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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). The company is well known for the development and manufacturing of optical and night vision equipment and for their research on Stirling motors. Philips Usfa also developed and built a wide range of cipher machines for the Dutch government, the police, 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. Click for a larger view.

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

In the late 1980s Philips Usfa was merged with 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 ending 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 cipher machines


History
1948 - First steps
Shortly after WWII, Philips starts the development of equipment for the Dutch Department of Defense (DoD), at the request of the Dutch government. For security reasons, the company initially starts the work in the house of Mr. Trarbach in Hilversum (NL), who is an employee of Philips subsidary NSF (Nederlandse Seintoestellen Fabriek). Some time later, the company is moved to the Hogerheide mansion at 's-Gravenlandseweg, also in Hilversum.

1949 - Moving to Eindhoven
In 1949, the company is moved to Eindhoven (NL) as most of the relevant knowledge is present there at the Philips Research Lab (Nat. Lab.). It is decided that the white building at the Schouwbroekseweg (building OAC) will be used for this purpose. Because the OAC building was damaged in the 1942 bombing by NAZI Germany, it has to be refurbished first. During this period the activities take place in a former school at the Catharinastraat in Eindhoven. On 1 May 1949 the company, lead by Ir. Veldhuyzen and Mr. Eetgerink, is moved to its new location under the new name USFA.

In the early 1950s, USFA is strongly influenced by Dr. A van Wijk and Mr. C.F. Amsterdam of Emdece, making USFA into a strong and reliable partner to the DoD.

1954 - On its own
All this time, USFA operates as a HIG (Hoofdindustriegroep, Operational Division) of the Philips Corporation. On 28 December 1954 however, with permission from the Philips shareholders, the USFA activities are separated from their 'mother' and move on as an independant Philips subsidary under the name Philips Usfa NV, with Veldhuyzen and van Wijk as its managing directors.

1956 - First crypto machines
Rather than expanding the existing buildings, a new factory is erected in 1956 (building OAL) in order to cope with the ever increasing production. Since then, production capacity is expanded several times and new production sites are established. At this time, Philips Usfa starts building the first cryptographic devices, Ecolex I and EROLET, that were developed by the PTT (Dutch Post Office). It is soon followed by the ECOLEX II. A few years later, in 1959, Philips Usfa develops its first crypto machine: the ECOLEX IV, a one time tape machine (OTT) or mixer.

1973 - Change of name
In 1973, the board of directors decides 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 name is Philips USFA BV.

1977 - New premises
In the 1960s and 1970s, USFA expands its production capacity several times until it is spread over several buildings and cities (Schouwbroekseweg, Beemdstraat, Rijswijk and Helmond). Because of this, and because of the deteriorating state of some of the buildings, it is decided to build a new factory where the USFA activities are once again reunited. In February 1977 the new premises (Complex U) at the Meerenakkerweg in Eindhoven is officially opened.

1981 - Part of Defense & Control Systems
On 1 March 1981, Philips USFA BV is 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 moves over to HSA (Hollandsche Signaal Apparaten), another Philips subsidary involved in the production of equipment for the DoD. USFA is renamed to Signaal Usfa. They stay in the building at Meerenakkerweg.

1989 - Philips Crypto BV
Because Philips wants to focus on its core business, the HSA and USFA activities are sold off to Thomson-CSF (now Thales). For security reasons however, the Dutch government insists that the crypto activities of USFA are kept out of the deal with Thomson. This results in a new Philips subsidary: Philips Crypto BV, which will be located in the former thermal imaging factory at Hurksestraat 9 in Eindhoven (buildings BAH, HBA and HBB). The company also gets a new logo:



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

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

Finally, in 2003, Philips Crypto BV closes down due to lack of revenue. The remaining activities are sold off to other companies, such as Fox-IT in Delft (Netherlands) and Compumatica in Uden (Netherlands). The successful activities of Philips CryptoWorks are sold to Irdeto, which still exists today. Most of Philips' collection of historical cipher machines is scrapped.

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 (1948), the activities were moved from Hilversum to Eindhoven, as it offered better facilities for research and development, such as Philips Research (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 got damaged during the 1942 bombing by NAZI Germany, it had to be refurbished first. In the meantime, the Usfa activities take place in 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 7 buildings at the center were all part of the Usfa establishment that was caringly 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.

Oirschotsedijk
The location of Philips Usfa at the Oirschotsedijk in Eindhoven (Netherlands) has been unknown to us 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, seen from the air. The photograph was part of the collection of Bauke Hüsken en was made in 1976. It has been published by Henk van Alphen [7].

The image is now part of the website Eindhoven-in-Beeld where a large number of photographs of the Eindhoven area are found. The image has been reproduced here with kind permission from the site owner. Click the image for a larger view, or click here for a link to the original image.
  
Photograph copyright Eindhoven-in-Beeld. Reproduced here with permission from the site owner.

A quick search on Google Maps reveals that the building is still present at that location (February 2012). If anyone has further information about this location and/or the products that were manufactured there, please contact us.

Meerenakkerweg
Due to the every increasing demand for equipment by the DoD in the early 1970s, Philips 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 is decided that all activities will be concentrated at a single new location in Eindhoven.

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

The image on the right shows a drawing that was made for a brochure in 1977. The complex consisted of 4 interconnected buildings. The building at the front acted as the main entrance, where the same drawing was hung on the wall at reception. Click the image for a closer view.
  
Philips Usfa at Meerenakkerweg in Eindhoven around 1977. Click for a larger view.

Philips Usfa would stay at these facilities for 12 years. At the hight of Usfa's activities, 275 empoyees worked at Meerenakkerweg, but by the time the activities are sold off to Thomsom CSF, only 65 are left. The premises at Meerenakkerweg is given up and Philips Crypto (which is kept out of the deal with Thomson) moves to Hurksestraat 9, on the same industrial estate.

After Philips abandonned the buildings in 1989, they were used by a variety of companies. By 2012, some of the building were still present, but they are enclosed by other buildings that largely hide them from view. The main building has been taken down and has been replaced by several individual buildings. The remaining buildings are no longer interconnected and are now separated by streets. They are still visible on Google Maps.


Help required
If you think some of the information on this page is incorrect or incomplete, or if you have additional information, please contact us. Also, if you have old brochures, manuals, magazines, notes, or equipment, relating to Philips Usfa or Philips Crypto, we would like to hear from you.


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, Philips - USFA, Oirschotsedijk.
    Photo Nr.: 33994. Henk van Alphen 1976, Bauke Hüsken, Frans Gommers 2012.

  8. Eindhoven-in-Beeld, Philips - USFA, Schouwbroekseweg.
    Photo Nr.: 26376. Henk van Alphen 1976, Bauke Hüsken, Frans Gommers 2012.
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Crypto Museum. Created: Tuesday 04 August 2009. Last changed: Saturday, 05 August 2017 - 07:26 CET.
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