SMT & Inspection | March 05, 2010

5Q/5A: LPKF is answering our questions

5 questions & 5 answers: Dr. Ingo Bretthauer, CEO at laser specialist LPKF, has participated in our new Interview-Series.

• The economic downturn over the past year has left deep marks throughout the entire industry. Can a slight recovery be felt on the market?
Overall the difficult economic situation has passed LPKF by – we expect to close the fiscal year in line with the increased growth forecast of fall 2009. A new development in the LDS division (Laser Direct Structuring of three-dimensional interconnect devices) has brought an international breakthrough and well-stocked order books. Other divisions were less successful, but we have actually seen an increase in inquiries since the last quarter of 2009. The trend is clearly on the rise and we are already feeling a little more comfortable than a year ago.

• Are other investments planned for this year?
LPKF is on an overall course for growth. We have already doubled the production capacities of cutting and structuring lasers in the first quarter and will be hiring additional workers as a result. LPKF has always been successful with innovations since our products lead to new capacities for our customers. So we will further invest, and while doing so, provide our customers with good reasons to do the same.

We will continue this tradition. This year we will again introduce more than just one innovative system for micro-material finishing and rapid prototyping – that’s a promise.

• Is diversification into other market segments a growth opportunity for your company?
LPKF is already quite diverse. We serve various markets with four business segments – particularly electronics, automotive and medicine. This is spread over the divisions PCB prototyping, thin film solar cells, cutting & structuring lasers as well as plastics welding.

Furthermore, these business segments will grow within the markets. But what’s also interesting is the combination: LDS components, for example, can be safely and sanitarily sealed with our plastics welding systems – and then form an excellent combination in sensor or medical technology.

• How big is Europe’s share in the world market in your segment?
The Asian market has clearly grown over the last two years. We now earn more than 50 percent of our sales in Asia, about 30 percent remain for Europe, both relate to systems delivered there. However, that’s not reflective of the overall picture: buyers are often located in Europe or the U.S., the machines are producing in Asia.

• What must be done to ensure a strong and efficient industry in Europe?
We think the European industry can distinguish itself through innovation, service and technologically high-grade products. LPKF offers enabling technologies which allow our customers to establish new products or more economic production processes.

Long-term, the path to be taken is in the integration of processes and practices. The new LDS structurer LPKF Fusion3D lowers the manual work by about a third, allowing for economic production even in high-wage countries. In addition, we are constantly speaking with manufacturers or service providers about innovation opportunities – this is our day-to-day business.

An extremely condensed production requires highly qualified skilled workers. In this point, Europe can still compete well with Asia.
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