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Berthold Leibinger 1930-2018

17 Oct 2018

Industrial laser pioneer and Trumpf leader dies at the age of 87.

Trumpf has announced the death of Berthold Leibinger, the company’s former managing director who was widely regarded as a trailblazer in the use of lasers for materials processing applications.

"Professor Berthold Leibinger passed away on October 16, 2018, after a long illness in his hometown of Stuttgart. He would have turned 88 on November 26," Trumpf stated.

A mechanical engineer by training, Leibinger first worked at Trumpf as an apprentice in 1950. Following a period as a development engineer in the US, he returned to Germany in 1961 to re-join the company as the head of its engineering department.

After first becoming a shareholder in 1964, Leibinger went on to acquire a growing stake in the company with the proceeds of patents and licenses from his numerous inventions. He became Trumpf’s managing director in 1965, remaining in that position for 40 years before handing over the reins to his daughter Nicola and son Peter.

It was during the 1970s that Leibinger made the pivotal decision to adopt laser technology for processing sheet metal, a move that ultimately transformed the company into a pioneer of industrial laser development and applications.

In 1979 Trumpf launched its first combination punch laser machine – the Trumatic 180 Laserpress, featuring 500 W and 700 W carbon dioxide laser sources provided by third-party vendors.

By 1985, the company had announced itself as a laser technology developer, launching the TLF 1000 machine, built around an in-house 1 kilowatt carbon dioxide laser. Three decades later, and following numerous innovations in gas, thin-disk and solid-state sources, Trumpf remains one of the world’s largest laser companies.

The company, now employing more than 13,000 people, posted a record turnover of €3.6 billion in the year ending June 2018 – with laser sales likely to be in excess of the prior year’s total of €1.23 billion.

Industry influence
In addition to his leadership at Trumpf, Leibinger was a key player in the wider German economy, working on the supervisory boards at industry giants BASF, BMW and Deutsche Bank. He was also president of the Stuttgart Chamber of Commerce and Industry between 1990 and 1992, and worked hard to increase the internationalization of medium-sized businesses in Germany.

As well as becoming synonymous with Trumpf, the Leibinger family name is also widely recognized through the establishment of the Berthold Leibinger Stiftung, a charitable foundation that works to promote both technological and cultural development.

The organization wrote in its own obituary: “When Berthold Leibinger established the Berthold Leibinger foundation in 1992, he decided that its mission would focus on four areas.

“In keeping with his personal interests, these were science, culture, church, and charity. In this, Berthold Leibinger saw himself not only as a devotee, but also as a dedicated patron. This was true for all of the foundation’s missions, for literature and charitable concerns as well as for music and science.”

Role model
The technological side of that activity is represented by the biennial Innovationspreis, which since 2000 has honored outstanding innovations in laser technology, and the Zukunftspreis, which was established in 2006 and recognizes cutting-edge developmental work by individuals.

Winners of the Zukunftspreis since then have included this year’s Nobel physics laureate Gérard Mourou, the optogenetics pioneer Karl Deisseroth, and quantum cascade laser inventor Federico Capasso.

“Over the years, Berthold Leibinger contributed more than €10 million of his personal fortune to his foundation and additionally endowed it with a 5 per cent share in Trumpf GmbH + Co. KG,” announced the foundation in its obituary.

“This ensures that the name Berthold Leibinger will continue to stand for the active promotion of the foundation’s mission, even after his death. Since its establishment up to July 2018, the Berthold Leibinger foundation has granted more than €17 million in funding for projects.

“Of this, more than €14.5 million have gone to scientific and cultural projects, while €1.5 million has been donated to church projects and about €1 million to charitable projects.”

Jürgen Hambrecht, chairman of Trumpf’s supervisory board, added in a company release: "Berthold Leibinger was a passionate engineer and entrepreneur, his work was always focused on the well-being of the people, he was a great role model for all of us.”

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