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Hank Vanderhulst senior immigrated from Holland to California’s Silicon Valley prior to it being known by that name. He worked in Stanford’s machine shop before opening a two-man operation with a partner he met on the job at the university. Microprocessors were not yet a thing, so the business grew off the burgeoning local medical industry. “My dad bought out his partner when they only had three machines and opened Vanderhulst Associates in 1972,” tells Hank Vanderhulst junior, president and CEO of Santa Clara, Ca. based Vanderhulst Associates. Inc. “The company has come a long way in 50 years, but our core competency still lies in hard to machine parts for medical equipment manufacturers and suppliers.”

The majority of jobs at Vanderhulst don’t run lights out. They have a team of 26 working on 30+ CNC machines shop-wide.
Brands like Ganesh, Brother, Miyano and YCM are lined up in rows and cells throughout the shop.

Hank started his career as a child standing on a box drilling parts for his dad, but his sister took another path before becoming an owner at Vanderhulst Associates Inc. “My sister Sandy Thompson and I purchased the company from our parents twenty years ago when they were set to retire,” explains Hank. “They built a strong, thriving business that we were excited to continue and grow”. Sandy is a CPA and went to Santa Clara university for accounting/business and started managing the finances when our parents were considering retirement. At that point we knew she was going to be here forever like me, it’s the perfect pairing owning the business together. She handles all the office and day to day, and I manage the manufacturing with the help of an awesome staff. Sandy’s daughter and husband both work here, and my wife worked with us for a while. It’s still a family business, and that’s important to us when our name is on the door.”

Vanderhulst began investing in horizontal machining centers close to 20 years ago. Along with the DMG Mori NH400DHC and Makino A71 they also have a handful of Kiwa KH 4500 with six pallet changers. The Makino is dedicated to a single 304 part that requires 22 hours of machining.

Medical is their bread and butter at Vanderhulst, with top names in the industry utilizing their abilities to produce parts made from exotic metals with unique features. A leading supplier of mass spectrometers relies on Vanderhulst to produce multiple internal UHV parts as well as key larger components. “Our Makino A71 is dedicated to producing a single part of the mass spectrometer,” details Hank. “Makino makes a great machine, and it takes every bit of its capabilities to produce these Forged 304 stainless parts. The part itself begins as a 162 pound block of 304 and after 22 hours is machined down to only 17lbs. It is an extremely difficult part to machine and is the heart of the mass spectrometer. This part runs nonstop every day.”

UHV (ultra high vacuum) sub assemblies are machined from aluminum, and stainless before being assembled in their clean room.

The facility itself is jam packed with machining centers of all types. Brands like Ganesh, Kiwa, DMG Mori, Makino, Brother, YCM, and Miyano are tightly spaced in rows and cells. Everything from standard verticals to pallet pool horizontals has its place. “Since 1984 we’ve been in this building,” continues Hank. “Dad bought the building and we spaced it out how we wanted, but it looks nothing like how it started out when we moved here. When we first moved in you could throw a football down the sides. More and more jobs led to more machines, more machines lead to more people. We have 30+ CNC machining centers with 26 employees. We have a few machines like the KH 4500 Kiwas, the Makino A71, and the DMG Mori NH400DHC that run overnight and over the weekend with a single guy who comes in reload and change out the tooling. Most of what we do requires us to be on site and included in the process from start to finish.” Because of the needed hands-on approach each new machinery purchase must be added value over the machine it replaces. Hank has more than 15 standard vertical mills, but five of the YCMs are equipped with a 5 axis positioning table. “We have a dedicated group of verticals that service 1 customer,” details Hank. “They produce pump parts and need 5 axis positioning that can deliver on speed and quality.”

Top left & Top Middle – Five years ago Vanderhulst purchased Universal Microsystems, a company that sells gas flow restrictors. Vanderhulst manufacture everything on-site along with testing and assembly inside their clean room. Bottom Left – Similar pump heads made from different types of materials. Their multi angle fluid ports are machinined in a single operation. Bottom Middle – Vanderhulst machine brass inserts with .010 thick sapphire swaged into them. Right – This monster of a part begins as a 162 pound block of 304 and after 22 hours on the Makino is machined down to only 17lbs. Forged 304 SST UHV 1×10^-11 Torr.

It sounds bad when you say Covid had some upside, but as an essential business in the medial industry Vanderhulst Associates. Inc. were on the receiving end of increased workflow. To support that added demand meant replacing a few aging machines with new ones. “We’ve been customers of Expand Machinery for about ten years now” tells Hank. “Harvinder Singh is great to deal with and has taken good care of us through the years. He really backs his products and makes sure you are 100% satisfied that it does the job as promised. We like buying used machines from Expand Machinery because it is like buying new without the price point. I know everything has been tested and anything that isn’t perfect has been replaced. I’m not getting a used “I hope it works”, but a machine “I know it works.” I’ve purchased new and used Ganesh mills from him, and in the last five years financed them through his wife at Valley Financial. It is a one stop shopping experience. I tell him what I need, he sends some paperwork, and the machine is delivered and installed.”

Vanderhulst Associates. Inc. dedicated a couple of their milling centers to internal parts of covid testing machines. One such item was a 304 puck that was piece of the conveyor system on the machine putting together testing kits. They ran six different versions of the puck, producing upwards of 6,000 units. “We purchased a Ganesh Gen Mill T500 to do those parts specifically and added a larger Ganesh Gen Mill 4024 to replace a different machine. Many of the stock features on the Ganesh cost extra with different brands. The T500 for example has a 30-tool changer, chip conveyer, through the spindle coolant, all standard. My guys love the Mitsubishi controls, and how accurate it is at high-speed machining thanks to the generous look ahead. It does a better job on accuracy when you are trying to run it as fast as you can, and we run most jobs as quick as we can.”

Vanderhulst Associates. Inc. are in a unique position for an operation of their size. They have their own product line of gas flow restrictors. Companies like Lam Research, Applied Materials and Novellus Systems all procured through a dedicated dealer network. Hank purchased Universal Microsystems 5 years ago and sales have doubled. By producing, assembling and testing the products inhouse they are able to make a decent margin. An added benefit is more exposure to the machining aspects at Vanderhulst Associates. Inc. “Companies go to the flowrestrictor.com, and that draws them into the shop.” Adds Hank. “They see our quality firsthand, and it earns us business. We just produced a job for Lam with a one-day turnaround because they knew us from Universal Microsystems. The larger companies in the area were quoting them a 12-14 week delivery time, and we did it in a day. They were happy, and happy customers keep the spindles turning.”

Left – The Ganesh GenMill 4024 is the newest addition to the shop. The Ganesh product line offer many standard features that cost extra on other brands. Middle – Vanderhulst Assoc. Inc. are ISO9100 certified. Their quality lab includes multiple Mitutoyo CMMs with Renishaw heads as well as a vision system. Right – Hank Vanderhulst, president and CEO of Vanderhulst Associates. Inc.

The future is going to be an exciting place for Hank, Sandy and the awesome team at Vanderhulst Associates. Inc. “We are making a name for ourselves doing jobs other won’t or can’t,” concludes Hank. “Working with difficult and exotic materials is not something everyone likes doing. 75 percent of what we machine is stainless, titanium, peak, or MP35n. We are working more and more with MP35n material. It is 10x the price of 304, and it’s tricky. We picked up quite bit of work because we were willing to experiment in drilling these tiny .0035 port holes on multiple angles.  I like doing niche work that others can’t. You come through the doors here at Vanderhulst Associates. Inc. for prototype or production and we will deliver above and beyond.”