celebrating 90 years Veco | 1964-1994

from past to future: our dynamic history

1964 - 1994

"Expansion and Diversification"

1994 - 2024

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2024 - future

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1964 - 1994: "Expansion and Diversification"

early 1960s

growth and development

In the 1940s, Veco was already developing cylindrical textile stencils in cooperation with the Twente textile factory, among others, but this did not lead to success at the time. In the early 1950s, it was decided to pick up these developments again, which this time did lead to success and made it possible to switch from manual printing (printing stamps on textiles) to machine printing within the textile industry. Revolutionary for this time.

 

The development of a seamless cylindrical textile template with a grid was a reality. Still, it was difficult for the shareholders at the time to determine what this would mean for the textile industry. Partly because of this, development still proceeded rather slowly, and it was not until the early 1960s that close cooperation with Stork (Boxmeer) really emerged. Stork turned to Veco in 1963 with a request for cooperation in the field of perforated seamless nickel textile templates, as they did not have the knowledge for this themselves. What followed was a licensing agreement: Veco supplied the molettes and Stork produced the stencils for a fee. With this, Veco stood at the foot of an important development in the textile printing industry.

The development of the textile templates was one of the long haul, but a great example where perseverance ultimately proved successful. Even in the year 2024, new projects are often several years along the way before they become successful.

 

Financially, Veco was doing well in the late 1950s. For the first time a turnover of more than 1 million guilders was achieved. Through the cooperation with Stork this growth was continued and this was also reflected in the expansion of the company. In 1961, a new building was constructed to house the management, the sales department and all other office staff. In 1962 expansion of the galvano department followed and in 1965 a long-cherished wish came true with the new photography building. In short, in a short time, there was a huge building explosion on the Veco site. Today, many of the buildings built at that time still stand.

mid-1960s

the birth of the Etching Department

In addition to electroforming products, Veco also took up the etching of metal foils. The reason for this was that the galvanic process of electroforming limited the choice of material. An alternative production method was sought that would make it possible to process metal alloys and various types of steel, among other things.

This, of course, was not new to Veco. Veco had been using chemical etching to manufacture production dies for some time. So it was obvious to apply this technology to make products from other metals such as stainless steel (SS). A specially equipped Etching Department was commissioned in 1965 by ir. Béla Jankovich.

In the emerging electronic industry, there were many applications that could be made by etching. One example was magnetic tape buttons for IBM. Five employees went on to manufacture these first products. Thus, with etching technology, a second production process was added, which made a substantial contribution to the growth of the company’s results.

late 1960s

a new logo and continued growth

With the expansion of the production assortment, the need for a professional company brochure also grew, and of course that included a new logo. For the design of the new logo, Veco sought close cooperation. The graphic designer of the paper mill de Hoop, Mr. Buddel, designed the characteristic Veco logo in 1968. This was a cutout of a sieve with round holes. The distinctive logo was replaced by the current logo in 2021.

An employee of the etching department with a lead frame

Growth continued briskly throughout the 1960s, due in part to huge demand from IBM for the etched IBM parts and growth in other products, for example, lead frames. This meant that the etching department had to work two shifts for the first time. This was arranged according to Veco’s first book of regulations, based on the collective bargaining agreement for the metalworking industry. To provide the growing number of employees with the opportunity to sit together during breaks, a canteen building was commissioned in 1968.

Under Director Jankovich, 13 staff members were recruited from Yugoslavia. The management recruited these employees in their own countries and they were housed in the Netherlands in a specially equipped farmhouse in Brummen. With the hiring of these employees, the number of employees rose to well over 100 for the first time in 1969.

early 1970s

growth, innovation and international expansion at Veco

The Etching Department had to deal with a wide range of products, with relatively high quality requirements. This led to a more systematic approach to research. In April 1970, a pilot plant/production laboratory was put into operation for this purpose. There, difficult, new processes could be developed and recorded before proceeding to production, the origin of today’s R&D department! In 1972 cooperation with Stork Boxmeer was further expanded and intensified with the establishment of joint research. 

To improve brand awareness and Veco’s unique technology internationally, sales offices were established in three locations:

  • In 1970, “Veco International” was established in Boston as part of Perforated Products. This company had been Veco’s agent in the US since the 1940s.
  • To better serve the German market, ‘Veco Industrieprodukte GmbH’ was founded in 1971 in Solingen- Höhscheid.
  • In 1972, a sales office was established in France, ‘Veco France S.A.’ in Rueil-Malmaison. 

At this time, in the large galvano department, a self-developed, fully automatic chrome line was put into operation. This allowed for more efficient and safer chromium plating of the sugar segments. In the early 1990s, a more modern chrome line was put into operation, which will be completely closed in 2024 after 51 years based on legislation. 

In January 1973, Stork & Veco signed a new contract for cooperation in a newly formed company: SVI (Stork Veco International). The idea was that the healthy growth of both companies would ensure that new markets could be found and that the grip on existing markets would be strengthened. From one joint company, with its branches, getting a foothold in the markets of North America, Asia (especially India) and South America (especially Brazil) was the goal, especially for the products: sugar segments, templates, and future precision products.

In 1974 Veco was split into five different companies (BVs), this was done to spread future business risks: Veco Electroforming & Photo-etching, Applied Electronics BV, Veco Manufacturing Company, Veco Research and Development Company & Veco Sales Company.

The Applied Electronics company had a place in the new R&D building. They made fruit machines, joysticks, and pulse testers for milking machines, among other things. Applied Electronics grew out of electronic developments that Veco itself invented. An example is the controls for the chrome line. The company later moved to Ede.

A new brochure called “Perfection in Precision” also came out in 1974. In the same year, a new office was opened in Boston, USA. This marked the end for Veco Stork International. These days Veco had a turnover of about 20 million guilders.

late 1970s

the evolution from Veco to Stork Veco

In 1975, Veco was acquired by Stork NV. Veco went through life as Stork Veco from this year. One reason was that Stork had to pay heavily for the use of the Veco license regarding the production of textile templates (at that time 1 guilder per template). The Veco pension fund was better than the Stork pension fund, for that reason it was agreed that in the first 5 years, there would be no changes in the terms of employment, management, and pension fund. Later, Veco came up with its own scheme book for staff. Today a scheme book still exists, now digital and appropriate to the times.

Veco products seemed ahead of their time, because in the technological field, nickel vapor masks were made that were used to make solar panels. At the “Productronica” technology fair in Munich, Veco showed a process in which a semiconductor chip was made directly to a lead frame. The photography department worked on the UPC (Universal Product Code) project. This was the forerunner of the later better-known bar code that is still used today. For further development of precision sieving, work was done in an extra clean room.  Anno 2024, the need to work clean and dust-free has only increased and people work a lot in clean rooms. You could say that this space was a “precursor” to today’s cleanrooms.

Unfortunately, Veco’s history also had setbacks. One example was the fire in the etching hall in the mid-1970s. All equipment was lost at the time. IBM, Veco’s customer at the time, was able to provide partial replacement equipment so that work could resume fairly quickly. This year a 3-day conference was organized in Eindhoven on electroforming and in particular µ -electronics. An excellent opportunity for Veco to promote the technology.

A fun anecdote from this time is the red gas pump that Veco had at the back of the property. Employees could refuel here at a discount. Some employees thought this was completely free, so this favor got quite out of hand. For this reason, the pump was later removed.

early 1980s

major developments and economic setbacks

In this period, there were plenty of developments concerning sugar sieves. For example, the Vecoflux was launched, a type of sugar sieve with extra many holes and a high passage compared to the existing sugar sieves. These flux sieves became leaders in the European market. The development of inkjet nozzle plates was also started. Today, both products still play an important role within Veco.

A major setback for Veco was the abrupt termination by IBM of the magnetic tape heads business. The next setback for the company was, again, a major fire in the etching hall, after which it was retrofitted with upgraded equipment. Along with a time of economic hardship, these were not Veco’s best years. But there were also nice developments this time.

One was the introduction of the IBM 34 computer for further automation of payroll, marking the end of the punch cards used until then. Another leap forward was the purchase at the laboratory of a Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM/EDAX) which, in addition to being able to study materials at high magnifications, also allowed research into their composition.

Developments in sales, production, and human resources (1985-1987)

During the 1970s and 1980s, Veco (from 1975 Stork Veco) made great strides in the areas of Sales and Marketing. During the years 1985-1987, Veco stood at various trade fairs to promote its products. Examples were “Flanders Technology” in Belgium, the Hannover Messe , Productronica in Germany, and “Design & Engineering” in the UK. At these exhibitions, Veco often gave technology lectures on electroforming and etching technology, technologies still unknown to many people, and presented its company brochure “The Precision Masters”.

Veco also became a member of the PCMI (Photo Chemical Machining Institute), a collaboration of several companies in the precision industry, where Veco employees regularly gave lectures and wrote articles for this association’s magazine. 

In addition to attending trade fairs, Veco also continued to expand its representation abroad. Whereas cooperation with Perforated Products in the US had been established earlier and sales offices had been established in Germany and France, now the company “Photo Planar” became Veco’s representative. Often the local partner or representation was cooperated at the trade fairs. Anno 2024, VecoFrance is still, as a partner, part of the Veco concern.  

Today there are still many people who do not know about the possibilities of our electroforming technology, which is why the activities mentioned above are still enormously important. So this importance was appreciated early on by Veco.

To enable the steady growth of these sales activities, Veco continued to invest heavily in its production environment. New halls were built for the production of large format products, which were equipped with new equipment. The photography department also received a major upgrade and an extra-wide etching machine was installed. The various investments and expansions meant that Veco was able to meet customer demand faster and better. At the time, an investment of 7 million guilders was made, a hefty sum of money for the time. Interesting detail, in 1985 a sanding table was developed that is still in use today in the production of large-format dies. 

The staff was provided with news through a staff magazine called “De Schakel,” later “The Mesh.”  Today, staff is provided with information through an intranet “Veco Update” and there is no longer a paper staff magazine.

Veco celebrated its 50th anniversary in 1984 with a sparkling party night, where Max Tailleur shared his characteristic humor about “a company where they don’t make anything with a bunch of crap around it.” During this celebration, Mr. De Ruyter will be honored with the Silver Leg Medal on behalf of the FME, presented by Mr. Ter Hart. The presentation of the newly introduced anniversary pins and necklace for employees with 12.5, 25 and 40 years of service also added a personal touch to the celebration.

late 1980s

innovation and growth at the end of the decade

The end of this decade saw further investment in the basics of Veco technology. The photography department replaced the old cutting plotter for a state-of-the-art successor. This allowed faster and more accurate production of master films.

To accelerate technical aspirations, the R&D department was expanded. The Veco organization was restructured into a structure in which Technology and Production were split. The etching department invested in a new pre-treatment machine called a brush machine and a new etching machine. The strong demand for the increasingly popular CDs and thus CD players led to a large etching order for Veco from Philips for high-quality springs for those CD players. Again, a great example of a well-known product that Veco indirectly contributed to.

CD player from Philips

More attention was focused on cost control, quality, and employee training.

Two courses were set up in cooperation with PBNA, but these proved so challenging that only one participant crossed the finish line.

Communication with employees was improved by setting up notice boards containing pamphlets from management, the works council, and human resources. Each type of pamphlet had its own color. The introduction of the Stork job classification was announced in the personnel magazine “De Schakel”. A personnel registration system was implemented, possibly contributing to the decrease in absenteeism. Proposals for SAO (System Working Conditions) allowances were resubmitted. Also, the job evaluation system was introduced using ISF (Integral System Job Evaluation).

Veco worked to improve its living environment. A new treatment plant was put into operation, resulting in a clean stream. Objections from local residents against Veco as a company were dismissed. The maximum height of buildings was increased from 8 to 9 meters in the zoning plan. Economic expectations fell somewhat short of goals in 1988.

early 1990s

innovation, quality and professionalisation

The 1990s began with a complete renovation of the Galvano Precision Department. The old characteristic building with its gabled roofs gave way to a spacious, elevated, new hall. In it came an automated PVA development line and a number of new electroforming and plating lines. Automated measuring equipment also made its appearance.  Temporary production took place in a small hall. Thanks to the efforts of all PG employees, production was kept up with verve under difficult circumstances. It was a relief when the new hall could be put into use, ready for further growth.

To further strengthen the idea of quality, a variety of programs and courses were initiated. Management By Objectives (MBO), Integral Quality Management (IKZ), Total Quality Management (TQM), and Integral Process Innovation (IPI) were rolled out across Veco personnel in a short period of time.  Part of the new thinking in the area of quality for production and technical personnel in particular were long-term training courses in the area of IKZ, the IKZ A and B courses and the IKZ training “measuring and calibrating”. This eventually led to a more focused approach toward ISO 9000 qualification and much more attention to the assurance process and error prevention. ISO certification and skillful staff training are still essential to ensure quality.

An important new product for Veco was the so-called SMT (Surface Mount Technology) plates. This allowed the assembly process of the Printed Circuit Board industry to be greatly simplified. Characteristics for these plates were, besides the high degree of quality, a fast turnaround time and rapidly changing layouts of those plates. To realize the short lead time, a laser photo plotter was purchased that could plot the pattern for the board directly from the design (CAD) onto a film. An automatic developing machine was attached to the plotter that made the process even more efficient. The SMT plates were electroformed between thick layers of lacquer. The investment was made in high-quality exposure equipment for this purpose.

Also characteristic of this time were the large-scale sales meetings. To properly inform the sales organization worldwide what the developments at Veco were and to allow sales managers to feed back their ideas about the various markets to Veco, an annual sales multi-day meeting was organized, for the first time in 1992. Participants were the Sales staff based in Eerbeek and the various directors and employees of the Veco offices abroad and various agents who worked for Veco.

In 1993 the Process Control Group (PBG) was established, the forerunner of today’s Production Engineering (PE) department. The main task in those early years was to record all technical processes within Veco in a structured way in the so-called process books, a huge and difficult job because the knowledge was very fragmented within Veco. A Quality Manual was written by the Quality Department.

In addition to the process description, a Procedure book was also written in cooperation with the Quality Department, containing the most important Veco procedures. The same kind of process took place within the HRM departments for regulations and a Quality Manual was also created. The Sales department ensured that the Veco products could be promoted in a much more professional way with attractively designed leaflets. A new Sales Information System was implemented to better map out the various markets and provide more focus. To support this focus, the sales organization was divided into so-called Article teams, forerunners of the later Business Units.

Again, a new step was clearly taken in the professionalization of Veco. Processes and regulations were established in various departments. At the same time, the sales department provided updated leaflets and brochures. All this led to Veco being ISO9000 certified by LLoyd’s.

Art and culture were not forgotten either. In addition to the very popular electroformed Christmas cards, a Gelderland design award was won in 1993 together with the artist Richard Walraven for a modern candlestick. Staff involvement was increased by establishing a suggestion box. A suggestion box committee was quite busy assessing the many ideas and properly rewarding the submitters. Some ideas led to serious cost savings of up to 100k guilders per year for the gilding process.

To give Veco employees the opportunity to develop in the field of computers, a PC private project was started in 1993. This allowed employees to purchase a PC for home under favorable conditions. The automation department at the time had its hands full to deliver all PCs to staff on time. Fortunately, office automation had been taken up in parallel within Veco on an extensive scale and almost everyone had a PC with Word perfect and Lotus 1-2-3. By 1989, the entire R&D group had one PC with the 5.25-inch floppies.

The end of this period was characterized by a strong demand for various Veco products in almost all of Veco’s departments. Especially the demand for high precision inkjets with customers such as, for example, Trident and Olivetti required investments in terms of quality and capacity. To meet this demand, several expansion plans were prepared. The so-called “Standard Galvano Master Plan.”  This ended the second period of Veco’s rich history and prepared Veco for the 21st century.