhoven that ERIKS grapples with annually. Driving turnover growth in the semicon segment that runs to ‘tens of percentage points’, says Kok. Until recently, depending on the most important technological challenges they involve, those NPIs were entrusted to one of ERIKS’ seven business units: Engineered Plastics, Flow Control, Gaskets, Industrial & Hydraulic Hoses, Power Transmission, Sealing & Polymer and Tools, Maintenance & Safety. At a certain point, the realisation dawned that they needed to streamline their operations. That task was handed to Theo Kok. He heads a team of six multidisciplinary engineers and project managers – although that number is set to grow. Working across business units, they direct the execution of the so-called ‘co-engineering’ assignments.

BUNDLING Until now, the business units would generally serve those markets individually, each with its own focus. Yet underlying the initial customer requests are huge challenges that call for much more than just knowledge of plastics or motion control to solve. And which, besides technological knowledge, also demand world-class logistics expertise, quality, sustainability and cost control. In other words, all the qualifications which the letters QLTCS stand for in ASML’s outsourcing model. Bundling those is the role which has been given to Kok and his new team. ‘This will allow us to offer customers a multidisciplinary approach, uniformity in working methods and a single clear point of contact.’

the lobby of the head office in Alkmaar. It contains a series of display cases showing a wide range of products, from O-rings and gaskets to valves and hoses, executed in highly diverse materials and dimensions. ‘That attitude has made us very successful and enabled us to grow into a multinational business with a turnover of more than €1.5 billion. At the same time, the high-tech markets we operate in demand focus. No, we are not going to step away from particular

breadth of our range – the fact that we offer catalogue and customized products as well as co-engineered solutions. The flipside is that we do not have a very clear profile when it comes to high-tech industry. We expect the roadshow and the feedback we receive to it from major customers to help us sharpen that profile, in order to establish which areas we are truly unique in.’ Naturally this needs to be extended to other countries in Europe, the US and Asia where


technologies or markets, but we are going to showcase certain activities more – in any event Industrial & Hydraulic Hoses and Sealing & Polymer. These are two product groups for which we need to outsource relatively little, because we have virtually everything in-house: the technological knowhow but also facilities like a very large cleanroom, a laboratory and 3D printers, right through to production and assembly.’

SHARPENING THE PROFILE ‘ERIKS’, says Theo Kok, ‘is a familiar name in industry, precisely due to our size and the

ERIKS also has a presence. ‘The Netherlands is an excellent base for this. Our innovations prove themselves here first, in assignments for ASML and the ecosystem around it. We then take them to the European, US and Asian markets.’ Developing and manufacturing products for the most challenging customers worldwide calls for a lot of investment, in people and in resources. By sharpening our profile we will be able to reach more customers and upscale more quickly’, says Kok. His team currently consists of six people: ‘In three years time? I expect my team to be three times as big by then.’


ROADSHOW Theo Kok was also given the task of applying the expertise acquired in assignments for ASML for other customers in semicon and adjacent, equally demanding markets like medical technology and analytics. ‘To this end, we made an inventory to establish exactly which areas we are unique in at ERIKS. We then identified products we believe have a good market potential. We put together a roadshow to showcase them which we are now taking out on the road, with the aim of establishing whether what we regard as relevant to the market is also viewed in that way by customers. Or to put it another way, whether what we plan to offer actually fits with their technology roadmaps. And while we may be making a difference to customers in terms of technology, we also need to make sure we can offer something very special in all other areas of QLTCS.’

INCREASED FOCUS That also requires increased focus. ‘ERIKS never says ‘no’,’ agrees Kok, confirming the sense you get immediately on entering

ERIKS was founded over 80 years ago by Arie Eriks. These days, the company has 340 locations in 17 countries. In 2021, it had a turnover of €1.5 billion. Nearly a quarter of that is derived from the Netherlands, while the UK accounts for 20% and Germany and Switzerland together for 13%. The firm employs over 6,500 people and has 900,000 products in its range. Some 2.5 million These days, ERIKS has 340 locations in 17 countries. Photo: ERIKS shipments go out to its customers every year. semicon, machine and equipment building and the Services, for example in the form of co-engineering, maritime sector to automotive, aviation and oil & gas. condition monitoring, inspection, vendor managed In recent years, ERIKS has invested a lot of money inventory and training in various areas also accounts in cleanrooms, a fully independent ISO 17025 for a significant proportion of turnover. accredited research and testing laboratory for ERIKS has its head office in the city in which it was rubber and 3D-printing technology. founded: Alkmaar, famous for its cheese market. The dairy industry remains one of the many markets in which the company is active: they range from

Special High-tech The Netherlands - April 2022




AVOIDING DEAD ENDS AND IDENTIFYING THE RIGHT WAY FORWARD Customers of Settels Savenije, mostly OEMs and research institutes, are usually well aware of which processes they need but not how to translate them into machines. Machines that can repeat those processes at a particular speed within particular tolerances, for a particular maximum cost price. Building those machines is a challenge because there are numerous physical laws that need to be taken into account. Understanding those laws and how they influence the operation of the machines is the quality that sets Settels apart.

Sven Pekelder finds it hard to describe their working method in detail: ‘Often it’s a case of seeing what works and what doesn’t, which knowledge


gaps still need to be filled. Naturally we do that in a systematic manner, but it’s also a question of experience.’ Photo: Settels


esigning a machine that does exactly what the customer wants calls for a good understanding of the interaction between the physics of the process and the physical

properties of the device, and hence of the laws of physics’, begins Sven Pekelder. ‘Around 15 years ago, we became aware of a pattern in our working method. By understanding that interaction, we were repeatedly able to

PUSHING THE LIMITS OF PHYSICS CALLS FOR CLOSE TEAMWORK, UNDER ONE ROOF Settels Savenije works for international high-tech clients including ASML, Teledyne, Elekta, IAI, Thermo Fisher, Kulicke & Soffa, Zeiss and Bosch Rexroth. Settels is a total solution provider of systems, modules and critical components to OEMs at the forefront of technology, located in Eindhoven, the Netherlands, with a workforce of 155 people. Half of them work in R&D, 25% in Advanced Systems and 25% in Precision Parts. Since 2020, all these people have been working under one roof in Eindhoven. A strategic choice, says Sven Pekelder. ‘As a developer and manufacturer of highly complex high-tech modules and systems,


we are pushing the limits of what is feasible in terms of physics. Moreover, we are under constant pressure to meet the time-to-market – and to get it right the first time. In our philosophy, that means you need to have the design and manufacturing knowledge physically close to each other. Because by doing so you create a situation in which people automatically share knowledge; then you get the cross-pollination that ensures that the designs developed can actually be manufactured properly and efficiently.’

differentiate ourselves towards customers and deliver good solutions for them. Since then, we have been deliberately highlighting physics in our communication with customers’, explains the CTO of the Eindhoven-based solution provider.

MANIPULATION ‘Under specific physical conditions’, he illustrates, ‘you can turn a material into a plasma state and get it to deposit on a surface. That technology is ideal for vapour deposition on very thin layers. But in some cases you want the plasma state without deposition. For example, in ASML’s EUV machine the aim is to create the EUV with tin plasma and a laser source but to avoid depositing tin on the mirrors. Our strength lies in understanding all the associated physical processes and how to manipulate them inside a device, in order to get the machine to produce the desired output.’



Special High-tech The Netherlands - April 2022

Customers, he says, are often opportunistic and overly optimistic. ‘They think they

already have an adequate understanding of the process that needs to be industrialised. They have already demonstrated that it works on a small scale in a prototype and assume that upscaling will not be a major problem. But suppose you want to build a machine to produce TV screens. This process involves cutting multiple screens from a large glass sheet. Just because you can effectively handle

EVOLVING In order to find the right approach, the engineers at Settels use a procedure in the initial feasibility phase which has been ‘evolving’ for fifteen years. ‘Because each time, we are faced with challenges that are not completely new to us but are slightly different than previous cases. So for instance, we may quickly identify that the pattern of

‘Because that’s where the risks lie. We can establish that by means a physical model or a digital simulation to perform a proof of principle test. This allows us to see whether we are going down an expensive cul-de-sac, which is what we want to avoid. Based on the results, we can see what knowledge we are still lacking in order to identify the right way – or ways – forward.’ Pekelder finds it hard to describe their working method in detail: ‘Often it’s a case of seeing what works and what doesn’t, which knowledge gaps still need to be filled. Naturally we do that in a systematic manner, but it’s also a question of experience. It means we can save time. Which is important, because customers are almost always in a hurry.’



those plates at a size of 1 x 1 m doesn’t mean to say that will be the case when you go to 3 x 3 m. In this example, the size increases by a power of two but the weight by a power of three – which has significant implications for the power required by the machine in order to achieve the same speed. At a bigger scale, the same process may call for a completely different approach.’

A crucial aspect of communication with customers is that they are clearly presented with the risks that still exist at a particular moment. Again, Settels’ engineers use physics. ‘Because it is a universal language. Concrete calculations and models based on physical laws are always convincing. We use them to tell customers about the solutions we have in mind, but also about what we don’t know and about which undesirable outcomes are possible. Being prepared for setbacks – and the associated delays and costs – makes them far easier for customers to accept.’

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heat generation is the same as in a previous project but we may be far less sure about the airflow.’

ASSESSING RISKS The first phase, continues Pekelder, is primarily about clearly establishing where the action of physical laws in the specific context of the required process is still unknown.

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APPLYING INNOVATION TO MULTIPLE MARKETS Venlo-based company Nedinsco is active in sectors including semiconductors and defense and has made a name for itself as a specialist in optical systems for lithographic machines, such as beam delivery systems and optical alignment tools. Nedinsco also specializes in applications for military vehicles and vessels such as day and night vision equipment, optical sensor platforms and back-up sight systems. Demand for the optical solutions which the firm has developed for the defense and semiconductor sector is now also extending to other markets, such as safety & security. An important USP for Nedinsco is that the firm is able to combine knowledge of mechatronics with optical expertise. ‘On top of that, we have all the capabilities in house to deliver complete systems for our customers.’


Going forward, Nedinsco wants to introduce its knowledge and expertise to other markets besides defense. The company has been active in the semicon industry for a long time and is now turning its focus to sectors such as transport, safety & security, oil & gas and mining. ‘These sectors also need optical solutions that will always work, something we are very good at, partly thanks to our experience in defense. There is a great deal of potential in these new markets’, says Vossen, who has overseen the semicon and industrial market as sales manager for Nedinsco since January 1st. The semicon industry continues to account for a substantial proportion of turnover and headlines Nedinsco's long-term strategical focus. For instance, the firm previously worked for ASML and is fully geared to serving customers in this sector. With its own cleanroom for assembly and an optical assembly department with flow cabinets and other facilities in order to enable ESD-safe production, Nedinsco is ready for the future. ‘All operations take place under one roof here: from turning and milling raw materials to surface treatment and specialized assembly of opt mechatronic modules.’

VALUABLE KNOWLEDGE With regard to the field of semiconductors, the firm supplies products including opt mechatronic modules, such as a beam delivery system that creates the light source in an extreme UV machine for chip manufacturing. When it comes to safety & security, on the other hand, pan & tilt systems are worth noting. ‘This application can be seen in coastguard vessels and tanks, but now also in high-end camera security systems that are able to track movement and temperature. Over the years, we have acquired a lot of valuable knowledge in this area and of course these systems meet the high requirements of the defense industry. Naturally, the application requirements for other markets are not as extreme as e.g. having an optical system mounted beside the barrel of a tank, but there are definitely overlaps in terms of shock resistance, weather resistance and stabilization of the optical systems.’

Yet another application involves data capture systems on the roads: a 360° camera system on cars in order to identify all kinds of objects, from overhanging branches near high-voltage cables to the condition of roads and litter detection. ‘In systems like this, its important that they are ruggedized, that they can cope with the elements’, says Vossen. As such, quality is an important core value at Nedinsco. ‘We extend the quality requirements we have to meet for defense to our products and solutions for other markets. Our quality department makes sure only the very best products leave the factory and that our systems are qualified. That makes us a strong, reliable partner in our market.’

FURTHER DEVELOPMENT Another important development coming in the near future concerns Nedinsco's own 360-degree optical system. Vossen expects to launch it this year. As elsewhere, software and electronics will play a key role. ‘In the coming years, we plan to further develop this area in order to be able to continue to compete at a high level. This will mean applying our innovations from defense and semicon more widely in other markets and vice versa.’ Vossen concludes with an invitation. ‘Customers are always welcome to contact us with an idea or challenge; together, we will look for the best vision solutions in even the most difficult circumstances.’

Nedinsco Jan van Riebeeckweg 5 5928 LG Venlo T +31 (0)77 355 87 77 E I



‘SOME CULTURES FOCUS ON CONTENT, OTHERS MORE ON THE RELATIONSHIP’ As a first-line contract manufacturer, NTS focuses on developing, manufacturing and assembling (opto-)mechatronic systems and mechanical modules. Because these are complex products, communication is essential in all phases of a project, which includes international customers of different cultures and in different time zones. What role do the account manager, system architect and project manager play at NTS and what questions do they ask to provide the customer with a realistic picture of the design process?

solution that’s not only suitable for today’s assignment, but one that offers benefits for the future as well. Particularly so in the context of further development, standardisation, improvement or scaling up. Jakobs: ‘To make a correct assessment of this, we naturally also look at the customer’s company and to what extent his in-house processes are in order. They are often interesting but also lengthy processes in which a good account manager contributes to realistic expectations of the customer. This is an essential step to steer the project in the right direction and to arrive at an end result the customer can work with.’

FROM SYSTEM ARCHITECT TO PROJECT MANAGER When the account manager knows what exactly a customer wants and both parties know what to expect, the system architect proceeds to making the technical design. Sander Gielen, Manager Engineering D&E: ‘In development ‘Our advantage is that we have people across the globe who themselves are part of the culture, which of course simplifies communication’, projects, the system architect Ruben Jakobs notes. Photo: NTS usually joins at an early stage to help design the technical solution. After all, he knows what is possible technically customer. Large companies that have their and is able to indicate in this initial phase own engineering department can specify what BY MARJOLEIN DE WIT-BLOK whether or not certain ideas are feasible and they need and do so quite accurately. In terms whether there are perhaps smarter solutions of functionality, but also in terms of timing t’s not higher maths per se: when you than currently envisaged by customer. Yet and costs. This is different when dealing with start developing, testing and ultimately start-ups or companies that are scaling up. producing a complex mechatronic system manufacturing projects too can involve the Jakobs: ‘These are often companies where a on behalf of a customer, it’s important necessary further development and therefore promising idea has led to the development to know exactly what he actually wants. in practice, the lines of communication with of an initial prototype and where we can Or rather: what he needs. But also: when. the system architect are always kept short.’ use our knowledge to help with the developRuben Jakobs is CCO at NTS and knows: ment of the product and the step towards ‘To truly understand this, our customer is Not much later, the project manager too starts industrialisation and manufacturability. At assigned a single point of contact: the account planning for all parties involved in the agreed these companies, which are made up entirely manager. He is the most suited discussion project. In doing so, NTS places a strong of pure technicians in most cases, developing partner for our customer and initially focuses focus on selecting the right production site a clear insight into what we need in terms of on identifying the customer’s underlying at an early stage, so that it can include the information from them to be able to develop needs: what functionality a certain module production in its planning amply in advance. the modules takes considerably longer.’ should have, how the integration should take Jakobs: ‘We have production sites across the The relationship between quality, costs and place in which machine, etcetera’. globe, each with their own specialisation. So planning is another important topic for we always try to select the site that best suits discussion in these young companies. When a specific product. Not only because this TAILORING QUESTIONS a customer needs a solution in the very short benefits product quality, but also because this TO CUSTOMER MATURITY term, it comes at a cost. If he has more time, allows specialists to think along about the The simplicity of identifying the customer’s it’ll give NTS the opportunity to develop a final picture. For example, we assisted a needs depends on the ‘maturity’ of the



Special High-tech The Netherlands - April 2022

customer who had planned a large number of doors for his prototype, the installation of which involved a multitude of hinges and bolts. Our panel specialist helped him adapt the design so the doors can be hung during the assembly process in a single action. If the machine is produced in series, it will save a lot of installation time.’

COLLABORATION In addition, the project manager reviews the customer’s own plans. When eventually he wants to sell his machine in a certain part of the world, it makes sense to choose a site that is close to that region. This reduces the logistics costs and brings collaboration with local development teams within reach. So in the context of customer satisfaction, this question is also important in a project. Finally, the project manager is of course involved in the entire planning of the development and the ultimate production. Checkpoints in such a process include the times at which a prototype is expected, when the test phase must be completed and possibly the ultimate application in a machine or an official market introduction. Identifying these points in time is a standard part of the communication.

INTERNATIONAL: EXTRA CHALLENGING Throughout the process, the ‘triangle’ of account manager, system architect and

project manager remain in dialogue to make adjustments as and when necessary, as early as possible. This presents additional challenges in international projects. Sander Gielen: ‘In some cases, this requires a practical response in terms of finding a suitable time to meet when everyone is in a different time zone. This at the same time generates a bit of togetherness when you all know that everyone is working at a strange time. For example, you

communication. Other regions in the world rely more on personal relationships, which means you have to take more time to come to an agreement. Our advantage is that we have people across the globe who themselves are part of the culture, which of course simplifies communication. As regards communications with people ‘elsewhere’, our employees are trained to at least be aware of the differences. Incidentally, it is getting easier, because we


may be working the middle of the night or just before regular working hours start.’ Other challenges can be found in the cultural differences between countries. Ruben Jakobs: ‘We now have so much experience worldwide that we have developed a deeper understanding of what the different cultures place their emphasis on. Some countries are purely focused on content, to which we tailor our offers and

notice that the world is becoming ‘a smaller place’ each day. For example, English is universally accepted in the industry worldwide, making it easier to communicate in the first place. As long as we focus on the customer’s true needs, apply a global approach and aim for positive collaborations, there’s not a party that we can’t satisfy.’


Special High-tech The Netherlands - April 2022


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A SHORTER TIME-TO-SPACE ‘Aerospace industry in Europe – what can we expect from digital engineering?’ was the title of an online event organised by MathWorks Benelux last autumn. With a focus on the space industry, it demonstrated that the rise of commercial players drives the adoption of digital engineering, according to Marcel Stakenborg from MathWorks. ‘The holy grail of the space industry is to combine reliability with speed of development. For the agencies reliability is core focus, whilst for start-ups it is speed of development. Digital engineering can bring the two close to each other.’ NASA’s Orion spacecraft has automatically generated GN&C code, for guidance, navigation and control.



he online meeting attracted some sixty attendees from 40 different companies. Stakenborg: ‘The technology MathWorks has developed for other industries is relevant to space: simulations, systems engineering and even automated driving to name but a few. To provide additional support for this prominent industry, we reached out to Ossi Saarela to assess key trends in space for the Benelux region.’ Saarela is worldwide space segment manager at MathWorks and he sees ‘globally an exciting landscape in the space industry’. ‘From the technology as well as the business perspectives. New players such as SpaceX have become established parties and even newer waves of start-ups are continuously emerging. In this disruptive

DIGITAL BY MATHWORKS MathWorks is a leading developer of data analysis and model-based design software. It supports digital engineering through its platforms, of which MATLAB, Simulink and Simscape, are best known. They form a natural basis for building a digital twin, which MathWorks defines as an evolving digital representation of a product, process or system that calculates its status and generates information. In this way, through integrated, systematic use of data and models, decision-making for design and operation can be supported throughout the entire lifecycle.


Image: NASA

market, start-ups, which have no legacy products or processes, are starting with a clean sheet design and adopting whatever new technology suits them. Their primary consideration is how to quickly get to the market. Established organisations, on the other hand, are responding by modernising their existing engineering processes. Development processes in the industry are very rigorous, as this is a high-risk industry, and it takes new generations of start-ups to challenge conventions a little bit and in some cases accept increased levels of risk that we haven’t seen for a number of decades.’

MISSION VALIDATION In short, what MathWorks has to offer to the space industry is mission validation. With full adoption of digital engineering, a single digital environment is available for modelling and simulating at different scales. For space missions, this concerns the control of multiple spacecraft and multiple ground stations, covering the full-mission system-of-systems scale down to the level of a single spacecraft or even an individual motor controller. Saarela: ‘We see start-ups embracing digital engineering, because for them it’s an enabler to get to space faster, not having to start from scratch but using existing tools as a foundation. For the established companies and agencies working on highly complex, rigorous projects, the main value of digital engineering lies in managing the complexity of the systems concerned. As compared to traditional document-based engineering, digital engineering helps them to improve their systems engineering processes to assure

the quality of their products.’ In addition, one of the practical but crucial reasons for focussing on digital engineering is that in the space industry it is very hard and expensive to test actual hardware in operation, which is very much in contrast to the automotive industry, where a car can be fitted with sensors and just drive away for testing.

AUTOMATIC CODE GENERATION Just like the defence and aerospace industries have been setting industry-wide standards with respect to reliability and safety engineering, the space industry has led the pack with automatic code generation, Saarela claims. ‘There have already been many flights with automatically generated code for space flight software aboard the spacecraft. And a big one is coming up: NASA’s Orion spacecraft, which will be capable of carrying humans to deep space destinations; its GN&C code, for guidance, navigation, and control, is automatically generated.’ Space industry is also a forerunner in big data handling, adds Anas. ‘The amount of data and compute capabilities are exploding in all industries, which we saw already happening in the space segment in the sixties. Other industries have begun copying approaches to data orchestration, analytics, high-performance computing, etc. The ability to model, simulate and analyse system of systems is also inspired by the aerospace industry. The challenge is to manage the increasing complexity of the software.’ Saarela: ‘We are getting to the point where digital engineering is going to be TO BE CONTINUED ON PAGE 41

Special High-tech The Netherlands - April 2022


The future is closer than you think You want your company to stand out, but how? You’ll need specialists who can share their thoughts at every level. With creativity, dedication, and lots of knowhow, NTS helps its customers find the ultimate solution to every problem. We specialize in developing, manufacturing, and assembling (opto-)mechatronic systems, mechanical modules, and critical components. Our expertise? Precision and maneuverability. From the initial design to the prototype, all the way to assembly — our comprehensive support helps customers realize their ideal product faster. NTS excels in solving complex issues. Leave it to us to design and create an application that’s exactly what our customer was looking for. With our versatile knowledge and wealth of experience, we help accelerate technological innovations. The technology of the future? With NTS, it’s at your fingertips.


Special hightech The Netherlands - April 2022

Our (opto-)mechatronic systems and mechanical modules contribute to future technologies


required, because the capability of a human being to deal with the complexity of the code does not suffice. Besides automatic code generation we also need automation techniques for code review.’

MODEL-CENTRISM In the future, all space companies will become software companies, Stakenborg concludes. To a certain degree, they already are, Saarela comments. ‘They are flight software companies now, but do they want to be technical computing software companies, maintaining their own Fortran code, for example? Or should they leverage the capabilities of software partners such as MathWorks and focus on designing space systems’, he asks rhetorically. In the early days, space industry was hardware-centric, Saarela

models enable simulations and analysis.’ Anas sees the same trend in a multitude of industries in EMEA. ‘There, OEMs are getting first- and second-tier companies to supply their designs, i.e. their intellectual property, as simulatable IP and not just as documents.’ Saarela concurs: ‘It would be a huge advantage to a space industry supplier to be able to provide an executable spec sheet, i.e. a simulation of the hardware, so that the prime contractor can integrate it in their system and test it out before purchase.’ Anas summarises: ‘Many space missions are fuelled by solar arrays, models and code.’

CLOUDS Concerning the infrastructure for deploying digital engineering, it is the cloud versus the edge. For big data analysis and simulation in the development phase, flexible cloud resources for storage and computing are preferred, according to Saarela. ‘Aerospace companies are exploring the cloud as a solution for not only storing data but also hosting their simulation engines. Today, many of the simulations run at the component and subsystem level, but industry will move towards simulating complete systems and systems of systems, which will require more computing power.’ This is crucial, because simulation reduces the actual testing on hardware, as well as the need to overdesign a system. ‘The more accurate the simulations of the hardware are before you build the system, the better you get the right-sized tolerances and the more efficient, i.e. lightweight, the hardware is. Mass is the enemy of a launch vehicle, so any spacecraft mass you can reduce is convenient.’ In the operational phase however, bandwidth puts constraints on the communication between spacecraft and ground station. More digitally capable spacecraft will need improvements in edge computing on board, which brings its own challenges, as all hardware has to be radiation-hardened. Communication bandwidth is a critical factor, Saarela affirms. ‘For example, in the case of a satellite monitoring the surface of the earth, AI can be used to make the satellite smarter by detecting clouds (the meteorological phenomenon, ed.) in images, as clouded images should be deprioritised for downlink.’


continues. ‘Over the years, the complexity of the systems increased, which led to software-centrism. And now we see a trend to model-centrism, taking models as the source of truth, because the software is becoming too complicated to understand, while in addition

AI TO MISSION-CRITICAL Ossi Saarela: ‘We are getting to the point where digital engineering is going to be required, because the capability of a human being to deal with the complexity of the code does not suffice.’ Photo: MathWorks

Speaking of AI, artificial intelligence, in particular machine learning and deep learning, definitely is one of the disciplines driving digital engineering in space industry, Saarela observes. ‘For example, European

Marcel Stakenborg: ‘The holy grail of the space industry is to combine reliability with speed of development.’ Photo: MathWorks

satellite fleet operators have been using AI algorithms for satellite health monitoring for years now. Space agencies are investigating the use of AI to analyse test data.’ However, AI has not yet reached operational mission control, Saarela admits. ‘The use of AI for mission-critical operations is now an active research area in space industry. The main challenge is to understand how to do verification and validation of the algorithms. Slowly, industry is now moving from this research focus to a technology demonstrator phase. Again, start-ups will be key in driving this, because of their higher risk tolerance.’ Based on his Benelux experience, Anas can confirm this. ‘Our team sees the adoption of AI going quite fast in the start-up sector. AI workflows can be used to simplify initial mission design and reduce the time needed for this stage. Practical applications also include the estimation of solar radiation in space, and predictive maintenance of multidisciplinary mechatronic components. We have also begun collaborating on AI-enabled detection of space debris and the design of collisionavoidance trajectories.’ This underlines, once more, that all trajectories in the space industry are pointing towards digital engineering.

REACHING OUT To conclude, Anas stresses the importance of collaboration between agencies, prime contractors, start-ups and their supply chains. ‘If first- and second-tier suppliers can facilitate this collaboration by providing simulatable models, they can be ahead of the game.’ This prompts Stakenborg to appeal to the readers of Link Magazine. ‘If you have been triggered by what we shared here, in particular our views on simulatable IP and executable spec sheets, please reach out to us.’ To be continued.

Special High-tech The Netherlands - April 2022


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ADDED VALUE AND DEVELOPMENT SPEED CLOSE TO THE CUSTOMER 2Connect started out in 2000 as a distributor of specialty cables and has developed into a developer and producer of customer-specific interconnection solutions. Four years ago, an investment partner came on board to fund international expansion. After acquiring Büschel Connecting Systems in Germany, 2Connect is now planning new takeovers in the Nordics to serve the European industry even better in a wide range of markets. “We need to have all our expertise and capabilities available locally, to offer added value and development speed to our customers.” 2Connect develops customer-specific interconnection solutions.

2Connect (over 500 employees) designs, speaking countries. ‘We can supply our develops and manufactures innovative products with high added value to products for OEM and ODM customers companies that continue to produce In its TechCenters, 2Connect combines worldwide, serving machine, equipment here; so, we stay away from cheap mass product development, prototyping and and component manufacturers in the production. We then deliver the larger manufacturing of initial products to agro, medical, climate & energy, semicon product series from Romania and we can achieve a fast time-to-market for its customers. and sensor markets. 2Connect’s customalso serve Eastern Europe.” To strengthen designed interconnection solutions its local presence in the focus countries, include specialty cables, moulded connectors, electronic packaging 2Connect is aiming for acquisitions. “With our cables and connecand interconnection modules, addressing every connection issue, tors, we are often at the end of the customer’s development process’, ranging from simple to complex. The highest quality is assured by a explains Van der Put. ‘Then we have to respond immediately to his wide range of certifications, including ISO 9001, ISO 14001, ISO interconnection demands and quickly realise a solution. In order to 13485, IATF 16949, OHSAS 18000 and UL. do that effectively, we need to have all our expertise and capabilities available locally, offering added value and development speed to our INTERCONNECTION PROBLEM SOLVER customers.’ In its more than twenty years of existence, 2Connect has gone through a steep growth curve, says director and founder Marc van STRENGTHENING LOCAL PRESENCE der Put. ‘We have transformed from a distributor of specialty cables Last year, 2Connect made the first step in its international market with added technical value into an interconnection problem solver. expansion with the acquisition of the German company Büschel We design and assemble customer-specific interconnection soluConnecting Systems (BCS), which develops and produces connections based on known components, but we also develop completely tors and complete interconnections for markets complementary new connectors, for example. We do this with more speed, creativity to 2Connect’s, namely mining, oil & gas and analytics. ‘We aim for and flexibility than the major players in this field can offer.’ organic growth of at least 15% per year and for acquisitions’, declares Van der Put. ‘Following BCS, we have new acquisitions TECHCENTERS in the pipeline that add to our development and production capabiHeadquarters are in Waalwijk, the Netherlands, where development, lities and our market spread. Each time, we will strengthen local prototyping and mould production take place and a TechCenter is management and sales capacity, as well as set up a local TechCenter.’ located. In addition, 2Connect has a location in Germany, featuring a TechCenter and manufacturing facilities, two production sites in ELECTRIFYING Romania and an office in Hong Kong for communication with 2Connect’s spearheads for further organic growth are the existing Chinese suppliers. ‘In our TechCenters, we design innovative, key accounts and new business that responds to current trends; customer-specific interconnection solutions, perform prototyping think of electrification in sectors such as automotive and agroand manufacture initial products, building on our local supply technology. All-in all, 2Connect is heading towards an electrifying chain, to achieve a fast time-to-market for our customers. For series future. production, we rely on our modern facilities in Romania. If time-tomarket is not an issue, we can even decide to manage the complete 2Connect new product introduction process from Romania, directly matching Gompenstraat 17 the product design with our production capabilities.’

QUICK RESPONSE The geographical market focus is on Northwestern Europe, in particular the Benelux home region, Scandinavia and the German-

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Special High-tech The Netherlands - April 2022




‘IT DOES OF COURSE REFLECT WELL ON US THAT WE WORK FOR ASML’ In the past five years, the number of customers, turnover and profit at 3T, a developer of customer-specific electronics and embedded systems, doubled. As a relatively small company of around a hundred employees, it has also been able to count the crown jewel of Dutch high-tech among its customers, ASML, for 25 years. And the acquisition in September of last year by Kendrion, an international automotive-oriented business, has further strengthened 3T’s position. In which the company clearly keeps its own strategic goals in mind: improving its organisation and internal processes, technology management and more focus on markets, but not automotive. BY WILMA SCHREIBER


n addition to 3T, Kendrion has now also recruited its CEO, Richard Mijnheer, so COO Norbert Beltman has temporarily taken sole charge. Looking back, he notes that the takeover hasn’t brought about any major changes: 3T continues to be a service provider for the industrial market. ‘However, much has changed and improved in the internal organisation, such as HR and Finance, in the past six months. The fact that we’re now part of a listed company does indeed lead to a different dynamic, but the developments are in line with the strategic course that we set out two years ago.’

INDUSTRIAL QUALITY With this, Beltman first and foremost refers to improving the organisation and streamlining internal processes. Second, 3T strives for technological thought leadership: leading the way in following new technology. ‘We’re not NASA, but we do want to remain attractive to customers and employees. That means staying away from competitive and commodity markets as much as possible and being active in a niche market. Continuous development also helps maintain our margins’, he explains. A fourth strategic goal is increased market focus, namely on complex mechanical engineering, medical, defence/security, measurement systems (test tools), but not automotive, which is, incidentally, a core business of Kendrion. ‘We mainly accrue knowledge of electronics and want to bind


‘An increasing part of our efforts at ASML is demonstrating that parts do what they are supposed to do’, Norbert Beltman, COO, explains. Photo: Inge Heeringa

talents to enable Kendrion to carry out projects. In Germany, where you’ll find the beating heart of the Kendrion organisation, the company is far away from knowledge centres, while Eindhoven University of Technology, Twente University and universities of applied sciences such as Saxion, Windesheim and Fontys are just around the corner. Focus on automotive should not be at the expense of the industrial quality of 3T, because that’s where we really want to grow.’

HTC SITE In total, 3T now employs a hundred staff members, of whom eighty in Enschede and twenty in Eindhoven. Specialities include analogue electronics, motor control electronics, sensor interface electronics, FPGA technology, high speed interfaces and embedded software. Furthermore, 3T carries out the sourcing for the product (electronics) it developed. ‘Our added value mainly lies in small series and more complex products for customers for whom electronics is only a small part of the entire product and for which they often have no in-house knowledge,’ Beltman explains.

Special High-tech The Netherlands - April 2022

EXTREME SCARCITY This summer the 3T office in Eindhoven will relocate to the High Tech Campus. ‘We’re outgrowing the building and the campus projects a positive image towards both customers and employees. And it’s closer to ASML.’ The request from this high-tech giant from Brabant was, and still is after 25 years, making a contribution towards the development of electronic parts for new machines, new functionalities and improved performance. ‘Right now, however, there’s a strong demand to help solve the problems related to the availability of components, i.e. chips. Both in connection with chips that are declared obsolete and chips that are temporarily poorly available’, Beltman explains. ‘And the scarcity of chips is extreme right now, in all markets. That’s why we’re also looking at redesigning boards to make other components fit.’

INTENSIVE KNOWLEDGE In the last five years, both the number of employees and turnover have more than doubled. And although extreme demand meant that ASML’s share in turnover more

than doubled in that period, the non-ASML share doubled with it. ‘Seven years ago, we set ourselves the goal of somewhat limiting the relative share of ASML, combined with absolute growth. If we become too dependent on a single customer, it’s a risk not only for ourselves, but also for the customer’, the 3T COO explains. ‘Since the acquisition by Kendrion, that dependence and the risk of our continuity have become less of an issue.’ An important added value of 3T is its intensive knowledge of ASML and their way of working. ‘Many of our engineers have been around longer than ASML’s own staff. We’re often asked to help train their people, as part of the induction or otherwise.’

IN NEED OF A CHALLENGE Keeping customers happy is one side of the coin, captivating your employees is another. ‘3T has to deal with a population of technicians who need a challenge, something that a role as service provider does not always automatically bring. While solving component issues is certainly satisfying, true technicians want to create new things. We need to make sure they can.’ On the other hand, Beltman realises that 3T will remain a small company, even after doubling to 100 employees. ‘It does of course reflect well on us that we work for a global company and the technical challenges that come with it.

The danger is, however, that you can only do that and no longer the small projects where you have a stronger bond with the products. For example, radar speed cameras that for a substantial part consist of our electronics.

again’, Beltman explains. Within that context, 3T is also developing its own initiatives, such as MINT (multi-interface development board, etc.), which is continuously being developed in line with ASML’s needs and is now ready


That’s quite different from supplying a single part to a machine worth 200 million that neutralises vibrations from a truck driving past 500 metres away. In that instance, you’re only a very small cog in a very big machine.’

ACTIVELY THINKING ALONG Furthermore, many projects for ASML consist of developing test tools to test new systems in an efficient manner. ‘We’re expected to actively think along in terms of solutions and defining technology roadmaps. An increasing part of developing complex systems is demonstrating that parts do what they’re supposed to do. Every day, something changes in machines and that all has to be tested

for the eighth variant. ‘That test tool now travels around the world, at various ASML suppliers in the US, Japan and Europe.’ In the near future, 3T will further formulate an answer towards the growing pains of recent years: improving the organisation, paying more attention to employees and project implementation. 'There’s still a lot to do. In part, Kendrion can help us with that professionalisation step, in other respects it really has to come from ourselves. We must and want to ensure that we preserve our own 3T identity and our brand, both towards our customers and our employees.’



Special High-tech The Netherlands - April 2022



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‘WE DON’T DENY THAT WE WORK FOR THE WORLD TOP IN SEMICONDUCTORS’ PM works for the absolute world top. The motion specialist from Dedemsvaart in the north of the Netherlands has grown along with the increasing demands of the market by investing heavily in equipment, partners, software and people. ‘Ten years ago, we had an R&D department with three, at most four engineers, today we employ twenty.’ BY MARTIN VAN ZAALEN


ver the past decade, requirements have accelerated, especially from the semiconductor, medical technology and analytical markets. ‘In the past, many customers were still happy with a standardised product from the catalogue but today, PM customers ask for solutions that have been developed and produced specifically for them.’ Those are the words of Gert Lennips, managing director of PM, developer and manufacturer of linear precision bearings, frictionless slides and positioning systems. ‘That has a lot to do with the increasing complexity of the customer’s product,’ says sales manager Ard Abbink. ‘As a result, his core competence is becoming increasingly specialised and for that, he needs all his capacity. For everything beyond that, he likes to be taken care of by specialists like us.’

FASTER AND MORE ACCURATE This means PM enters the customer’s development process earlier, in order to deliver a more complex positioning module that is faster and has a higher rate of repeatability at the end, explains R&D and engineering manager Jan Willem Ridderinkhof. ‘Nowadays, for example, we’re asked not only to develop and manufacture the linear systems for an XYZ stage, but also the underlying structures that connect it to the machine. That must be a structure with a certain rigidity. Increasingly, they have to function in a vacuum, which in turn requires that the materials used do not gas out. You may also be asked to supply an active vibration isolation that measures and absorbs vibrations.’

HIGHER EDUCATED Supplying this at an ever higher level naturally requires PM to bring in moretechnical disciplines, filled in by people with a

higher level of education. Abbink: ‘Nowadays, we employ a lot of people who come from a university of From left to right: Gert Lennips, Bert Post and Jan Willem Ridderinkhof. Lennips: ‘Today, PM customers ask for solutions that have been developed and produced specifically for them.’ technology or Photo: FotoTheo a university of applied sciences. have to compete with the big OEMs on the To this end, we work closely with the Delft labour market here.’ and Enschede universities of technology, but also with universities of applied sciences. We are on the curriculum committee of the DIGITAL TWIN Saxion Mechatronics course. This way, we To be able to meet increasing demand, ensure that the increasingly complex investments have not only been made in questions that come our way are properly people, but also in equipment, software and translated into the content of education.’ partnerships. ‘We have the best production The number of engineers has of course also machines on the work floor. We have the latest grown considerably. Ridderinkhof: ‘Ten years PLM software at our disposal, so we can ago, we had an R&D department with three, first create a complete digital twin from the at most four engineers, today we employ modules, thoroughly simulate and test its twenty. And for large projects, we are operation before physically producing it. And expanding that number even further with we work closely with loyal partners to supply seconded staff.’ things like linear motors and materials.’



Incidentally, sales manager Bert Post adds: ‘The demands placed on our operators have also increased considerably. That’s why we also maintain intensive contact with the regional training centres, we provide our own training and we visit primary schools to get young people interested in technology.’ The latter is also aimed at expanding the labour market for technology, which is tight in the Netherlands. Is Dedemsvaart, 180 kilometres from the heart of the ecosystem around ASML – an important customer – in the right place for attracting talent? Lennips: ‘Our location is actually an advantage. We are surrounded by cities with universities of technology, universities of applied sciences and regional training centres, while you don’t

PM works for clients all over the world, but focuses on the customer base in Europe and especially the Netherlands, where the world top of the semiconductor is well represented. ‘In principle,’ says Abbink, ‘we never talk to customers about other customers. But if we’re asked if we work for the world top in the semiconductor, we won’t of course deny that. And then people won’t hesitate putting you on one line with that world top.’ And rightly so, he believes: ‘In the Netherlands, we have acquired a unique position as a motion specialist. But also worldwide, there are few parties that can do what we can.’


Special High-tech The Netherlands - April 2022



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