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Philips Usfa
Ultrasone Fabriek - Philips Crypto BV

Philips Usfa was founded shortly after WWII, when Philips acquired the activities of some German-lead manufacturers of military products. It soon became an important supplier of equipment to the Dutch Department of Defence and to NATO. The original company logo is shown below.

The original Philips Usfa logo

Usfa is the abbreviation of Ultrasone Fabriek (Ultrasone Factory), which was basically a cover for the actual activities of the company, which was well-known for the development and production of optical and night vision equipment, proximity fuses and for their research on Stirling motors. Philips Usfa also developed and built a wide range of cipher machines for the Dutch government and the police, but primarily for the Dutch Department of Defense and some of its NATO allies.

At its height – between 1977 and 1989 – Philips Usfa had 275 employees on its payroll and was located in a large factory at Meerenakkerweg in Eindhoven (Netherlands). The image below shows an artist impression of the building at Meerenakkerweg, but other locations were used as well.

Image taken from the brochure 'Introducing Philips Usfa BV' [4]

In the late 1980s Philips Usfa was merged with another Philips subsidary — Holland Signaal — and went on as Signaal USFA. When Signaal was acquired by Thomson-CSF (now Thales) in 1990, the crypto department went back to Philips and continued as Philips Crypto. The Dutch government and the Department of Defence still had a of number ongoing development contracts with the company and didn't want the intellectual property to end up in foreign hands. They therefore insisted that the crypto-part of the company was kept out of the deal with Thomson.

Approximately 60 people worked at Philips Crypto, where they developed cryptographic solutions for civil, industrial and military communication systems. In 2000 the orders started declining and finally, in 2003, the company was closed due to lack of revenue. Part of the product portfolio was sold to other companies, such as Fox-IT in Delft and Compumatica in Uden (Netherlands).

 Philips crypto devices


Products
  • Passive night vision equipment
  • Thermal imaging systems
  • Secure communications equipment
  • Proximity fuses
  • Cryogenic coolers
  • Special batteries
  • Stirling motors
History
1948 - First steps
Shortly after WWII – at the request of the Dutch government – Philips started the development of equipment for the Dutch Department of Defense (DoD). For security reasons, the company was initially located at the home of Mr. Trarbach in Hilversum (NL), who was an employee of Philips subsidary NSF (Nederlandse Seintoestellen Fabriek). After several months, the company was moved to the Hogerheide mansion at 's-Gravenlandseweg, also in Hilversum.

1949 - Eindhoven
In 1949, the company was relocated to Eindhoven in the south of the Netherlands, as most of the relevant knowledge was there, at the Philips Physics Laboratory (Natuurkundig Laboratorium, or NatLab, now: Philips Research). It was decided that the white building at the Schouw­broekseweg (building OAC) would be used for this purpose, but because the OAC building was badly damaged during the 1942 bombing by the British RAF, it had to be refurbished first. In the meantime, the production took place in a former school at the Catharinastraat in Eindhoven.

On 1 May 1949 the company, by then directed by Ir. Veldhuyzen and Mr. Eetgerink, was moved to its new location at Schouw­broekseweg, under the new name USFA, the abbreviation of Ultrasone Fabriek (ultrasone factory). In the early 1950s, USFA was strongly influenced by Dr. A van Wijk and Mr. C.F. Amsterdam of Emdece, 1 who made USFA a strong and reliable partner to the DoD.

  1. EMDECE = Militaire Defensie Centrale (Military Defense Center), at the time a special group withing the Philips conglomerate, that was responsible for defense-related business.

1954 - Philips Usfa NV
In the following years, USFA operated as a Hoofdindustriegroep, or HIG (Operational Division) of the Philips Corporation. On 28 December 1954 however, with permission from the shareholders, the USFA activities were separated from the 'mother' into an independant Philips subsidary under the name Philips Usfa NV, with Veldhuyzen and van Wijk as managing directors.

1956 - Cipher machines
In order to cope with the ever increasing production, a new factory was erected in 1956 (building OAL). Since then, the production capacity was expanded several times and new production sites were established as well. Around this time, Philips Usfa started building the first cryptographic devices, Ecolex I and EROLET, which had been developed by the PTT (Dutch Post Office). They were soon followed by the ECOLEX II and, in 1959, by the first cipher machine that was developed in-house at Philips Usfa: the ECOLEX IV, a one time tape machine (OTT) or mixer.

1973 - Philips USFA BV
In 1973, the board of directors decided to move Philips USFA under the umbrella of the HIG Telecommunication and Defense Systems, and the company is officially changed from an NV (Naamloze Vennootschap, PLC) into a BV (Besloten Vennootschap, Ltd). From then on, the company is known as Philips USFA BV.

1977 - Meerenakkerweg
In the 1960s and 1970s, USFA's production capacity was expanded several times, into a variety of buildings in several cities (Schouwbroekseweg, Beemdstraat, Rijswijk and Helmond). Because of this, and because of the deteriorating state of some of the buildings, it was decided to build a new factory at Meerenakkerweg in Eindhoven, where all USFA activities would be reunited. The new premises was officially opened in February 1977.

1981 - Defense & Control Systems
On 1 March 1981, USFA was officially moved under the umbrella of the newly established HIG Defense & Control Systems. A few years later, following a series of reorganisations at Philips, USFA was moved over to HSA (Hollandsche Signaal Apparaten), another Philips subsidary that produced equipment for the DoD. At the same time, USFA was renamed to Signaal Usfa, but stayed in the building at Meerenakkerweg.

1989 - Philips Crypto BV
As the Philips corporation wanted to focus on its core business, it was decided to sell the HSA and USFA activities to Thomson-CSF (now: Thales). For security reasons however, the Dutch government insisted that the crypto activities were kept out of the deal with Thomson. This resulted in a new Philips subsidary: Philips Crypto BV, which was located in the former thermal imaging factory at Hurksestraat 9 in Eindhoven (buildings BAH, HBA and HBB). The new logo:



1994 - Decline of orders
Since the turnover of Philips Crypto did not meet the expectations, the number of employees was decreased from 1990 onwards. Finally, all activities were moved to the refurbished building BAH, and the other buildings were given up. On 21 December 1994, at the 40th anniversary of Philips USFA, the new accomodation, with its new entrance at Witbogt 2, was officially opened.

2003 - Demise
In 2000, Philips Crypto BV was merged with Philips CryptoWorks under the CryptoTech umbrella, and moved to the new Philips High-Tech Campus, a large site on the outskirts of Eindhoven, where Philips Research 1 was also located. Here, the company concentrated on domestic cryptographic products such as conditional access modules for satellite TV.

Finally, in 2003, Philips Crypto BV was closed due to lack of revenue. The remaining activities were sold to other companies, such as Fox-IT in Delft and Compumatica in Uden (Netherlands). The successful activities of Philips CryptoWorks were later sold to Irdeto. Unfortunately, most devices from Philips' own collection of historical cipher machines were scrapped.

  1. Formerly known as Philips Natuurkundig Laboratorium (Philips Physics Laboratory), or Nat.Lab.

Known addresses
  • Philips Usfa (1949-1977)
    Building OAC
    Schouwbroekseweg, Eindhoven (Netherlands).
    About 275 employees.

  • Philips Usfa (1971-1976)
    Helmond (Netherlands) - About 30 employees.
    Founded in 1971 when there was a serious industrial crisis in Helmond. Some employees of the Eindhoven site were relocated there, but many didn't want to move permanently. Because of this, and because of lack of orders, the site was closed again in 1976.

  • Philips Usfa
    Kleiweg, Rijswijk
    About 36 employees.

  • Philips Usfa (1976)
    Oirschotsedijk
    Not much is known about this location (see below).

  • Philips Usfa BV (1977-1989)
    Meerenakkerweg 1, 5600 MD Eindhoven (Netherlands)
    From 275 employees in 1977 to 65 in 1998.

  • Philips Crypto BV (1990-2000)
    Building BAH
    Hurksestraat 9, 5600 MD Eindhoven (Netherlands).
    Later renamed to: Witbogt 2, 5652 AG Eindhoven
    About 60 employees.

  • Philips Crypto BV (2000-2003)
    Prof. Holstlaan 4, 5656 AE Eindhoven (Netherlands)
    Later renamed to: High Tech Campus 5
    About 60 employees.
Schouwbroekseweg
In 1949, shortly after the company was established, the activities were moved from Hilversum to Eindhoven – Philips' hometown – as it offered better facilities for research and development, such as prestiguous Physics Laboratory (Philips Natuurkundig Laboratorium, Nat-Lab). It was decided that Usfa would be housed in the so-called white building at Schouwbroekseweg (building OAC).

As building OAC ghad been damaged during the 1942 bombing by NAZI Germany, it had to be refurbished first. In the meantime, the Usfa activities took place at a former school building at Catharinastraat in the center of Eindhoven.

The photograph on the right shows the Philips buildings at Schouwbroekseweg in 1976, just before the move to Meerenakkerweg in 1977. It was taken by Bauke Hüsken and published by Henk van Alphen. It is now part of the website Eindhoven-in-Beeld [8]. It has been reproduced here with kind permission from the site owner.
  
The Philips Usfa buildings at Schouwbroekseweg in Eindhoven in 1976.

The seven buildings at the center were all part of the Usfa establishment that was lovingly nick­named Den Bult (Lump or Hill) as the ground level was slightly higher that its surroundings. Click the image for a closer view. The road at the front is Strijpsestraat, but the Usfa entrance is at Schouwbroekseweg higher up in the image. The former factory buildings have since been taken down and the area has been reused for housing development. In 2005, a small quarter by the name of Den Bult was opened at the former Philips premises. It its clearly visible on Google Maps.

 This location today on Google Maps

Oirschotsedijk
The location of Philips Usfa at Oirschotsedijk in Eindhoven (Netherlands) was unknown to most people for a very long time. Apparently this was one of the most secret locations of an already secret defense contractor. This is the place where proximity fuses were developed and built.

In February 2012, the photograph on the right surfaced. It shows the highly secret Philips Usfa building at Oirschotsedijk, as seen from the air. The photograph is part of the collection of Bauke Hüsken en was made in 1976. It was published by Henk van Alphen in 2012, on the local photo website eindhoven-in-beeld (see below) [7].

A quick search on Google Maps reveals that the main building was still present at this location in November 2019. Any further information about this location and/or the Philips activities that took place there, would be much appreciated.
  
Photograph copyright Eindhoven-in-Beeld. Reproduced here with permission from the site owner.

The image used to be available on the website 'Eindhoven-in-Beeld' where a large number of photographs of the Eindhoven area could be found. Unfortunately, the site is no longer on-line. The image has been reproduced here with kind permission from site owner Frans Gommers.

 This location today on Google Maps

Meerenakkerweg
Due to the increasing demand for equipment by the Department of Defense in the early 1970s, Usfa's production capacity was expanded several times. By 1976, the activities were scattered over various locations in Eindhoven (Schouwbroekseweg and Beemdstraat), Helmond and Rijswijk. It was then decided that all activities should be nmoved to a single new location in Eindhoven.

In 1976, a new complex of buildings was erected at Meerenakkerweg in Eindhoven, not far from the previous location at Beemdstraat. Eventually, all activities of Philips Usfa were moved here and in February 1977 the new premises (Complex U) that comprised four large buildings, was opened.

On the right in an artist's impression of the four interconnected buildings, that was made prior to the building activities. The image used to hang in the reception area of the frontmost building, and was also used in the company brochure of 1977/1983 [4]. Click the image for a closer view.
  
Philips Usfa at Meerenakkerweg in Eindhoven around 1977. Click for a larger view.

Philips Usfa stayed here for the next twelve years. At the hight of the activities, 275 empoyees worked there, but by the time the activities were sold to Thomson CSF (now: Thales), only 65 were left. The premises at Meerenakkerweg was finally given up, and Philips Crypto (which was kept out of the deal with Thomson) moved to Hurksestraat 9, on the same industrial estate.

After Philips abandonned the buildings in 1989, they were used by a variety of companies. By 2019, they were still present, but were hidden from view by surrounding buildings. The main building at the front is now hidden behind three new taller buildings at the roadside. Most of the older buildings are no longer interconnected and are now separated by narrow streets.

 This location today on Google Maps


Help required
The information on this page was compiled over the years, from brochures, company documents, public photographs and information from former employees and members of the public. If you have additional information that can help us to expand this page or correct any mistakes, please contact us. Furthermore, if you have old brochures, manuals, magazines, notes, or equipment, relating to Philips Usfa or Philips Crypto, please let us know.


References
  1. Interviews with several former Usfa employees
    Crypto Museum, June 2009.

  2. Philips Crypto BV, Crypto Helder (Crypto Clear)
    Newsletter at the event of the 40th anniversary of Philips Usfa/Crypto.
    Philips Crypto Archives, 21 December 1994.

  3. Philips Nederland NV, Philips Crypto Eindhoven, informatie-beveiligingssystemen
    Philips Koerier, November 1998.

  4. Philips Usfa BV, Introducing Philips Usfa BV
    26-page full-colour brochure of Philips Usfa BV and its products. 1983.

  5. Military Technology, Philips-USFA: emphasis on development
    Military Technology, Vol. VII, Issue 4, April 1983.

  6. Philips Crypto BV, How could this happen? ... they know about or plans ...
    6-page brochure of Philips Crypto BV and its secure products. 1994.

  7. Eindhoven-in-Beeld, 1 Philips - USFA, Oirschotsedijk.
    Photo Nr.: 33994. Henk van Alphen 1976, Bauke Hüsken, Frans Gommers 2012.

  8. Eindhoven-in-Beeld, 1 Philips - USFA, Schouwbroekseweg.
    Photo Nr.: 26376. Henk van Alphen 1976, Bauke Hüsken, Frans Gommers 2012.
  1. Site off-line since 15 October 2018.

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Crypto Museum. Created: Tuesday 04 August 2009. Last changed: Friday, 22 November 2019 - 09:37 CET.
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