“Outer space” has a new location in Fitchburg.
Sort of, at least, in the case of the manufacturing operation at CAMECA Instruments Inc.’s new building at 5470 Nobel Drive, in which the atom probe machines that need to be vacuum sealed to remove all moisture.
Manufacturing is one-third of the work done at the site, which opened in mid-June this year as the company moved from its old location down the street. CAMECA, a division of Ametek, also runs tests using its own machines and has engineers, for a total of around 50 employees.
Olson said the new space has been “way, way better.”
“We had been (at our old location) for 10 years, and we kind of outgrew the space,” he said.
Outgrowing its space is how the company ended up in Fitchburg in the first place in the mid-2000s, after beginning on the west side of Madison in 1999. At that point, the company – known as Imago Scientific Instruments – was a “venture capital funded enterprise” waiting for its first customer, and “a lot of fun,” Olson said.
“I came on to do the control systems software for the atom probe, and it was really too soon for that,” he said. “We needed a project plan, to get an instrument built.”
In 2003, they got that first customer, and that base has grown quickly since, especially after Ametek acquired the company in 2010.
“It’s great to see our instruments all around the world now,” Olson said. “They’re in very prestigious universities, and national labs and commercial applications that it’s really rewarding to know our technology is being used to apply to some of these really challenging materials science problems.”
The atom probes are used mainly for two applications, Olson said: Measuring the pressure steels in nuclear reactors and microelectronics.
The latter is a more recent addition to the applications, one which Olson said is “really exciting.”
“(Microelectronic companies’) research for their next generation of devices is being done on the atom probe,” he said.
While the new building hasn’t yet allowed for any groundbreaking additions to those two applications – at least not that are public – it has offered plenty of improvements.
“In the other building because we had kind of grown up organically over time, (manufacturing) was chopped up really where we could fit things in,” Olson said. “So we’d have to move stuff from one part of the building to the other, things were kind of shoehorned in.”
The new space also includes a much more welcoming break room, where they hold their staff meetings under plenty of natural light.
“The area we had before … there weren’t any windows and nobody wanted to have their lunch (there),” Olson said.
That’s a benefit for one of Olson’s favorite parts about the company, the employees.
“The tenure of the employees is long,” he said. “It kind of feels like a family.”