Helping Innovators Innovate

MicroChem Headquarters
Westborough, Massachusetts

It’s no secret: The Boston/Cambridge real estate market is among the hottest in the country, particularly for research & development space. Increasingly, to avoid the astronomical price tags attached more urban properties, companies have been looking outside the city, seeking to maximize their investment dollars. Interstate 495, in particular, has become a haven for businesses renowned for innovation and discovery aiming to attract the region’s top talent, while eschewing space and budgetary constraints. Businesses like MicroChem.

MicroChem develops and manufactures specialty chemicals, including optical dyes and photoresists, for MicroElectroMechanical Systems (MEMS), microelectronics, advanced lithography, specialty displays, packaging, optoelectronics, and other technologies.

The company has its finger firmly on the pulse of Boston’s ever-expanding tech scene, working closely with its numerous start-ups and institutions of higher learning to develop solutions for commercial and niche market needs.

MicroChem realized that it needed a larger space—one that could accommodate continued growth while advancing R&D, but wouldn’t compromise profit margins in square-footage costs.

New and Efficient

The company found its ideal location in Westborough—a two-story, 76,000-square-foot development, minutes from I-495.

MicroChem commissioned SMMA to provide architectural, structural, civil engineering, and interior design expertise to develop a new headquarters and manufacturing facility up to the exacting standards required to run at maximum efficiency.

Integrating Safety

The facility is divided into north and south buildings by a true freestanding fire wall, designed by SMMA’s architectural group and structural engineers. The construction of the south portion of the facility was upgraded (i.e., fire-proofed) to allow for limited areas to be constructed and used as H2 and H3 occupancies. SMMA contracted with code consultants Jensen Hughes, to develop the height and area limitations, as well as control-area calculations. Other areas of the building are used for the storage and handling of flammable and combustible liquids.

Understanding the Process

MicroChem Corp’s manufacturing process is a batch-type operation, whereby various polymers, resins, and other materials are mixed or dissolved in organic solvents. When the materials have been dissolved and mixed thoroughly, the batch is sampled and tested. When the batch meets specifications, the material is filtered and packaged and boxed, sealed, and shipped to customers.

In conjunction with CRB, which provided MEP engineering and project management services, SMMA designed the six main areas that support the new manufacturing operations: formulation, packaging, PMGI, a cleanroom, labs, and a scale-up/mixing area.

In addition to the manufacturing, warehousing, and lab areas, SMMA’s interior designers revamped the office and conference spaces, the latter of which incorporate artwork and references to Nippon Kayaku, MicroChem’s parent company.

The result is a modernized space capable of meeting the client’s complex needs that places them firmly within one of the fastest-rising tech landscapes in the country.