Advanced Materials: strong rebound

With an order intake growth of 36.8% to CHF 620 million, Advanced Materials has impressively come back from the trough and is already 26.9% above the pre-corona level of 2019. Turnover grew by 14.9% to CHF 509 million. All businesses contributed to this massive turnaround. Key drivers for the Advanced Materials upswing are our leading solutions which enable us to now ride the transition wave of our industries towards electro-mobility. On top, our extended service portfolio has received a positive market response.    

Our Die Casting business unit was by far the fasted growing business of Bühler with more than 50% order-intake increase. It paid off that we have not slowed down or even stopped our product development in the past two difficult years. Instead, we kept the innovation pace high to be ready to offer new solutions when markets start to pick up again, which is now the case. The key driver for the market recovery is not only the high demand for new cars in general, but the accelerated transition to electromobility. To increase production efficiency for the new car types, manufacturers must fundamentally rethink car assembly.  

There is a clear trend to minimize car components with the effect that big structural parts with a weight of up to 100 kg per part come into play. These parts for the new car architecture offer immense potential for the die-casting industry – and are causing the demand for a new category of large die-casting machines with a locking force of up to 84,000 kilonewton (kN). Over the past years, we have invested in the development of these new machine types. We have already launched the upgraded Carat family and will continue to expand our portfolio.  

In Asia, which is leading the electromobility transition, the market response was positive, resulting in multiple orders. The first two Carat 560 machines were successfully commissioned in Vietnam under incredibly challenging conditions. This was only possible thanks to our strong global presence, in this case by the engagement of our local teams in China. We are assuming that this trend will expand to Europe and the Americas, where many feasibility studies are currently under way. The Carat 840 and Carat 920, were also introduced in 2021, further extending Bühler’s portfolio, and meeting the automotive industry’s demand for larger and more complex parts. With the Carat 840 and Carat 920 we can offer our customers solutions for large structural parts with complex geometries and new body in white parts. 

Our Grinding & Dispersing business unit has not only fully recovered from the pandemic but reports a record order intake. The business is benefiting from two major market trends: the transition towards electromobility and the robust growth of packaging as a result of increased home delivery and traceability requirements. Both the plant and single machine business registered high demand.  

Around 10 years ago, Bühler started the development of a new process to produce battery slurry, which is the medium for electrons, and with this, a key component for batteries. The key assumption was that a continuous process using extruders is superior to the existing batch processes in terms of space, quality, and productivity. In 2012 we invested into a new battery lab in China and started the process development in partnership with a key customer. Since then we have worked on market penetration – and 2021 now marks the breakthrough of our solution with the order for 12 continuous mixing lines from car manufacturers and battery producers from China, Europe, and North America. The success in packaging inks was based on the proven performance of our core grinding machines, which we improved significantly with our innovative dispersion technologies MicroMedia Invicta and Cenomic. This was confirmed by several orders worldwide with the highlight of a very large turnkey order for a complete plant from a customer in Turkey.  

Leybold Optics, which grew its business even in 2020, achieved further growth in 2021. Two trends materialized in additional orders: the shortage of semiconductors as well as the development of autonomous mobility systems with high comfort. The shortage of chips caused manyfold challenges globally – however, this situation and the current race who can produce the smallest and most efficient microchips in the world generate extra demand for Leybold Optics Equipment. EUV lithography plays a key role, as this technology enables structural reduction of semiconductors. EUV stands for extreme ultraviolet and refers to light with extremely short wavelength. This can be used to create structures that are roughly one ten-thousandth of the thickness of a human hair. The Nessy system from Leybold Optics meets extreme physical requirements of deposition in atomic layer scale even on coat large, curved substrates. 

With regard to electromobility, it has become a major pillar on the road of significantly reducing CO₂ emissions. The acceleration of these technologies and the increasing demand for electric -and hybrid vehicles has a direct impact on the film capacitors market. Leybold Optics is in this market with the vacuum metalizing CAP machine platform. To be able to keep up with the current speed of the market, Bühler launched the Leybold Optics CAPone, a modular system for capacitor applications which enable capacitor manufacturers to upgrade in the speed of their production volume. 

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