Speaking at the grand opening of Trymax Semiconductor Equipment’s new location, ASML Manager Service Lab Jan Pieter Kuijten nice words about the collaboration. Mayor Hubert Bruls of Nijmegen gave a speech and emphasized that it is gratifying that the company has decided to stay in Nijmegen. Trymax, a manufacturer of machines for the semiconductor industry, is experiencing a real growth spurt. The market is growing at an unprecedented rate and it requires great adaptability. Manager Leo Meijer: ‘The stagnation in the supply chain is the biggest bottleneck. The most important thing is that we get it delivered. By smart planning internally, we can then find suitable solutions for the continuity of our production. ‘
– ‘Countries like Japan and Taiwan still have great growth potential.’
– ‘We offer a smart process, including the right support.’
” Accurate copying is a tough requirement, especially in the automotive industry. ‘
– ‘We want to convince customers with our quality, stability and flexibility.’
– ‘The biggest challenge is whether we can produce everything and deliver it on time.’
‘We used to do everything the customer wanted, now we standardize strongly’
Until recently, Trymax developed and produced in a building near the Nijmegen Novio Tech Campus, where companies such as NXP, Ampleon and Nexperia and the Chip Integration Technology Center. Due to lack of space and high expectations for the future, the company moved to a building approximately 5 kilometers away as the crow flies, where the production area, the clean room and the research area have more than doubled in size. A screen in the shiny reception shows where Trymax is represented in the world. Nijmegen is the home base. The company has its own sales and service offices in China and Italy. In other Asian countries and the United States, it works mainly with agents.
Over the past ten years, the company has developed a comprehensive product portfolio for the semiconductor industry, its own NEO line. These are machines based on plasma technology for, among other things, the removal of light-sensitive varnishes, etching of various materials and surface treatments. In 2021, Trymax produced more than 75 systems, and this year it will definitely be more than 100 machines. Ludo VandenberkExecutive Vice President: “All our customers are expanding massively. There is growth all over the world. We are currently primarily active in Europe and China because there is only a very large demand coming from here. There is still a lot to explore in the US, and countries such as Japan and Taiwan still have great growth potential. ‘
‘We keep customers on board with openness and trust’
It is not only the technology of the machine that attracts customers to the Nijmegen company as flies to the syrup. It is about the overall process that Trymax delivers, says Vandenberk. ‘We offer a smart process, including the right support. We think continuously with the customers and look for even better solutions. ‘
Trymax noted, for example, that certain layers were difficult to remove. Two years ago, it introduced Trymax UV curing technology. Meijer: ‘The UV curing machines make layers, so to speak, more robust, so that they are easier to process afterwards.’ The technology was already well known in Europe and there is also a demand for replacement; in Asia, manufacturers are even less familiar with this process step.
Good on tour
At the time, Trymax started as a service and maintenance company for Matrix machines (see box). It has only been supplying its own products for about four years now, which has therefore won excellent acceptance in the market. The old Matrix story has now fallen completely into the background. There is now a comprehensive installed base worldwide of around 350 NEO machines. Meijer: ‘The machines we supply are on average larger, more complex and therefore more expensive.’ Customers are major players such as NXP, Roche, STMicroelectronics† Infineon† Bosch and Qualcomm† Vandenberk: ‘We supply a lot to chip manufacturers in the automotive, power electronics, MEMS and sensor markets. There is a huge shortage of chips in all those markets. ‘
With the growth in Trymax, a separate quality department has also been created. Customers want to be able to trust that everything is in order and come to Nijmegen for regular inspections. Meijer: ‘They want assurance that we always build the machines in exactly the same way, that everything in the production process can be traced and that we handle complaints correctly. Copy accurately is a tough requirement, especially in the automotive industry. We want to raise our quality thinking to an even higher level. We start with internal audits, the decision lines need to be registered even better. ‘
Confidential and open
The company has an ongoing focus on innovation and has a roadmap. What development does it want to focus on – whether it is with customers or partners? What new market segments are on the way, where can the portfolio be further expanded? All of this determines growth for the next three to five years. ‘Our roadmap is partly based on the current market and partly beyond it’, says Vandenberk. ‘What is within our reach, where can we further develop our knowledge within the industry? Remove the segment solid state drive, where companies like Seagate Technology operate. It’s interesting to us too. ‘
Trymax has developed a strong platform to which various processes can be connected to serve completely new markets, Meijer emphasizes. ‘We are always in discussion with key customers: How will they develop further in the coming years, what do they expect from us? For example, we hear that they want even faster machines, or machines that can remove a different type of layer, or that they want to work with other substrates that our NEO machines must also be able to handle. That information is, of course, very confidential. We have NDAs, secrecy agreements, signed so that we can freely and openly discuss this with our customers. We keep them on board based on openness and trust. ‘
In an earlier interview, Leo Meijer called Trymax one quick followsmoving more and more in that direction technological leadership. ‘We have grown strongly with our own R&D and roadmap. We focus on what customers ask us, and we have many ideas of our own. ‘
In Europe, Trymax experiences little competition in the markets where the company is already present. The connections to the customers are very strong. In Asia and on other continents, where the market still needs to be conquered much more, there is some competition in Trymax’s processes. Meijer: ‘It requires sharp analysis: who are the competitors, how good are they, can we do better and how much better? We want to convince customers with our quality, stability and flexibility. ‘
Trymax already scores high with the ease of maintenance of the machines. They are often used 24/7, but the cost is nonetheless relatively low. The machines rarely stand still, says Meijer. Trymax receives a lot of data from installed machines. Most customers share their information without any problems. This provides a lot of insight into performance, such as uptime and average time between errors† These are typically the KPIs that a customer looks at and from which the machine builder is judged. Vandenberk: ‘If the goals are not achieved, customers will want us to intervene. If they are met, customers want to know what we can do to further improve it. ‘
Growth requires a lot. Vandenberk and Meijer see that the world has become more complex over the past two years. ‘We are heading out of a pandemic that has disrupted the entire supply chain enormously. And now Europe is facing a war. ‘ The problems are well known: major logistical disruptions, lack of materials, price increases on absolutely everything. Meijer: ‘We have an excellent order book. The biggest challenge is whether we can produce everything and deliver it on time. ‘
Another aspect is to encourage the new employees up in speed to get. “Of course, we hire people with some education. But that does not mean they can go straight from day one. Our rapid growth puts pressure on the introduction and training process. When we were younger, people went for a year and got to know the products from A to Z. ‘ That time is over now. Therefore, the production has been redesigned and set up much more serially than on a project basis. People are constantly making a new piece of assembly and thus learning step by step. ‘Of course we still build customer-specific machines, but we used to do whatever the customer wanted, that was our strength back then. But if you supply 25 machines a year, it is something different than if there are 100. We standardize strongly. We will add machine-specific cases at a later date. ‘ Trymax aims for a ratio of 70-30, with 30 percent special customer characteristics. A logical step for a growing company, the two believe. Standardization also helps in the purchasing process.
At the same time, the organizational problems can be easily solved internally. The supply chain remains the largest bottleneck. Meijer: ‘The unpredictability of the market is the most difficult. You go home on Friday and think everything’s fine. You come back on Monday and the delivery time for a particular part is suddenly eight months instead of three weeks. It happens. If we do nothing, it will lead to production stoppages, and despite the full order book, no machine will leave the house. ‘ Trymax talks a lot with suppliers: what do we do to make things go, can we help each other? “But it requires a lot, a lot of effort.”
The growth also creates a great need for financing. Trymax has NIBC as an investor on board. Good agreements have been made with the house banker on working capital. It is always more comfortable to finance growth than loss, says Vandenberk. It’s an interesting phase to grow from a small to a medium-sized business, both say. Meijer: “It requires a fundamentally different approach than three or four years ago. Roles and functions change, I now manage much more in the main, of course. We have made further investments at management level. In the beginning, they tend to develop the organization on the operational side, in the last two years, emphasis has also been placed on strengthening the management. ‘
There are currently eleven vacancies for production people, engineers, buyers and – to strengthen the R & D team – a CTO. Further growth in the number of machines per year will not mean a corresponding increase in the number of employees thanks to further process optimization. ‘We had a certain image in mind for our company, but we could never have imagined that we would be here now,’ says Meijer. “At the same time, we continue to grow organically, on our own. The business grows, we grow with it. Standing still is no longer an option. ‘
From Matrix to Trymax
Founder Leo Meijer started as an equipment engineer at Philips Semiconductors, where he was responsible for the basic process equipment installed at the factory. One day he switched from Philips to the American chip machine builder Matrix Integrated Systems and became a senior field service engineer at the Leuven location. In 2003, Axcelis Technologies acquired the Matrix, but the legacy was no longer supported. Meijer decided to continue its service and maintenance activities under the name Trymax. However, it offered a small future, and Trymax developed its very own product line NEO for the manufacture of integrated circuits in the semiconductor industry. There are now platform types for wafers up to 8 inches (200 mm) and for wafers up to 12 inches (300 mm).