Advanced Materials: accelerated growth

In 2022, the Advanced Materials business was the driver of the Group's overall performance. Order intake jumped by 40.6% to CHF 871 million, and turnover soared by 31.8% to CHF 671 million. With these results, Advanced Materials has impressively switched from a recovery into an upswing mode, benefiting from the transition in its industries, mainly in automotive, and reaching a record high in nearly doubling the business in two years. All business areas contributed to this massive boost, benefiting from the optimal market positioning of their innovative product portfolios. Die Casting benefited from its large megacasting machines. Grinding & Dispersing profited from electrode mixing lines for lithium-ion batteries. Leybold Optics gained significantly from glass coaters not only for architectural, but also car glass, capacitor machines for e-mobility and grid applications, and from the continued strong trends in photonics and semiconductors. Due to rising energy prices, customers’ business cases changed and the need to improve energy efficiency drove demand for Bühler’s sustainable solutions across the board. 

Die Casting was the outstanding business area within the Bühler Group, with more than double order intake over the past two years and with turnover increasing in 2022 by over 50%. The market was marked by contrasting trends. The conventional die-casting market in Europe and US proved challenging. The number of cars produced has not fully recovered as a result of a lack of semiconductors. Additionally, die casting customers in Europe faced difficulties resulting from the massive increase in energy costs and their dependency on gas in the foundry. The transition to electromobility created new, strong demand for large structural parts. Carmakers are fundamentally rethinking how to build cars more efficiently with fewer parts. Additionally, more integrated drivetrain parts for electric vehicles require machines with locking force above 2,000 tons.

Bühler Group’s long-term strategy and ability to invest in innovation even in a downturn, meant that the Die Casting business was able to design and launch large Carat solutions with more than 4,400 tons of locking force exactly as the megacasting trend first took off in China. Die Casting was on top of this trend, with multiple orders for the Carat 560 and Carat 610, and first orders for the Carat 840 and Carat 920. This was driven by demand for large structural parts for car bodies, including battery cases. Bühler's application centers and expertise in part design, die design, process simulations, and machine-size evaluation turbocharged the upsurge. The same is true for the services business, which was propelled by growing demand for retrofits. With the launch of SmartCMS, the new control system for complex and fully integrated megacasting cells, Die Casting further differentiated itself in the market.

The Grinding & Dispersing business area doubled its order volume in the last two years and has fully recovered from the pandemic downturn, reaching a historic high. The business area continues to benefit 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 recorded high demand.

Around 10 years ago, Bühler started the development of a new process to produce anode and cathode battery slurry, a key component for batteries. The main assumption was that a continuous process using extruders is superior to the existing batch processes in terms of space, quality, energy usage, and productivity overall. In 2012, Bühler invested in a new battery lab in China and started process development in partnership with a key customer. Since then, additional efforts have been placed on market penetration, and 2022 confirms the breakthrough of the solution with a doubling of order volume to 22 new lines. While the buildup of new battery capacities in Asia and Europe is in full swing, North America is still underdeveloped in this regard and represents additional future growth potential. The strong market development also increased demand for grinding applications for lithium-ion battery additives and raw materials.  

The solid development in packaging inks was based on the performance of Bühler’s core grinding machines. This was improved significantly with the MicroMedia Invicta and Macromedia innovative dispersion technologies. The superior grinding performance results in lower energy use – a key differentiator in the market. 

Leybold Optics has continued its success story in 2022, with strong improvements for the third consecutive year. In the 10th anniversary of the acquisition, Leybold Optics has proven to be a strong contributor to the Group. Three trends resulted in higher orders: the shortage of semiconductors, the development of autonomous mobility systems, and the demand for higher energy efficiency. 

The shortage of semiconductors causes many challenges globally. However, this situation and the current race to produce the smallest and most efficient microchips in the world generate higher demand for Leybold Optics equipment. EUV lithography plays a key role, as this technology enables structural reduction of semiconductors. EUV lithography 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 large, curved substrates. 

Leybold Optics serves the photonics and semiconductor application markets with its leading technologies. These include the Helios 1200, which is semiconductor grade, and solutions for Ion Beam Sputtering and Ion Beam Figuring that meet the cutting-edge requirements at the frontiers of optics.  

The increasing demand for electric and hybrid vehicles has a direct impact on the film capacitors market. Leybold Optics serves this market with its vacuum metalizing CAP machine platform. To stay ahead of market developments, Bühler launched the Leybold Optics CAPone, a modular system for capacitor applications enabling capacitor manufacturers to upgrade the speed of their production volume. There was strong demand for both. The same is true for coating solutions for architectural and car glass which lower energy consumption in buildings and automobiles, respectively. 

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