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Case Studies

How We Made a Multi-Million Pound Move Look Easy

9th April 2019

SuperFab at Royal Holloway, University of London

Royal Holloway is one of London’s leading academic institutions, welcoming British and international students from over 130 countries.

The team called on IES after being awarded £2.7M in funding by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), contributing towards a new £8M nanofabrication and cleanroom facility at its Egham campus. The facility known as SuperFab will help the University’s Department of Physics continue research into new and unique types of ultra-sensitive sensing devices, and the construction of a superconducting quantum computer.

IES was tasked with moving and installing brand new and extremely valuable research equipment into the new nanofabrication and cleanroom facility at the University’s Egham campus. IES offered the University the advantages of a pre-existing relationship between IES and JEOL, the OEM of the new research equipment.

Taming the terrain

The project was split into two stages:

1. The move and installation of research equipment into the new cleanroom facility at the Egham campus.

2. The decommissioning, relocation and re-commissioning of equipment taken from the old cleanroom to the new purpose-built space.

One of the major challenges of the project was uneven terrain, which needed to be overcome during both stages. Then there was the size of the machines themselves, which would not be able to fit through existing doorways.

The IES relocation team also needed to factor possible adverse weather conditions into their operational planning during the first stage, with the risk that equipment could be exposed to the elements and irreparably damaged if not protected adequately, and to maintain the cleanliness of the tools being relocated.

Overcoming all obstacles

To tackle the uneven terrain, IES created a stable surface by covering the ground with steel and wood sheeting, providing the platform the team needed to move the equipment safely and efficiently. This surface also reduced the vibration to which the sensitive precision components were exposed.

This enhanced surface was also crucial during stage 2, particularly when repositioning the specialist equipment using a forklift truck. The effectiveness of the solution and the know-how of our experienced engineers meant that this delicate stage of the relocation was completed without any issues.

“IES are a very impressive source of expertise."

We overcame the adverse weather conditions by installing an extensive area of plastic sheeting which encompassed the whole main entrance to the new cleanroom. This meant that the equipment was completely protected from the elements, and that the final stage of the relocation could take place without any hitches.

IES began the second stage of the project with a comprehensive decommissioning and fingerprinting of the equipment already owned by the Department of Physics, in order to make it safe for the move.

Our pre-existing relationship with JEOL— the OEM of the new research equipment — was a huge boon to the university, as was our vast experience with handling large scale projects with sensitive equipment.

During this initial part, another challenge presented itself, when fluorine – a poisonous and highly reactive gas – was suspected in one of the machines.

Posed with this problem, the IES lead engineer for the project devised a method to make the move safe.

We offer a wealth of experience in delivering engineering services for academic institutions. Read about our complex installation of a laser system at Nottingham Trent University.

A world-leading facility

Thanks to the decommissioning, relocation and equipment re-commissioning solutions put in place by IES, and the precision with which the IES team executed the project, the new nanofabrication and cleanroom at the University’s Egham campus was equipped and ready to assume its status as a world-leading facility. The Electron-Beam Lithography systems based at the facility are considered among the most advanced on the planet.

The Department of Physics’ research teams – led by Doctor Rais Shaikhaidarov and Professor Phil Meeson – could progress their studies backed by the EPSRC funding, benefitting from the new facility’s mix of new and previously-owned equipment which was installed by IES.

“A great job”

Prof. Meeson, from the Royal Holloway’s Department of Physics, praised the IES team involved in the project: "IES were recommended to us by a well-known semiconductor equipment provider. Their preparation was a key ingredient to the success of the project, and the move was executed very smoothly and carefully.

“The equipment was swiftly reconnected, re-commissioned and expertly tested. We were surprisingly quickly left with all of our tools working in the new location just as they had been in the old one, together with some friendly and very useful free advice. IES are a very impressive source of expertise."

James Lovell at JEOL, the OEM of the new equipment for the Egham cleanroom facility, spoke about the long-standing relationship with IES: “The equipment we manufacture includes high value electron microscopes and semiconductor tools which are naturally very fragile items that necessitate the utmost care during relocation.

“When it comes to relocation and installation, we trust IES implicitly to assure the safe and efficient movement of our equipment every time, and are always happy to recommend them as a partner to our own client base.”

Could you benefit from the machinery movement and installation expertise of IES? Call us today on +44 (0)117 456 2188 or use the contact form.