Issue April / May 2007
Innovative optosensor technology from Leuze Electronic
For more than 40 years, Leuze electronic has developed optoelectronic sensors, identification systems, image processing systems, data transmission systems and optoelectronics for occupational safety and industrial automation.
The German based company designs and manufactures optical equipment for a variety of uses including distance measuring, data reading and to improve occupational safety. Leuze’s products meet the needs of various industrial sectors such as packaging, printing, chemical, storage and conveyor systems, automotive engineering and materials handling.
“Leuze electronic is specialised in the optical sensor business,” explains sales and marketing director Karsten Just. “We concentrate on the development and production of optical sensors, mainly at our headquarters in the south of Stuttgart.”
Founded in 1963, Leuze electronic is a subsidiary of the Leuze Group which, along with Bielomatik Leuze, reported a turnover of 260 million euros last year (approximately $330 million) and employs 1700 staff. Together with Leuze optoelectronic and Leuze lumiflex, Leuze electronic forms the Leuze electronic Group and employs 740 staff in total.
All Leuze companies are certified according to ISO 9001 and Leuze electronic’s highly qualified workforce comprehensively serves the market, backed by a central customer support centre with a 24-hour telephone service, reflecting Leuze’s commitment to its customers.
Though the field of optical sensors is Leuze’s primary area of expertise, the company manufactures products for a range of industries. Karsten comments: “The packing machine industry is important so we approach producers of packing machines and filling machines for beverages and other liquids. The printing industry is also significant because sensors are used within the printing machines to detect, for example, if the paper sheet is there or whether the machine takes one or two pages before printing.”
Leuze’s production interests can be divided into two main areas. The first is the mass production of simple optical sensors in which Leuze focuses on maintaining high standards whilst keeping production costs low in order to facilitate its commitment to producing highly innovative products. By investing considerable resources in research and development, Leuze is able to maintain its leading position in optosensor technology.
Karsten believes that this is one of Leuze’s principal strengths. “Innovation is one of the key factors to success in the business,” he says. “We invest about 12 per cent of our yearly turnover back into research and development, when in comparison the industry average is about five to six per cent, so we basically double the conventional investment in developing products and that makes Leuze special.”
Providing evidence of this commitment to innovation, Leuze recently launched several new products at a factory automation fair. “Developing new products is an ongoing process and every year we launch more than ten different new product ranges onto the market,” comments Karsten. “At a recent fair we launched a product called AMS 200 that can measure distances up to 200 metres with an accuracy to within three millimetres, which is unique in the market. This product makes warehouse application very efficient and can measure speed as well, so when you have such a device on a carrying unit in the warehouse, you can measure the speed and distance of that unit.”
Continuing, Karsten adds: “We also offer the world’s smallest barcode reader, BCL 8, and for the safety of work application we offer a laser scanner. We are one of only two producers of such a technology worldwide.”
Karsten believes that Leuze’s focus on its principal product allows the company to excel. ”We firmly focus on the optical sensor business and we put all of our investment for research and development into this area,” explains Karsten. “This is more or less unique if you compare us with our competitors. By focusing solely on optical sensors, we are able to be a leader in the technology of this area, which means we offer our customers outstanding and new technology.”
Leuze can also tailor make products to individual specifications explains Karsten: “Customers know us as a very inventive company and sometimes approach us outlining their task, then ask us to develop or adjust some of our products to their needs. We are very flexible and quick to respond so we can make products to fulfill specific customer requirements.”
Leuze has plans to expand into new markets in the near future in order to acquire more customers. Karsten says: “Europe is our core market but we are about to start production in China and are in the process of investigating the possibilities there. We see Asia as a growing market in which the technology level is improving and we need to operate at a level in the machine building industry that allows Asian customers to best use our optical sensors. This market, especially China, is getting more important for us and, for that reason, we are thinking about creating a production facility there.”
Continuing, he adds: “In Europe, Leuze is strong with a huge share of the market but we have identified America and Asia, especially China, as providing good growth potential for us.”
Although Leuze has subsidiaries and agencies around the world, Karsten anticipates that the move into other markets could be a challenge, but one which Leuze can overcome. Karsten explains: “I think one of the key challenges for us is Asia because the machine building market there is catching up with the European market and exporting to Europe. This is important to us because, at the moment, 50 per cent of our turnover comes out of Europe. We have to look, as all electronic companies must, at carving out a strong position in Asia because we see a move away from Europe to these markets.”
Karsten is positive about the future of Leuze believing the company to be in a strong position. “Germany is a core market for the machine building industry worldwide and we anticipate, in the next two years, steady growth in this area.”
Continuing, he adds: “I think we have a lot of potential, even with regards to technology as we are not at the end of development in optical sensors. Leuze is constantly investigating new technology so I think that we will soon be able to offer special sensors to fulfill the needs of future machines.”
Products: Optoelectronic sensors