Unisign Machine Tools » Martijn van Knippenberg

Martijn van Knippenberg

“We build machines at Champions League level.”

Martijn: ‘At home you’d always find me tinkering with mopeds and sit-on mowers. I even used to build go-karts. The work carried out in Assembly really appealed to me. I was keen to become a Assembly Engineer and started the two-year training course in industrial service engineering. This meant I studied and worked at the same time.’

Martijn van Knippenberg, mechanisch monteur Unisign

Fast forward almost 20 years, and Martijn is still with the Assembly Department. Building a machine from scratch is what he enjoys most. ‘I love to create an end product from the ground up. Unisign builds a range of CNC machines. This means I have variety at work. Each machine is different, which makes this anything but a dreary manufacturing job.’

In the early years, Martijn worked alongside an experienced colleague who served as his mentor. ‘I would build machines together with my mentor. The thing that old hands will teach you in particular is how accurate you need to be when building a machine. Precision is key. The dimensions and squareness must be spot on. Because you can’t mill with any kind of precision if the CNC machine itself isn’t accurate to begin with.’

Now Martijn is one of those experienced guys in the department himself, carrying out assembly work together with his colleagues. Martijn: ‘Unisign works to high standards. We don’t just throw things together. Our CNC machines are in the Champions League. Let’s look at a Unitwin machine as an example. This is a true workhorse, which clients will expect to run 24/7 without any issues. So, as a Assembly Engineer, you have to be confident that everything is and will keep working. Our machines represent a big investment for our clients. If they fail, there is a big knock-on effect on their manufacturing process.’

America, Mexico, India, China and numerous European countries are just some of the many places Martijn has visited to assemble our CNC machines. Martijn: ‘I love the travel that comes with my job. It is always special to deliver a machine you’ve built to a client. It feels like a great honour to me.’

Martijn reveals that building an entire machine can sometimes take an engineer up to a year. ‘You have to be OK with working on the same project for a long time. Every one of our engineers builds a machine independently, supported by third parties. Some of us have been here longer than others and not all of us have built every type of CNC machine yet. This is something we bear in mind when deciding who will take on which assignment. I’ve assembled each Unisign machine at least once and the Unitwin is my favourite CNC machine. There is not a single inch of it that I don’t know.’

Martijn is not only a Final Assembly Engineer, he’s also Hall 6’s leader. He was given this honorific at ThyssenKrupp in Germany. ‘We delivered four Unitwin machines to this client two years ago. At some point I became the go-to for any questions that the workers had, including those from other contractors. “Just ask Martijn if you’re unsure.” They called me “Hallenmeister”, or hall leader. I took that honorific back to Unisign. I’ll try to help anyone who has questions or issues. I also monitor order and cleanliness in our hall, and will challenge people if need be.’

Martijn considers the project at ThyssenKrupp in Homburg, Germany, as one of his most enjoyable. Martijn: ‘I have spent quite a few weeks with them. If I travel there again, I will reach a milestone. It’ll mark my 25th visit.’ The delivery of several Unitwin machines to a client in India is another memorable project, although for quite a different reason. Martijn: ‘Temperatures would reach 55°C in the factory during the day. Whenever they couldn’t find me, I’d be in front of a fan trying to stay cool. That was my hottest assembly job ever. You’d drink six litres of water a day and would only need the loo at lunchtime. Just to give you an idea.’

So what does Martijn think is unique about Unisign? ‘What’s special to me is how calm Unisign’s halls are. This is not a noisy workshop where each worker is busy hammering and grinding away. We have a pleasant, quiet working environment. And it’s clean too, which of course is down to us. Assembly Engineers have a varied and interesting role here. And there is also extra money to be earned with occasional trips abroad, which are all well organised and well paid.’

March 27, 2024