Umicore celebrated its 125th anniversary

A regional operation turned into a global medium-sized company with more than 60 own sales offices and professional representations.
Umicore Galvanotechnik is a recognized and leading producer of decorative and functional coating processes mainly for the electronic-, communications-, automobile- and jewelry industry. Precious metal and non-precious metal electrolytes for the improvement of technical features or optical aspects are developed and produced. The product line is round off by precious metal preparations and dimensionally stable anode and cathode systems. The worldwide sales and service network ensures nationwide support for customers and business partners.
This year, the Gmuend based electroplating experts celebrated its 125th anniversary, a perfect occasion for a glimpse into the past and the future.

Thomas Engert, Managing Director
Thomas Engert, Managing Director, Umicore Galvanotechnik GmbH

Basic principle

”Materials for a better life“, that is the basic principle of Umicore. Among other things, that means a significant upgrade of product surfaces by highly developed technologies. What many do not know is that we encounter the products of the Gmuend based electroplating experts on a daily basis: ARGUNA® silver electrolytes make smart phone displays brighter, AURUNA® gold processes activate airbags more safely and MIRALLOY®-layers ensure that zips on clothing are not magnetically anymore and are anti allergenic in addition. These are only a few examples. Of course, many items are coated for decorative reasons with the products of the Gmuend based company. Mostly these precious metal layers have a technical background as well: For example, jewelry shines permanently and becomes scratch resistant and resistant to finger prints at the same time.

Yesterday

The success story of the present Umicore Galvanotechnik in Schwaebisch Gmuend started 125 years ago. In 1888, the company was established and named Gold- und Silberscheideanstalt Dr. Walter & Schmitt oHG. Purpose of the operation was the reconditioning of the precious metal-bearing production residues from the traditional gold and silversmiths industry of Gmuend. The company focused more and more on the electroplating industry.  Already in 1922, the company was granted a patent for galvanic white gold plating. Next to the product focus, also the name changed over the years.

Today

Since 2003, the Gmuend based company belongs to the Belgian traditional company Umicore. With approximately 15,000 employees, the Umicore Materials Technology Group is one of the leading precious metal recycling companies worldwide.

Since then Schwaebisch Gmuend based Umicore Galvanotechnik is responsible for all electroplating activities of the Umicore Group worldwide. The company’s headquarters are in the close vicinity to universities and technical colleges for electroplating and printed circuit technology, the Zentrum fuer Oberflaechentechnik Schwaebisch Gmuend e.V. (Z.O.G.) and the Europaeische Akademie fuer Oberflaechentechnik (EAST). Thus, Umicore Galvanotechnik is well connected with the industry, regionally and internationally.

Headquarter at Schwaebisch Gmuend
The company’s headquarters in Schwäbisch Gmünd

In Schwaebisch Gmuend almost 200 highly qualified personnel are employed in the development, production and sales of the products. The coating processes of contacts and printed circuit boards are applied in airbag detonators, mobile phones or anti-lock braking systems. Further to that jewelry, watches and writing utensils are coated with the Gmuend products. The focus of research and development are improvements of the coating properties, more easy and productive application of the processes as well as cost reduction, of course all this under strict consideration of all environmental issues. From the tradition-rich origin, consequent customer orientation and permanent innovations an internationally successful company has developed.

The recently gained award for the most sustainable company in the “Global 100 Most Sustainable Companies” Index, the list of the worldwide most sustainable 100 companies, which was awarded to the Umicore Group, crowns the picture of this very successful traditional company.

Employer

At the head office at Schwaebisch Gmuend approx. 200 personnel are employed who include exclusively qualified professionals. Moreover, with a permanent training quote of ten percent the company significantly contributes to the vocational training in the region. In 2013, five youths started their apprenticeship with Umicore Galvanotechnik. Certainly also the good working atmosphere contributed to the award of the Group as “Top Employer Germany”. CRF Institute, an independent specialist of international human resource management studies, issued the certificate. For example, career possibilities, training & development and company culture and management were evaluated.

Employees
The employees contribute significantly to the company’s success

Research and Development

Research and Development are of high significance within the philosophy of the company. So it is not surprising that twenty patents per 1,000 employees were registered in 2012, a figure way above the industry average. In 2013, the will to improve oneself was awarded again. The Gmuend company obtained the “Innovation Price East-Wuerttemberg”, this time in the category “patents” for the electrolyte series PALLUNA® ACF.

Research and development
Research and development

Products

The company’s product range is large. Innovative novelties are i.e. two products of the fine silver electrolyte generation and the already mentioned palladium-nickel –electrolyte PALLUNA® ACF-200.

Contacts on plug-in cards coated with PALLUNA ACF-200
Contacts on plug-in cards coated with PALLUNA® ACF-200

ARGUNA® 4500 is used for the selective deposition of bright silver layers. In ideal conditions, layers with highest brightness and reflection grades can be produced. Areas of application of ARGUNA® 4500 are i.e. LED background illuminations. ARGUNA® 630 is a silver electrolyte for (electro-) technical and decorative applications. Due to its ability to deposit thick bright coatings, ARGUNA® 630 is suitable for the decorative area. Next to the decorative area, the very good electrical features and the outstanding bond and welding features of the silver coatings are in clear focus within the technical area. Due to its high reflection density and the high temperature resistance of the coating material the electrolyte can be applied as end-surface for LEDs.

LED background lighting coated with ARGUNA 4500
LED background lighting coated with ARGUNA® 4500

Retrofit LED lamp coated with ARGUNA 630
Retrofit LED lamp coated with ARGUNA® 630

PALLUNA® ACF is used for depositing palladium-nickel and completely waives the use of ammonia and chloride. Thereby the typical smell of ammonia in the production area does not exist anymore. The development allows the production of high quality surfaces without the disadvantage of conventional electrolytes. I.e. the electrolyte is applied for the coating of contact materials in the automobile and telecommunications industry. This invention provides benefits both under ecological and economical aspects. It complies with the health and safety measures and presents a technical innovation at the same time, due to the simplified handling and improved coating and electrolyte features. Coatings with palladium and palladium-nickel are applied in the technical and in the decorative area for the reduction of the much more expensive gold. Application areas of PALLUNA® ACF are i.e. coatings of credit and telephone cards.

Future

By the experience of the past 125 years, Umicore Galvanotechnik inspires its customers with innovative products in the future as well. Sustainable growth, high competence and above-average service orientation – paired with the adaption to future market conditions – will still built the foundation of the success. Over the years, the initially minor activities in the area of electroplating developed into a very important company sector for the Umicore Group and into a globally recognized medium-sized company. Consciousness of tradition, customer orientation and constant innovation provided that the home of Umicore Galvanotechnik is in Schwaebisch Gmuend and globally.

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