The Balzers Story The success story of Balzers coatings
What started off in 1946, is today a business with 4.000 employees. The passion for innovation remains.
In 1946, Professor Max Auwärter had an idea how to make the then largely unknown vacuum thin-film technology usable on an industrial scale.
For the founding of "Gerätebauanstalt Balzers" he could count on the support of Prince Franz Josef II and the Swiss Industrialist Emil Georg Bührle. What he lacked however, were the systems and equipment needed to put his idea into practice. Without hesitating, he started developing and producing them himself. Today the former “Gerätebauanstalt Balzers" is called Oerlikon Balzers, employs around 4,000 people, and is a part of the Surface Solutions segment of the Oerlikon Group. The company's headquarters are still located in the small town of Balzers in the Principality of Liechtenstein.
Entrepreneurship and science
The story of the visionary Professor Auwärter is somewhat symbolic of the company. Finding solutions to questions that the industry has not (yet) answered – this is in Balzers’ blood and part of Balzers’ DNA, as is the courage to put these ideas into practice. Oerlikon Balzers has been innovating and writing history since 1946.
Entrepreneurial spirit and a thirst for research are what define Oerlikon Balzers; the combination of these two qualities has lead to exemplary success. More than 100 employees, most of them in Liechtenstein, are engaged solely in research and development activities. They do not live in an ivory tower however, but instead work at the cutting edge of their scientific disciplines, publish regularly and are sought-after experts at international specialist congresses. This guarantees an open mind, as well as engagement with the industry.
Protective coatings help protect the environment
Professor Auwärter manufactured sun protection and anti-reflective coatings for eye glass lenses and camera lenses, as well as thin films for electronic applications. Development of PVD coatings (PVD = Physical Vapour Deposition) commenced in 1974. The breakthrough came in 1978 with the BALINIT brand of coatings, which remains an important mainstay of Oerlikon Balzers to this day, alongside further ground-breaking developments.
A further technological breakthrough was introduced in 2011 with patented S3p technology, a high-tech process that revolutionized the coating market under the brand name BALIQ™. Even plastics can be coated using innovations developed by Oerlikon Balzers. With ePD™, a newly developed process for the metallization of automotive plastic parts was introduced that gives plastics the popular chrome look, which up until then could only be achieved by electroplating. ePD™ moreover achieves this without using any of the highly questionable chemicals that are required for electroplating.
Balzers' solutions are always about combining reduced wear with increased efficiency – whether for Formula 1 engines, aircraft turbines, piston rings for the automotive industry, precision instruments, or for tools used by the plastics or metalworking industries. At the end of the day, increased efficiency and reduced wear mean lowering the use of harmful substances and conserving resources. While sustainability, tradition and innovation may only be buzzwords for many people, Oerlikon Balzers employees are proud that their company and their daily work are based on these values.
A shared passion for surface solutions
On June 2, 2014 a new chapter started for Oerlikon Balzers: “Bringing the best together under one roof" was the motto when the Oerlikon Group acquired the Metco coating division from the Sulzer Group and the establishment of the Surface Solutions Segment was announced. The market potential of Oerlikon Balzers suddenly increased to around nine billion. The Surface Solutions Segement has since become the Oerlikon Group's strongest revenue generator.
The fusion of these two coating pioneers also signifies the creation of a global technology leader. The combination of two of the most important surface coating technologies opens up immense opportunities for Oerlikon Balzers for further technological development.