Thermo Fisher Scientific’s market-leading transmission electron microscopes are developed and produced at its R&D and manufacturing location in Eindhoven. These enormous and complex units, almost 4 meters in height, can visualize details as small as one ten millionth of a millimeter. For more information on how this helps the semiconductor industry and materials & life scientists, click here.
Currently five Nobleo engineers are working on-site at the Thermo Fisher Scientific R&D and manufacturing plant in Eindhoven’s Brainport. All are working on projects involving electron microscopes. But what exactly is their contribution?
The majority of the Nobleo team is involved with this project, developing a part of the microscope that moves the sample around under the electron beams. Obviously this module has to be incredibly precise, extremely stable and capable of moving minuscule distances with great accuracy.
Emma Hoes works as a mechanical engineer on this project. She was the first of the Nobleo team to start at Thermo Fisher, joining in early 2021. “My tasks are varied, and include making designs and technical drawings, meeting with suppliers, configuring test setups, testing prototypes and assembling parts,” she says. “I like that there’s a balance between theory and practice.”
Ainse Kokkelmans, a mechatronics engineer and a relative newcomer, only started working at Thermo Fisher in July 2022. “I’m also involved with this project,” she says, “on the mechanical, electronical and control side of this system. I do a lot of testing. It’s very practical and that really suits me.”
One of the reasons that there is a relatively large Nobleo contingent at Thermo Fisher is the state of the (local) employment market. “It’s difficult to find people that do what we do,” says Frits Verheggen. “It’s not that we bring expertise that Thermo Fisher doesn’t have in-house or that we know more. It’s just that our specialties match with what Thermo Fisher needs at the moment.”
Frits joined Nobleo’s Thermo Fisher team in March and spends most of his time using 3D modelling software for a part that accurately positions samples underneath a customized electron microscope. “It will be used in an environment with extremely low pressure and temperature,” he says, “so the specifications are very demanding. And even though I do modelling, I also spend a lot of time on the actual physical product. Hands-on involvement is really important for me; I don’t want to sit at a desk all day.”
Femmo Wernsen has been involved with the sample manipulator project since the summer. “I’m quite new to the high-tech industry,” he says. “I have approximately 25 years of experience in regular machine building. It was a big adaptation for me. But I’ve learned a lot about project requirements, documentation, tolerance analysis, things like that. It’s great that Nobleo engineers like me get the opportunity to become more familiar with the high-tech world through projects like this.”
Femmo sees his current role as a logical extension of his previous assignment: guiding a supplier in the design of an automatic sample loading module. “In the design, the springs that hold samples in place have to move with extraordinary precision,” he says. “I was asked to make a new tool to help in this.”
Sahar Etedali, a mechatronics designer, works on another project in which she designs project controllers for high-tech systems and analyses their performance. “The accuracy is off the scale,” she says. “But I kind of expected that. I like switching between conceptual and detailed level. And what’s also good is that, even though these applications are complex and highly technical, you still get the opportunity to be analytical, creative and critical. You can try out different things and are encouraged to think out of the box.”
Sahar joined Nobleo in 2018, and started working at Thermo Fisher in June 2021. “I used to be involved with this project, but not anymore. You can shift around within a company like Thermo Fisher.” Frits agrees; “I’m just starting my career, and what I like about Nobleo is that they help you explore different companies and projects, so you can discover what suits you best.”
“I must say that Nobleo is good to work for,” adds Femmo. “They take care of you and they listen to your wishes. The directors have a strong technical background themselves and can therefore empathize with what we are doing.”