Angstrom Turns 25 | Part 2 | Losing isn’t all bad

July 19th, 2017

Andrew Bass

Ice was beginning to accumulate on the windshield wipers, but Andrew Bass barely noticed. Driving through a freezing rainstorm in Pennsylvania on his way home from New Jersey, he was trying to sort out how Angstrom had failed to secure a contract to provide Princeton University with a thermal evaporation system. They had been in talks for months, and this would have been a fantastic opportunity for the young company.

“We talked at length with Princeton about the technical challenges they were facing with this system. We understood and identified ways to overcome those challenges but still lost the job to a more experienced group. It was disappointing to be sure. However, five months later they contacted me and asked if we would be interested in developing a sputtering system for them. We were fortunate enough to get the opportunity.” Angstrom Engineering has been providing Princeton with their thin film deposition equipment ever since.

Andrew Campbell, Angstrom’s current co-owner discusses how that experience has helped shape the way Angstrom approaches system sales. “When you look at it objectively, it isn’t surprising that Princeton went with the experienced group over the small, untested company from Canada. It’s a testament to Andrew Bass and his level of professionalism that he came as close as he did! It’s very impressive. That so-called failed opportunity paved the way for Angstrom Engineering, as the sputter system we eventually built for them exceeded their expectations and helped establish a lasting relationship with both Princeton and the researchers who went from that group to other institutions. It developed trust.

This sputtering tool for Princeton University was one of Angstrom’s very first systems.

“It became a physical advertisement for Angstrom Engineering. Every system that goes into the field is an opportunity for us to make a statement. Once an Angstrom system is in someone’s lab, and they experience the relationship that working with us provides, a partnership is formed. Developing and maintaining that relationship is the most important thing we do here.”

“Part of that relationship is the pursuit of engineering machines with uncompromising performance. If we deliver a system that does not move our partners’ goals forward, it hurts the relationship. Each system we create has its own kickoff meeting. A vital component to that meeting is a discussion on ‘how do we make this even better for our partner?’ You get one chance to make someone happy.”

An early Angstrom system, with a much younger Angstrom team.

“Finally, we put a lot of effort into making these machines safe. We’ve built trust with our partners, and part of that relationship is ensuring the safety of anyone directly working with the system. We take it very seriously.”

“Andrew Bass created the blueprint for how to approach this type of work, and it has proven extremely useful. That lost system to Princeton proved that you can build trust with someone even when you’re not chosen to do the work. We put our partner’s needs before our own. Everything else springs from that.”

This is part 2 of a 3 part series on the history of Angstrom Engineering, as we celebrate 25 years in business. We will release them weekly. Andrew Bass retired in 2012, and has since focused his time on athletic pursuits, as well as building intricate wood carved art that double as fully functional time pieces!

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