Skip to content

A small Flemish company in a global project

Designing the Einstein Telescope requires technology at the limits of what’s feasible. That means opportunities for industry. Smaller companies can benefit too, as Vamac – a family-run business from the Flemish town of Diepenbeek – shows. Sales manager Christel Habils explains how a small Flemish company takes part in a global project.

How does Vamac work?

‘We are a true family business. My husband founded the company, I myself do the administration, procurement, selling and logistics, and our son is there in the workshop alongside my husband. We make customised metal and plastic components for the technical and medical markets. We produce jaw and skull implants, for example, as well as parts for the electronics and automotive industries. For instancand for a company that works for Facebook, among others, we supplied parts for the vision control of their fibre-optic cables.’

Mother and son Christel Habils and Ruben Valkeneers of the Flemish company Vamac NV.
What have you constructed for the Einstein Telescope?

‘With our partners 3MEngineering and SAC, we’ve constructed an instrument that looks for disruptive dust particles on the telescope’s sensitive mirrors. And at Vamac we manufactured the housing, among other things.’

Is your company often involved in projects like this one?

‘When we started in 1989, one of our first orders was for the Philips factory in Hasselt. We made precision parts for them for the first CD players. At a certain point, the factory left Belgium, but its specialists moved to similar companies, knowing that we could deliver quality and service. That’s how we pulled in orders, and we still do. We also have everything in-house to make precision parts, from wire EDM and sinker EDM right through to component hardening.’

‘The Einstein Telescope is a golden opportunity for our countries.’

Christel Habils, Vamac NV
So you felt ready to take on the Einstein Telescope?

‘Yes, although there were some things we needed to figure out first. That’s part of the game when you focus on prototypes rather than series production. For this piece, for example, we first worked in aluminium, but then analysis revealed that that still released dust and metal fragments. So we switched to stainless steel. Another part couldn’t be successfully produced with the computer-controlled milling machine, so our son machined it entirely conventionally.’

Ruben Valkeneers (Vamac NV) worked on parts of an instrument that can detect dust particles on the Einstein Telescope’s mirrors.
What was it like to contribute to the Einstein Telescope?

‘The Einstein Telescope is going to be an engineering masterpiece. It’s great for a small Flemish company to be able to help create it.’

So you’re a fan?

‘Definitely, the Einstein Telescope is a golden opportunity for our countries. With it, we’ll learn a huge amount about the universe. And a project like this also generates business for a whole range of companies that are developing new technologies. That means jobs and prosperity. Ten years ago, I saw how that works at the CERN particle lab near Geneva. The whole world is gathered there: so many creative minds who keep pushing the boundaries. The Einstein Telescope will do the same. Our governments should really advocate to have it constructed here.’

Vamac NV is a family business with 11 employees in Diepenbeek, Belgium, a small town close to the city of Hasselt. A workshop full of CNC-controlled lathes and milling machines, 3D metal printers, a waterjet cutter, and a whole lot more. With support from the ET2SMEs Interreg programme, Vamac joined forces with the Dutch companies SAC and M3Engineering so as to work together on the Einstein Telescope.

Photo’s: Jonathan Vos

Share this article