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Commercial Micro Manufacturing magazine asked the Dutch company BuBclean to tell our readers about the company’s beginnings and describe the services it offers to the micro and precision industry.
Here is what Dr. Bram Verhaagen and Dr. David Fernandez Rivas have told us.
BuBclean started as a spin-off company from the University of Twente in 2013. Just before obtaining our PhDs in Applied Physics (Bram) and Chemical Engineering (David), we got together and decided to explore an exciting and new technique for ultrasonic cleaning. The ultrasonic baths that are commonly used in labs around the globe, and particularly in micro-mechanical industries, make use of microbubbles for cleaning. Our novel technique allows us to control the creation of these microbubbles and use them to clean with sub-millimeter precision. This opens up the path for controlled precision cleaning beyond what current ultrasonic equipment can provide. This is of interest for cleaning small and delicate components such as silicon wafers, miniature gears, tubes, connectors, and more recently, 3D printed parts.
In the autumn of 2013 we obtained a STW Valorization grant from the Dutch Government, and BuBclean was founded with the mission to explore the commercial potential of our technique. Since then, the company has focused on developing innovations in ultrasonic cleaning, one of them being our recently launched and patented product: the ‘BuBble bag’ (www.bubclean.nl/bubble-bags-2). Based on the technology described above, the BuBle bag allows for better cleaning of small objects using the traditional ultrasound technology; hence, no need to throw away your ultrasonic bath.
Meanwhile we have participated in several R&D projects to devise customised solutions to complex cleaning problems that low and high-tech industries are facing. Our collaboration with the University of Twente provides us with access to world-class facilities (NanoLab, High Tech Factory, among others) including analysis tools that are instrumental for BuBclean’s strive towards more knowledge and control on cleaning.
A relevant example is the project (www.bubclean.nl/mesacleanrooms) we did in collaboration with the NanoLab cleanroom. Ultrasonic baths are used for many processes in the cleanroom, including cleaning and photoresist stripping. We have investigated which parameters are optimal for such processes by performing tests with artificial particulate contamination and a particle counter apparatus. Such projects typically involve questions on how to measure cleanliness and on how clean a surface has to be, and this is why our knowledge in combination with the NanoLab facilities is required.
We value the environment and infrastructure available in Twente; that is why BuBclean, has stayed in close contact with the University of Twente. In the initial stage, the Kennispark foundation (www.kennispark.nl) helped us out with practical questions on legislation, financing possibilities and network. The Twente region has a strong high-tech industry, yet finding the right market for our enabling technology has been a challenge. We couldn’t have reached our present position without the contribution of our mentors from local firms such as DEMCON (www.demcon.nl) and network organisations such as TKT (www.tkt.org). Additionally, the entrepreneur ecosystem with other spin-offs located in Twente helped us to build our company.
The collaboration between BuBclean and the University of Twente works both ways, as innovations can be directly translated to society, while questions from industry are researched with an academic approach. This interaction is the main activity of Bram, being full-time active in the company, with support on the commercial aspects provided by our business developer Nathalie van den Berg.
David has an Assistant Professor position within the Mesoscale Chemical Systems group (MESA+ Institute) (www.utwente.nl/tnw/mcs/people/academic_staff/david_fernandez_rivas) headed by Han Gardeniers, who is also a scientific advisor for BuBclean. This ensures that BuBclean and the University of Twente will remain intertwined. David’s research is focused on elucidating the mechanisms of acoustic cavitation and finding new applications. This research is in close collaboration with Michel Versluis (also scientific advisor of BuBclean) at the Physics of Fluids group headed by Detlef Lohse (part of both MESA+ and the MIRA Institute for Biomedical Technology and Technical Medicine).
Often, students are motivated to do technical or commercial assignments, and we work with them to develop innovations for ultrasonic cleaning. This exchange brings us new ideas, and in return gives the students interesting and relevant assignments. Therefore we foresee more innovations in ultrasonic cleaning that we will bring to the market, while contributing to the regional economy and activity. That is, in our view, the true entrepreneurial character of the Twente Region.