ANGSTROM ENGINEERING

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Angstrom Engineering Inc. (Angstrom), based in Kitchener, Ontario, is a leading manufacturer of thin-film vacuum deposition equipment and vacuum chambers. The company specializes in designing, manufacturing, selling, and servicing machines that deposit thin films, growing layers of materials on a substrate with thicknesses that can range from less than one nanometre to several microns; this process has many applications in research and industry. Angstrom’s president, David Pitts, proudly notes, “We are one of the few companies capable of producing the layered thin films on a nanometre scale in Canada.”

Although few people may be familiar with the thin film industry, its products are integral to our daily life. A pair of prescription eyeglasses has a physical vapour deposition (PVD) coating on it—the anti-glare, anti-scratch coating on the surface of the eyeglasses is on the nanometre scale. Television and cell phone screens use similar technology.

“We design and manufacture the machines for thin-film coating, and our customers purchase machines from us and build different thin-film products for various applications,” says Pitts. Besides thin-film coating equipment, Angstrom also manufactures vacuum chamber machines for space simulation, allowing customers to simulate the space or satellite environment.

Most of Angstrom’s customers are researchers, universities, and research laboratories across the world in the fields of material science, physics, chemistry, and electrical engineering. In order to ensure customers’ specifications are met, and because of the complexity of the end products, all of Angstrom’s products are engineered to order. However, this custom approach does not limit the company’s sales to market; Angstrom exports the majority of its products, and has delivered equipment to clients in over 34 countries on five continents.

Angstrom traces its roots to 1992, when Andrew Bass founded it as a small service company for vacuum manipulators and components. After eight years of hard work, Bass was able to hire the company’s first few employees, and sold several PVD systems in 2000. Pitts was promoted to president after Bass’s retirement in 2011.

In 2009, Angstrom moved its whole team from Cambridge, Ontario to its current facility in Kitchener to meet the growing business needs and better serve its clients.

THE COMPANY EMPLOYS 35 STAFF MEMBERS, MOST OF WHOM ARE ENGINEERS OR SKILLED TRADESPERSONS.

Waterloo’s talent pool has been an excellent source of skilled workers for Angstrom. The company also hires many of its engineers from nearby Western University, the University of Toronto, and Conestoga College. Partnering with educational institutions and attracting skilled talent is important to Angstrom. Workers with skills in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) play a critical role in driving the company’s innovation and growth. Simultaneously, Angstrom works closely with universities on research, not only to fulfill its research and development (R&D) needs, but to better serve its clients as well.

Angstrom takes advantage of a wide range of available government programs; according to Pitts, its internal R&D has been successful through the Industrial Research Assistance Program (IRAP) and the Scientific Research and Experimental Development (SR&ED) program. In addition, the company has received the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) Engage Grant for a number of consecutive years. In the future, Pitts plans to apply for the Ontario Centres of Excellence (OCE) Voucher for Innovation and Productivity (VIP) grant.

When asked to define the one policy change that would help Angstrom attain greater success, Pitts replies, “Overall, we benefit a lot from working with all levels of government but there is some slight room for improvement—namely, opening up the border with America.” Due to the fact that there are a limited number of suppliers in Canada, Angstrom places approximately 2,000 orders a year from the United States. Each shipment then has to go through customs, which leads to extra costs, Pitts explains.

Even though it has few serious competitors in Canada, Angstrom is competing with leading U.S. and European companies globally. To keep business thriving and to stand out from the competition, Pitts emphasizes that Angstrom must continue to focus on customers’ needs, and remain responsive and customer friendly. “In addition, we are constantly improving our products and evaluating our methods of reaching customers in different markets,” adds Pitts. He expects the business to continue to grow, and foresees an increasing emphasis on R&D trends in emerging markets. Pitts looks forward to expanding Angstrom in this new and exciting environment.

Discover more about Angstrom on their website.

Company Profile

Company Description

Overview

Angstrom engineering specializes in designing, manufacturing, selling and servicing machines that deposit thin films (growing layers of materials on a substrate with thicknesses that can range from less than 1 nm to several microns) with many applications in research and industry.

Key Facts

Headquarters: 91 Trillium Dr., Kitchener, ON  N2E 1W8

Executives:

  • President: David Pitts
  • VP Business Development: Andrew Campbell

Year established: 1992

Number of employees: 35

Revenues: 10-15 Million

Line of business

Thin film vacuum deposition 333299 – All Other Industrial Machinery Manufacturing

Products

Make machines for thin-film coatings. Eg: antiglare, anti-scratch coating on eyeglasses—that’s everyday example of thin-film coating that is in the nano scale. Thin film deposition systems for PVD (Physical Vapour Deposition) and CVD (Chemical Vapour Deposition) processes, customized and assembled on-site. Systems are used for production, pilot-production and research into thin films applications such as: renewable energy, organic electronics, and flat panel displays, to magnetic storage, decorative coatings, photonics, spintronics, quantum dots, and various optical and tribological applications.

Markets

Customers: Researchers, Universities, Research labs, and commercial companies that are doing research. Angstrom provides them with tools and machines. Customers do studies in material science, physics, chemistry, and electrical engineering. There are different types of thin-film for various applications.

Exports: 90% – USA, China, Russia India and some other emerging markets.

R&D, Skills and Educational needs

Employees: don’t have any typical shop floor workers; all skilled trades, technologists, All STEM skills (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math). Employees have a wide range of skill sets from mechanical, electrical, software, machine building nanotechnology and chemistry.

History

Andrew Bass founded Angstrom in 1992. It was started as a small service company for vacuum manipulators and vacuum components. The business was operated as a one-person company for the first 8 years. Angstrom started to grow and took larger orders of PVD systems in 2000. The original site was in Cambridge, as company needs larger facility, it was moved to Kitchener (current site) in 2009.

Competitive Environment

Competitors

There are 2 or 3 direct competitors in Canada, but 10 times that in the U.S. and Europe.

Partnerships

Government Relationship:

  • Very good
  • IRAP & SR&ED programs have been beneficial and important to Angstrom

Education Institution Partnerships:

  • Worked with University of Guelph on using Angstrom’s vacuum equipment to do some studies on Mars
  • NSERC engage grant

OTHER PROFILES