Circular economy and attractive workplace are among the nine strategic sustainability areas of ASML. These have received increasing attention in recent years but in some cases have already guided the company’s activities for decades. Romex, a long-standing supplier to the electronics industry, can testify to this.
Since 1969, Romex in Rhenen, the Netherlands, has served various markets with an extensive range of products for the assembly, production, installation, repair and testing of electronic components and products. These products range from soldering systems and testing equipment to cleanroom-compatible and ESD-safe products and furniture. The technical trading company supplies high-quality products and provides technical advice, while also developing specific products in collaboration with the customer, which are then produced externally and delivered to the customer.
ASML has been a customer from the early days. Today, together with its other preferred suppliers, the lithography market leader is one of the largest accounts at Romex.
From foam to PET
As an example of a customer-specific product, commercial director Floor van Ewijk highlights the blister packaging that Romex has been supplying to ASML for more than twenty years. “At the time, electronic products were often packed in regular, static foam, but that material is difficult to recycle. ASML then switched to blister packaging made of PET. Together with them, we developed a cleanroom-compatible, ESD-safe standard packaging that can fit up to a hundred different items with adjustments such as dividers and adaptable heights.”
PCBs and other electronics products had to be packaged dust-free and ESD-safe, so ASML set very high requirements for the PET packaging material, in terms of, among other things, outgassing, conductivity and shelf life. It proved to be a challenge to find a PET manufacturer that could meet all the specs. “In principle, after cleaning, the packaging can be reused, but due to the complex return logistics from abroad, this isn’t always efficient. It’s then deposited on site in the recycling bin because reuse of the material is definitely possible.”
The lying cart that Romex has developed is of a completely different nature but also touches on sustainability. “It’s comparable to the cart on which a mechanic works under a car. It’s an ergonomic product with which ASML shows they care for their employees. Assembly engineers don’t have to work on their knees under the machine but can move around with a bed, as it could be called, on which they can carry out their work comfortably while lying down.”
Romex delivered the first version twenty years ago and in 2022, Veldhoven requested more, says Van Ewijk. “However, most parts and materials, such as the frame, wheels, foam and artificial leather, were no longer available. We therefore created a new, contemporary design and had a number of them produced. This is a unique product for ASML; we have no other customers yet who invest in this kind of ergonomic tools.”
Next year, Van Ewijk will have been employed by Romex for forty years. His career therefore runs parallel to the life of ASML. “I can still remember from the early days how small-housed they worked. We’ve been visiting them since then and that will hopefully continue for a while because this industry is constantly growing and the products are getting smaller and smaller. Hence, the demand for dust-free and ESD-safe working is only increasing.”
As far as the commercial director is concerned, Romex’s relationship with ASML will remain sustainable in all respects. “Our company has been energy neutral for several years and we’re also certified according to ISO 26000 for social responsibility. In this way, we contribute to ASML’s sustainability goals with both our products and our business operations.”
This article was written in close collaboration with Romex.