3D technologies are electrifying the markets with continuous growth reports. Additive manufacturing has long been no secret among experts – it has become a strategic industrial production strategy. In fact, experts predict up to 400% growth for additive manufacturing methods within the next 5 years.
Prognoses like these are forcing the main players in the market to step up their technological and capacity efforts. Concept Laser, as an owner-operated medium-sized business, is relying on organic growth. “We invest nearly 10% of our sales revenue directly in research and development,” says Frank Herzog, President & CEO of Concept Laser. “The conservative and long-term mindset of small and medium-sized businesses offers, in my view, the ideal basis for fully realizing our strengths in the market.” The company’s efforts in 2014 have clearly paid off: Concept Laser was voted one of Bavaria’s “Best 50” firms by the Bavarian Ministry of Economic Affairs for its innovative capacity as well as its entrepreneurial philosophies and practices. The company was also a finalist for the 2014 German Innovation Award for co-developing the first additively manufactured titanium component onboard the Airbus A350 XWB.
2014 results reflect rapid growth
The fast-growing acceptance of additive manufacturing in the markets and the attractiveness of laser melting systems from the Lichtenfels-based manufacturer are reflected in above-average growth figures. The company received 110 new machine orders in 2014 versus 84 in 2013, a 31% increase. With sales growth in recent years averaging 40-50% annually, sales in 2014 were up 75% from the previous year, driven primarily by large-system sales in the 1000W laser class. The number of employees had also increased as of the end of the 2014 to 103, 30% more than the previous year.
High innovation speed
According to President & CEO Frank Herzog, 2014 was the most successful year in the now 15-year history of Concept Laser: “In our competitive environment, we not only kept pace with the rapid growth in the market, we even exceeded it. This was the result of our R&D efforts and continuous product expansion. Today, 160 employees in the group are involved in the LaserCUSING process. At Concept Laser alone, 40 of our 103 staff members work in research and development.” Key focus areas include series adaptation of multilaser technology for increased building speed, as well as pioneering work in the area of real-time monitoring for quality assurance, known as “QMmeltpool 3D.” Multilaser technology has a direct impact on exposure times, for instance. Empirical values show an increase in build rates of up to 80%. For 2015, Concept Laser has announced an X line 2000R, which will feature two 1000-watt lasers and variable optics.
Capacity expansion in all areas
The company’s infrastructure at its headquarters in Lichtenfels was also expanded in 2014 to meet demand, including a brand-new 3,500 m2 production hall, which is nearing completion and will increase machine output by a factor of 2.5. Separate inspection chambers for confidential customer projects and improved delivery times are important considerations for customers. A new, 600 m2 state-of-the-art process development and material research center was also launched in 2014. Last but not least, to meet the enormous demand from the aerospace industry in the US, Concept Laser Inc., with headquarters in Dallas, Texas, was founded in the summer of 2014.
Outlook for 2015
2015 marked the 15-year anniversary of Concept Laser. Throughout its history, the company has been a pioneer and technology groundbreaker with numerous patents and innovative products. Based on extremely solid sales figures and the more than favorable prognosis for additive manufacturing, Concept Laser has announced midterm plans to continuously expand its capacity and develop ambitious new products. The R&D department has been working hard on various projects for LaserCUSING with a focus on increased productivity and effective 3D process monitoring, material qualification and automation. The Benchmark division was also greatly expanded at the beginning of 2015. As a “reference workshop,” Benchmark plays an important service role for customers. In addition to adding more space, the division has increased its capacity to ten machines. The high demand in recent years has also required changes in logistics, including a new 1,200 m2 logistics center which is slated for operation in Q1 2015. The company will also soon break ground on a new administrative building. The international sales network is slated for further expansion. Concept Laser Inc., headquartered in Dallas, Texas, will add new service staff and will soon occupy a new building with its own showroom. China continues to be one of the fastest-growing sales markets for LaserCUSING. Currently there are concrete plans to increase the company’s presence in the Middle Kingdom with more staff and infrastructure. Frank Herzog, President & CEO of Concept Laser: “I believe we are optimally positioned at all levels to be just as successful and innovative in the future as in the past.”