TSST has already existed for fifteen years. It is one of the most successful spin-offs of what is now called MESA+. Twente Solid State Technology designs and manufactures equipment with which universities and institutes can create and examine thin layers. The equipment is used all over the world.
Cas Damen, the director of TSST points to a metal machine measuring two by two by one metre with tubes, spheres and cylinders. “This machine is going to Switzerland soon.” From a distance it has some similarities with an iron squid or an old-fashioned one-man submarine. The device is a so-called PLD system, which stands for pulsed laser deposition.
The only one of its kind
TSST started in 1998. A few years earlier, the Twente research group of Dave Blank, Guus Rijnders and Horst Rogalla had succeeded in applying thin layers on a surface of a ceramic substrate very accurately by means of a self-built PLD. Researchers from all over the world asked the Twente researchers where they could also get hold of such a machine, but it was the only one of its kind. Rijnders, Blank and Rogalla founded a spin-off and Cas Damen, who had just completed his PhD research and had meanwhile become an expert in the field of thin layers, became the first employee. The company now employs twelve people, sells about eight units a year and has a turnover of three million euros.
China is emerging
Universities and institutes all over the world make use of the knowledge and skills of TSST. The demand is especially increasing in China. In 2013, TSST sold three of its eight machines to China. For 2014, two more orders are already scheduled for China. Damen: “Ten years ago, many Chinese students came to the West. They are now professors in China and want to work with Western equipment.”
Turning to all knobs
Each TSST machine is tailor-made. The time between the first discussion and the delivery of the equipment takes about eight months. The first two months of this are devoted to consultation, design and adjustment. The TSST staff (intermediate and higher vocational students and university graduates) then spends six months building, testing and installing. Damen: “Our customers are always pushing the limits of what is technically possible. If we guarantee that you can heat our machine to 1000 degrees, then they want to go to 1100 degrees. Even if it means that they have to replace a part twice a year. With our machines, you can turn all the knobs. That is our strength. That is why universities and institutes come to us.”
Course for customers
Once the machine has been delivered, this does not mean that the customer then has to figure it out for himself. TSST has, for example, set up a course for the company’s customers together with MESA+. Damen: “We teach them the capabilities of the machine and the MESA+ researchers show them the science they can get from it and how to interpret the results. This is important for our customers and therefore for us too. A good research result works better than a glossy brochure.”
NAME : Cas Damen (1968)
POSITION : Technical director and manager of TSST, Twente Solid State Technology BV
(www.tsst.nl). A company that since 1998 has been designing and building equipment that enables universities and institutes to create thin layers and thus develop new materials.
PREVIOUSLY: Damen attained his doctorate at the University of Twente in 1997. He performed research with a piece of equipment to create thin layers. After taking his doctoral degree he became director of the then new spin-off TSST
MESA +... “we regularly make use of the expertise and facilities of MESA +”