Business Report 2020: Advanced Materials

The markets of Advanced Materials (AM) showed a diverse development in 2020. Although a further slowdown was anticipated, Die Casting and Grinding & Dispersing faced especially difficult market conditions. On the other hand, Leybold Optics delivered one of its record years. Turnover was CHF 443 million, which compared to 2019 is a reduction of 31.7%. Order intake decreased by 7.2% to CHF 453 million. With the continued execution of its innovation roadmap, AM prepared for future growth. The business’s technology leadership was proven by the German Future Prize, which was awarded to customers using Bühler equipment.

Irrespective of the challenging business situation, Die Casting (DC) has rolled out new solutions. The first two Carat 560 machines were built in 2020 and shipped to a customer in Vietnam. In a virtual event held in November 2020, we presented the latest additions to our die-casting portfolio – the new Carat 560 and Carat 610 with locking forces of up to 61,000 kilonewton (kN). Additionally, we announced the Carat 840 with a locking force of 84,000 kN.   

The Carat 610 is currently the largest die-casting solution on the market. The Carat 840 will open completely new applications, allowing Die Casting to provide cost-effective solutions for even larger parts, such as for 5G antennas and large battery housings for electric vehicles.  

The SmartCMS, the brain of die-casting cells that provides operators with the possibility to view, control, and program the entire cell, was introduced to the market in 2019. It is a key component of the digitalization strategy of DC, and was installed in our application center in Uzwil in 2020. The new Fusion 140 three-platen die-casting platform, offering 3,500 to 14,000 kilonewton (kN) locking force, closed-loop control, modular design, and Industry 4.0 capability, was released for sale. DC also built on its leading position with large orders for its Ecoline S die-casting series of machines in China and therefore continued to grow in this region.  

After a tough first half-year, Grinding & Dispersing (GD) achieved a turnaround of order intake by securing two large plants projects. For an ink producer in Turkey, we will build one of the biggest ink plants in the history of GD. For a German battery customer, GD will build a pilot plant with its unique process solution to mix battery slurry. Although the battery solutions business could not fulfill all expectations, the development in Europe was very promising. Here, Bühler is part of the community and is the first address in Europe for high efficiency Lithium-ion battery slurry mixing systems. With our references at key players in the market, we are very well positioned in the Western world.  

Bühler Leybold Optics (LO) experienced an excellent year of business increasing orders and turnover to one of the best years in its history. Political, economic, and Covid-19 related impacts have fueled uncertainties but also opportunities alike, for instance in the telecom and in the high-tech industries, thereby positively affecting market activities, especially in Asia. Reasons for the positive development are the leading technologies, for instance the precision coating solution Helios for which we received multiple orders to produce optical sensors at the wafer level. Furthermore, LO won one glass coater project for a customer in China. Customer Service contributed to the excellent year with big upgrade projects.  

A highlight of the year was the renowned German Future Prize, the German Federal President’s Award for Technology and Innovation, which was given to the team of Carl Zeiss SMT, Trumpf Lasersystems, and the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Optics and Precision Engineering for an outstanding solution for EUV lithography. Bühler Leybold Optics made a major contribution to the project with a highly specialized system to coat the essential, curved mirrors in the production process. 


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