Nuance Systems Inc., or NSI for short, provides critical devices to producers of semiconductors, solar panels and LEDs. Demand for NSI’s products is high, and the company is growing rapidly as a result. NSI and its 90-plus employees moved recently into a 60,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in Sherwood, quadrupling its floor space in the process.
“Our products play a critical role in manufacturing semiconductors, LED lights, and solar panels,” says NSI founder Kyle Kimmerle. NSI manufactures highly precise gas and chemical delivery systems.
Kimmerle founded NSI in 2008 “out of necessity” when a similar company he worked for shut down its Oregon operation and retrenched in California. He didn’t want to move, and several dozen coworkers faced joblessness during the worst days of the Great Recession. So Kimmerle decided to keep his roots in the Pacific Northwest and started Nuance Systems Inc. The needs of regional suppliers steered the company on its current path, says Kimmerle.
Though it always has provided systems for semiconductor production, in its early days NSI relied more heavily on the booming LED industry. While LED manufacturing largely happened in other countries, says Kimmerle, the biggest manufacturers of precursor chemicals are located in the United States. And some of these chemicals are not only extremely flammable but combust when exposed to air or water. For such chemicals to be moved by road, the U.S. Department of Transportation requires them to be stored in specially certified containers. NSI’s ampoules were – and are – certified to DOT requirements, which helps set NSI apart from the competition.
To diversify the company’s customer base even as its semiconductor work has increased over the years, NSI began to supply chemical delivery systems to manufacturers of solar panels. This is a growing part of the business, says Kimmerle, and NSI now serves solar manufacturers throughout the world.
Nonetheless, the semiconductor industry continues to drive much of NSI’s growth. In 2021, German engineer and design firm Exyte acquired NSI, which now belongs to a group of companies supporting the construction and operation of semiconductor factories globally. The construction of domestic chip plants is poised to surge as production is moved onshore and CHIPs Act spending begins to materialize. One of NSI’s greatest challenges currently involves the management of inventory in expectation of a sudden rise in demand, says Kimmerle.
The company’s new facility provides the capacity to meet that demand. Not only will the additional floor space allow existing teams to spread out, but it will allow NSI to bring in new capabilities to expand its business. The company’s work must be highly precise, and NSI already employs a team of welders who work, often with the assistance of microscopes, in a facility clean room.