From the University Lab to Market: How SolMateS Revolutionized Manufacturing

Something very big is going on inside your electronic equipment. So big that it’s—rather tiny. What I mean is that in the world of high tech, companies are continuing to fit more and more sophistication into smaller spaces than ever before.

Take SolMateS, a start up from the Netherlands, and its work in thin film deposition.

SolMateS has worked out how to apply piezoelectric layers onto wafers using pulsed lasers. You may recall from physics classes that piezoelectric material can turn electrical energy into mechanical energy, and vice versa. So, for example, if you apply a force like a finger tap to a piezoelectric device, you can generate an electric charge. You’ll find the technology used in devices like mobile electronics, thin film actuators, sensitive medical devices, and even computer memory.

Of course, piezoelectricity is nothing new. Nor is using it in layers for micromechanical systems. The difference that SolMateS introduces is that it uses a pulsed laser to physically move the material onto the substrate. With the pulsed laser technology, thin film can be applied cheaper and with better quality at higher volumes compared to traditional methods. And that’s the revolutionary part of the SolMateS’ technology.

SolMateS was launched in 2006 by material science researchers and students at the University of Twente in the Netherlands. Founders Arjen Janssens and Matthijn Dekkers always held to the philosophy that “development is only valid if there is a real market need.” As such, the founders spent the first few years together working for more than 100 small Dutch companies, as consultants, to get the most real-world experience possible.

Then they began developing a product out of their own technology: A machine that automates the process of depositing thin film piezoelectric layers on wafers–using pulse lasers. Designing the machine? That’s where we come in. The new PiezoFlare 1200 was developed using PTC Creo 2.0. It’s is a real-world machine that can be used by manufacturers for faster, more accurate production of micromechanical devices.

Piezoflare 800 from SolMateS

Piezoflare 800 from SolMateS

PTC Partner GPO Solutions tells us the team began product development using PTC Pro/ENGINEER Wildfire 5.0, but soon wanted to improve management of large assemblies. So, SolMateS switched to PTC Creo 2.0. With the upgrade, SolMateS can now use lightweight graphics to load assemblies up to 40% faster than before. Creating, editing, and validating assemblies all go a lot faster with PTC Creo 2.0.

SolMateS results so far haven’t escaped the notice of the business community. The company has won awards for being the “best startup” and “best young company” in recent years. And in 2011, it was awarded $3 million in capital. Companies like Robert Bosch and SINTEF have already placed orders for the company’s pulsed laser deposition systems.

Piezoflare 800 from SolMateS

Today, SolMateS has fully productized their technology from university lab to market in just a few years–with fresh money, some great engineering ideas, and PTC Creo behind them.

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