The RGA in practice: A substantial investment and a perfect match
“Having your very own RGA system gives you not only a whole lot of ‘tranquillity’ in production, but also insight: you see exactly what is happening and it ensures a sense of what is and what is not possible and also what works. Moreover, it creates awareness among colleagues, about what is possible and what is necessary.”
Sven Pekelder is CTO at Settels Savenije Group, and also responsible for Business Development. This role includes important investments, such as an RGA: “An RGA is a device for Residual Gas Analysis. In a vacuum system you pump out all the gases, but some outgassing from parts will always occur. With an RGA you discover which gases these are. It is a sensor that of course adds very little residual gas. It is a sort of artificial nose that you put on a vacuum kettle.”
What is special about your RGA?
“RGAs can be large or small, depending on the size of the vacuum vessel. There are only about 10 large RGA’s in the Netherlands, which are usually not for rent. We had already purchased a small RGA, and recently we also bought a large one. Mind you, the term ‘large’ is relative: at NASA they have vacuum vessels that are the size of a house. Our system measures 2 m by 2 m by 1 m.”
“We believe the investment in the large RGA is justified. If you say you are reliable in your design and in your order & delivery, you must also measure that reliably. In our projects, there are natural changes that affect the measurement moments, which will compromise you if you are dependent on the RGA from another organization. These are often fully booked for long periods of time.”
“But an RGA is also a good investment for other reasons. You usually do a residual gas analysis as the last qualification step, but there are also a lot of interim factors involved. If you only measure a deviation at the last qualification step, what caused it? That is why it is essential to carry out intermediate checks; you learn a lot from these. If you depend on others, you have too many delays. That is one of the reasons why we decided to invest in our own RGA.”
Why is an RGA important to you?
“We design vacuum systems and have to take into account the outgassing of all components. Vacuum systems are often expensive, especially if you want to make them perfect. With an RGA you can make a product that is good enough for the application, because you can predict well what the result of your design + manufacturing process will be. You save costs in design, supply chain, quality, etc.”
“We had already mastered this principle in the field of mechanics, because of our own production, but with regard to vacuum, only in design. So, it is really an investment in the future and a confirmation to the outside world that we grasp this: If you are working with vacuum in combination with production, you really need experience.”
How far are you with the commissioning?
“We haven't had the system that long yet, so we haven't publicised it a lot. We are just getting to know the RGA, it makes sense that you can’t use it immediately. If only it were that simple. There are RGAs that are used in series production - but then you would have to adjust the process to the device. Mostly, we make the first product and do the first tests, but there is always something that makes it complicated. On the other hand: that is also what makes it so fascinating.”
“We would like to make our RGA available to others to a limited extent, although of course, our own production takes precedence. At the moment, the machine is not fully booked, so parties that are interested can contact us. Rudy van der Veen and myself are the contacts for customers. Thom Bijsterbosch is our RGA specialist. He manages the system and has also participated in the development of the same. He is the person who carries out the analysis, which requires some interpretation. Thom is looking for explanations and unexpected effects: is it really a problem we have encountered, how can we possibly solve it?”
What is your role in the company?
"I am responsible for Business Development; I talk to customers about their development challenges and see how we can support them and relieve them as much as possible."
“I thought I was a machine builder, but it is actually the physics that fascinates me. The interaction between physics and devices to be precise, sometimes it is desirable and sometimes it is not. This also applies to the RGA: you create a vacuum and ‘poke around’, but you have to be smart with it if you want it to work. You have a result, but what does that really mean? We do this differently from others because we look at the holistic process. In this way our RGA really becomes a Settels Savenije RGA.”