TRUMPF is riding the tiger
CONARD HOLTON AND ANDREAS THOSS
Peter Leibinger, vice chairman, and
Christian Schmitz, president of the la-
ser division, of the TRUMPF Group
shared their fascination and thoughts
on the past, present, and future of laser
technology. It was a rare chance to talk
to managers on a rather personal basis. Laser Focus World editors Conard
Holton and Andreas Thoss had such
a moment in Munich during LASER
World of PHOTONICS 2017—it was
a long and inspiring conversation with
some surprising insights.
Laser Focus World: What laser inno-
vations are fascinating you most?
Leibinger: EUV [extreme ultraviolet],
of course! It has been one of these rare
examples where one can observe a development from the first discussion
of an idea through the experimental
phase and prototype phase to where
the final product is now taking off and
making an impact around the world.
The fascination is the sheer scientific challenge of generating 30, 35 k W of average
power from a pulsed laser—heating that tin droplet, generating EUV light, and
projecting an image on the wafer to generate features the size of a few atoms wide.
The sheer fascination of the technology and the scientific challenge is one thing.
The other is the impact on the world. If we fail, Moore’s law will discontinue.
Of course, the world doesn’t depend on TRUMPF—but without TRUMPF, the
chip industry couldn’t do it. The scope of the impact is not only the chip industry, it’s also the smartphone industry and the whole electronic device industry
that would have to change the way that it is operating.
To me, this project has also reinforced a fundamental belief that without partners, you can’t do anything. We are in a unique industry—the laser industry—
that is highly competitive on one hand, and highly collaborative on the oth-
er hand. This combination leads to this high growth and high innovation. The
growth comes from the competition. The innovation comes from the collaboration. Without the collaboration, we wouldn’t be able to do what we do here and
with EUV, we learned that to the extreme.
Schmitz: A fascinating thing for me is the disk laser concept. As we started, we
thought that maybe it was a concept for using laser diodes to pump lasers, and
so getting more efficient solid-state lasers. But it was not in our mind that the
range of application would be that large.
LFW: Dr. Leibinger, it is a legend that your father traveled through the U.S.
in the early 1970s and just stopped by a company and bought a CO2 laser,
which was more expensive than a luxury car at that time.
Leibinger: It was called the Gravestone from Photon Sources
[now part of Novanta], and was built on a slab of granite.
LFW: The question is, did you ever face a similar adven-
ture? What was it?
Leibinger: There were two comparable experiences—the first
one being the laser diode in 2000. At the time, I realized that
this will be the cornerstone of the laser industry in the future,
especially when considering high power.
I was in the U.S. at that time and experiencing the tele-
com and the dot-com boom. TRUMPF U.S. was close to SDL
in Bloomfield, CT, which is only about a half an hour from
Farmington, CT [TRUMPF’s U.S. headquarters]. SDL was
bought by JDS Uniphase for many billions.
I realized TRUMPF could end up in a strategic dilemma be-
cause we had to have access to this cornerstone technology,
which was becoming inaccessible. Not only inaccessible be-
cause we would never be able to buy a company that makes
The TruFlow laser amplifier for extreme-ultraviolet (EUV)
applications is an essential part of the next-generation EUV
lithography systems using radiation at about 13 nm.