reasons. At that time, our CO2 R&D team was focused on a
single application for a single customer: our machine tool division and cutting lasers. Of course, they were therefore very security-minded in the way they did R&D.
To me, it seemed a unique chance to instill a fresh culture in
that team through EUV because the chip industry’s mindset is
everything but security-minded R&D. About two, three years
into the project, we had already 15 to 20 R&D people on this
at least, and we still had no clue how realistic it was. Then, I
met Bob Akins, the CEO and founder of Cymer. He is one of
the people in laser industry I admire most.
He is really a visionary—honest and fair to the bones, and
very intelligent. I met him and we talked for couple of hours.
After that, I knew that we just have to do this and that these
are the partners that we can do it with. It took one serious conversation with someone that I instantly trusted. What followed
later was the establishment of our relationship with ASML that
in the meantime had acquired Cymer. This partnership really
deserves to be called special in the best sense of the word. It is
based on mutual trust and a very strong will to succeed together.
LFW: Now, let’s jump to another question: Your two big-
gest competitors are listed on the NASDAQ Stock Market
with capitalization of several billions. They’ve got a lot of
resources, and they do push the merger and acquisition pro-
cess. Is it a disadvantage for you to be privately owned?
Schmitz: I definitely would not say a disadvantage. I still see
the advantage. Peter has talked about EUV—would that have
happened in such a publicly traded business? Never, because
the controller would ask, “What is the return on investment?”
Leibinger: And the analysts would ask as well!
Schmitz: From this point of view, a story like EUV, or what we
do in Munich [with scientific lasers], or the investment in laser diodes—you wouldn’t make it. You can only do that if you
have a privately owned company where the people really think
months and years in the future.
Leibinger: First, if you look at the balance sheets and the PNLs
of our competitors, you will notice that TRUMPF spends more
on R&D than most of our competitors. One reason for this is
that we don’t have to answer to the demands by analysts in the
context of short-term profitability.
Second, being cash-rich can be a burden for a public company because they have to start justifying why they are not doing
anything with the cash on hand. TRUMPF is also rich in cash.
However, this can serve as a means for M&A, but it can also
serve as an insurance policy in a cyclical business.
We define our strategy ourselves—we don’t have analysts
defining our strategy. I consider that a huge advantage. When
looking at the valuation of these companies right now, which
is at 20–30X earnings—that’s a period in time. It’s not real.
LFW: With TRUMPF Scientific Lasers, you made consider-
able efforts to offer lasers for scientific applications. It’s a
small market compared to your core markets. What benefits
do you expect from that engagement?
Schmitz: To be really honest, it was an experiment. We thought
it could be interesting to take our industrialized components
and find a small group that drives this technology to the limits
in order to learn more. We learned a lot about our components,
how they behave at the limits, and then transferred that back
to our industrial use to drive our micro-lasers to higher levels.
This is a benefit from our Munich operations.
Leibinger: It gives us access to applications that we would never even think about, such as coherent x-rays or tabletop synchrotrons—topics we are now talking about with our scientific customers. And it is reverse technology transfer—we benefit
for our series products.
LFW: For mutual benefit?
Leibinger: Yes, both sides benefit. But TRUMPF Munich feels
different than the rest of TRUMPF—it is like a research institute. It’s a small group of 15 men and women doing very interesting things. In another life, that’s what I’ll do.
LFW: In which global region do you see the best opportuni-
ties for further growth and why?