Fresh perspective from free thinkers

Published on by Development & Engineering. The reading time is approximately 5 minutes.

Ralph ten Haaf works as a Lead Engineer at NTS. Together with his team, he is working on a redesign of a wafer professing machine. The customer's demand is challenging: reduce costs by 30%. An assignment during which Ralph and his colleagues can use a fresh perspective from free thinkers. An assignment that is also perfect for a new format that NTS uses to train future talent: student assignments. A great opportunity for Avans students Tim and Jelle, who are now firmly involved in the subject and are studying the entire development project from A to Z.

Ralph is lead engineer at NTS and currently works with a team consisting of two design engineers, an architect, a project manager and an account manager on a redesign of a wafer processing machine. Ralph is responsible for the technical part of he project. The ultimate goal is to achieve substantial cost savings: "our customer indicated that he wanted to reduce the costs of the module by 30%."

Handling wafers with minimal contamination

“What we are developing is a machine for the semicon. This machine is built for handling the wafers. The wafer comes in a foup of 25 pieces, is then removed and placed in a CD rack. That rack is then placed in an oven and heated to 800 to 1,000 degrees. What makes it complex is that there should be only one minimal contamination of 20 nanometers per 20 wafers. The entire process therefore takes place in a pure nitrogen environment. ”

Fresh perspective very welcome

“Our team has been working on this project for a year, we have drawn up a whole list of potential savings and have started looking at how we could achieve them. One solution yielded a few dozen euros, the other a few thousand, but we have been in this process for a year. A while ago I noticed that our team could use some inspiration from people with a fresh perspective. At that moment I saw one of my former teachers post something on LinkedIn and I got the idea to attract students. They can look at this project from a fresh perspective. ”

Student Assignments - utilizing potential and investing in future technical talent

“Last summer, NTS started an initiative to engage technical students called student assignments. Technical capacity, skills and expertise are highly in demand. At the same time, some of that expertise and skills remain unused. Think of technical students who, in addition to their studies, have a side job as a pizza courier instead of directly gaining relevant experience. Or of students who find it difficult to find an internship due to the health crisis. Using their potential and giving them opportunities so that we also have sufficient technical talent in the future is the basis for the student assignments. These are technical project assignments that are fully in line with NTS's daily operations. The student assignments can be done in various forms, for example as a side job, internship or graduation assignment, and are executed by both individual and teams of students. ”

Cool complete assignment based on the needs of the project

“The student assignment that we have formulated encompasses the entire development project from A to Z. Create a concept, do a feasibility analysis, work on a 2D and 3D design and realize it. A very cool assignment that arose from what we needed during the project. With that in mind, I contacted HR to see if we could attract students. The response was very positive, we wrote and distributed an assignment and not long afterwards we came into contact with Tim and Jelle, two enthusiastic 3rd year students of mechanical engineering at Avans University of Applied Sciences. ”

Mapping what offers the most potential

“I came into contact with Tim through one of my former teachers, Jelle already knew NTS because he had already visited us once during a company visit at his secondary school. They started five weeks ago and are now conducting a preliminary investigation and are part of the team. They are really starting to getting to know the matter and are busy mapping out what a functionality costs now and what it should cost in the future. That is called value engineering, they look at where the greatest differences can be found and what offers the most potential.”

Come up with crazy ideas within set conditions

“They also have direct contact with our division in Singapore that supplies the parts. If they think that a part should and can be cheaper, they can immediately test whether that is possible. For example, they look at the design, materials used, handling costs and the way of assembly. Everything is allowed and everything is possible as long as it gets cheaper. The cost price must be reduced, the technical specs must remain the same and it must be manageable. Within those conditions they are allowed to come up with crazy ideas.”

Providing opportunities to a new generation of talents and getting energy out of it

“The great thing about this assignment is that Tim and Jelle have the same assignment as the team. They have the same targets, the same requirements and the same modules. The only difference is that they are allowed and able to think much more freely. The fresh perspective of the students and their drive give me a lot of energy. They are young and unbiased and have not run into walls yet. In addition to the energy I get from the students, I find it very important to give opportunities to a new generation of talents. I have had those opportunities myself. I think it is the social responsibility of a company to offer students an opportunity and to provide internships. ”

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