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Diamonds among tools

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Sometimes the time is simply not ripe for certain innovations. That was apparently the case 14 years ago when GCT started up in Weingarten with the development and sale of diamond-coated tools for the electronics industry.

“We were too early for the market,” Managing Director Johann Schmidt says in retrospect. In 2010, the company established its own diamond coating production in Weingarten, and the business really got rolling. The myriad benefits of high-quality tools have been recognized in the meantime – demand is growing steadily. GCT has earned a USP for itself in the market.

“There are no direct competitors that offer comparable products in this scope. So far no one else has managed to copy our coating process. The coating has to last and shouldn’t chip off. The choice of raw materials also has a decisive influence on the functionality.” In addition to producing its own tools, GCT also carries out contract coating for other tool manufacturers.

In the dental sector, diamond-coated tools are used for processing ceramic dentures. Another primary area of application is the processing of graphite. Small diamond-coated tools are also used for machining carbon fiber-reinforced (CFRP) and glass fiber-reinforced plastics (GRP).

GCT manufactures tools for producing the electronics for LED daytime running lights for the highly sensitive automotive industry. “The requirements for precision and cleanliness as well as cost reduction are especially high. It’s a matter of huge quantities,” the Managing Director explains.

There are a lot of applications where people don’t know that diamond coating yields benefits. Johann SchmidtManaging Director

Two thirds of the tools produced by GCT are used in LED production technology worldwide. “There are a lot of applications where people don’t know that diamond coating yields benefits.” These lie in particular in cost savings resulting from longer tool life. “Changing tools always carries a risk. The machine could malfunction, and it always has to be reset for the new tool. Process reliability and precision are significantly higher with our tools. When the volumes are large enough, the savings amount to about 25%,” Mr. Schmidt emphasizes.

Niche manufacturers for special applications in particular are increasingly switching to diamond coated tools. “The market is growing with the increased demands of major manufacturers on electronics, for instance regarding temperatures and reliability.”

Although it is a matter of perfect tools, the secret of success lies not in the perfection, according to Mr. Schmidt. “Nobody is perfect. The crucial part, however, is having a production process where only few mistakes are made and, when they do happen, they are discovered and eliminated quickly. The customer should never get them! Quality assurance must be organized accordingly.”

That works only with an experienced and well-rehearsed team. The employees come to the company with completed professional training and are then specially trained and instructed there. “As far as the perks for our employees are concerned, I have no reason to hide from larger companies,” the Managing Director says. That includes flexible working hours with no core work time and a company mobile.

“The health and well-being of our staff are very important to me.” As a special ‘treat,’ every employee can enjoy a 30-minute massage once a month.

“At the beginning, a market leader asked us, ‘How can you do something like this?’ Now they say, ‘Nice job!’ We are known as specialists for difficult applications in mechanical processing,” says Mr. Schmidt.

With a staff of 18, the company generates turnover of 4.5 million EUR, 40% of which comes from Germany, Austria and Switzerland, where the largest individual customers are located. Nearly 50% comes from South East Asia. The rest is from other European countries and the USA.

Mr. Schmidt sees growth prospects especially in Europe in the field of LED lighting. The course is set for growth and investment. “Just in July, we ordered another diamond coating device for one million EUR, and last year we invested an equal amount in capacity expansion,” he reports.

Growth of more than 10% annually is the goal. His area of expertise is application technology and production. “I’m an engineer, first and foremost. It is important for me to recognize problems in time and to discuss and communicate solutions with the customer and internally with the team.”

His goal is not merely for the technology to survive in the market. Instead he would like to conquer new areas of application where diamond coating is non-existent as of yet. Interested parties can inform personally at the productronica in Munich at Hall B3, Stand 503, from 14 to 17 November 2017.

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