‘The instrument maker’s profession is a team sport nowadays’

Jan van der Linden, head Precision Manufacturing group

‘AMOLF carries out specialized research and that often requires unique equipment. If an instrument can be purchased then the cheapest option is simply to order it. But, often that can’t be done because the instrument simply doesn’t exist. Then we either adapt existing equipment or we build an entirely new instrument. We make vacuum casings, manipulators, beam lines, optical elements, precision parts, and far more. Our colleagues from the Mechanical Design group provide us with the specifications. We can make almost anything with an accuracy of one micron. This is one reason why AMOLF and ARCNL can start new lines of research so quickly.’

‘We have an impressive set of machinery. We can perform traditional turning and milling. But also waterjet cutting, spark erosion, cold glass and ceramics processing, high-temperature vacuum brazing, microplasma welding, electron beam welding, CAD-CAM etc. Nobody can master all of those techniques. So in addition to the basic skills, we all have one or two specializations and we increasingly work together in a team. Many of the machines are computer-controlled and you need to be able to work with that. Off-line programming is getting more important and with that, the instrument maker’s profession has gained an extra dimension.’

Peace of mind
‘Regular training is needed to stay connected with the latest developments. We also visit instrument makers in companies and in other institutes to take a look behind the scenes. Sometimes we use each other’s facilities. We always try to give the researchers ‘peace of mind’, by offering short lines of communication, quick service, and constant quality. There is a considerable turnover here. New researchers are continually arriving. We do our best to help them set up their experiments. Some of the more experienced scientists have reputations that extend far beyond the Netherlands. That makes it an interesting world.’

What I like about my work:
I enjoy that no two days are the same. And that we do challenging and creative work in an inspiring environment with a lot of talented people.