Nanotech company's relocation to Watervliet proves to be brilliant move

By John B. SnyderDecember 27, 2011

Nanotech company's relocation to the Arsenal proves to be brilliant move
1 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL
Nanotech company's relocation to the Arsenal proves to be brilliant move
2 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Rainer Schmid, general manager of Vistec Lithography Inc., is explaining the delicate and detailed process required to build an electron beam lithography system. Fellow Vistec workers, Jamie Smith and Dave Wilkinson, discuss the status of one of the... (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

WATERVLIET ARSENAL, N.Y. (Dec. 27, 2011) -- Transporting a company's headquarters and operations from Europe to New York during the middle of the worst economic climate since the Great Depression may seem to some as either foolhardy or simply brilliant. But that is exactly what Vistec Lithography Inc. did when it moved its operations from Cambridge, England to the Watervliet Arsenal in 2008. Nevertheless, given the significant level of activity in Vistec's cleanroom this week it appears that Vistec's decision three years ago was an act of brilliance.

Rainer Schmid, general manager of Vistec Lithography, said that after three years of operation at the Watervliet Arsenal that today all six cleanroom manufacturing bays are at some level of production and that Vistec's production slots are booked through the third quarter of 2012.

"Although we now have well over 50 employees working in the United States, our relocation didn't come without some significant challenges," Schmid said.

In the Army there is an adage that says that plans do not survive the first contact with the enemy. As Schmid explained, that adage was also true in regards to Vistec's move.

"Our number one lesson learned from our relocation in 2008 was to embrace the fact that plans change," said Schmid.

Schmid said that Vistec came to the Arsenal with a solid business model. But as the recession hit in 2008 and 2009, they had to adapt to the recessionary environment versus hoping that the environment would adapt to the Vistec business model. In essence, Vistec didn't fight the original business plan to try to make it work.

Vistec, whose company roots go back to the 1960s, manufactures Gaussian Beam Lithography systems for customers from Australia to Penn State University. Although Vistec's machines may never find their way into American households, the machines may help advance the science that will improve the households of Americans.

Vistec's systems use electrons to write patterns that permit the formation of nanotechnology structures that have dimensions of a few nanometers. A nanometer is one billionth of a meter or 1/100,000 of the thickness of a sheet of paper. These electron beam machines are used across the world for advanced research in communications, data storage, biomedicine, and for manufacturing.

Vistec recently installed one of their most advanced electron beam machines in a cleanroom facility at the University of Notre Dame.

"To keep on track of our challenging research roadmap and to address a number of new application areas where the 5200 has some new system features, we were looking for a high performance nanolithography system that provided high quality lithography performance, highest flexibility and ease of operation," said Dr. Patrick Fay, director of the Notre Dame Nanofabrication Facility.

The Vistec EBPG5200 is the latest version of the highly successive and field-proven EBPG electron-beam lithography tool series.

Since its relocation to the Arsenal, Vistec has also shipped an electron beam lithography system to the U.S. Army Research Laboratory in Adelphi, Md. The system has provided ARL with a state-of-the-art high performance, high throughput patterning capability to further scientific discoveries, technology advances, and analyses for defense applications.

Schmid also said that some of the success of Vistec's relocation has a lot to do with the Watervliet Arsenal.

"The Watervliet Arsenal not only provides us a great secure site to run our operations, the Arsenal also provides us with direct access to the nation's center for nanotechnology research and manufacturing," Schmid said.

Within a 30-minute drive from the Arsenal, a new $4.6 billion GlobalFoundries Fab 8 facility is being built and the University at Albany's College of Nanoscale Science & Engineering is collaborating with more than 300 global partners in the field of nanotechnology education and research.

Vistec is one of 17 private businesses that have set up operations on the Arsenal as part of the Arsenal Support Program Initiative. ASPI is a program enacted by Congress in 2000 that promotes commercial use of Arsenal property that is currently not needed to support its mission.

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