Mar 24, 2014
Founded: By H.B. McLaughlin in 1963. Acquired by Meyer Burger in 2009
Located: Colorado Springs
No. of employees: 260
Some of today’s most valuable diamonds and sapphires aren’t found at a jewelry store. At Diamond Materials Technology, billions of micronized synthetic diamonds – a mere 10 microns in diameter -- are applied to high-carbon steel wire and wound into 60 kilometer spools. Finished diamond wire and diamond wire saws are then shipped to semiconductor, photovoltaic (solar panel) and optoelectronics manufacturers throughout the world. In fact, eighty percent of the company’s customer base is international.
“We’re one of the rare companies in the U.S. that manufactures in America and ships to Asia,” says CEO Tom Devine.
As he points out, earlier cutting technologies using blades rather than wire which led to greater wasted material, termed “kerf loss.”
“Whether you’re slicing silicon, sapphire, germanium or silicon carbide, for example, this loss of material can be very expensive,” he says.
Once the automated electroplating process is complete, diamond wire slices cylinders of silicon into wafers used by semiconductor and solar manufacturers with maximum precision and minimum waste. The company’s diamond saws are also gained favor over more costly and difficult-to-produce diamond slurry-coated wire.
But diamonds aren’t the company’s only focus.
As sapphire growth technology has improved, resulting applications have surged, creating increased demand, especially among light-enabled diode (LED) industries. As Devine explains, sapphires – which are almost as hard as diamonds – have found a ready market among companies that produce consumer electronics and retail products like watch crystals.
Diamond Materials Technology -- renamed following purchase by leading solar industry supplier and Swiss-owned public company Meyer Burger in 2009 – had been an OEM partner to solar and semiconductor manufacturers.
“Our Group CEO, Peter Pauli, believes strongly that solar technology can change the world, especially in developing regions. We all believe that our company will lead the way,” Devine says.
Diamond Materials is now prepared for exponential growth. Devine’s optimism is based on resolution of what he calls “a small trade war” between China, Europe and the U.S. that had depressed the solar sector. Combined with a modest photovoltaic industry recovery and a surging optoelectronics market, there’s plenty of opportunity ahead. Expansion at the company’s Colorado Springs manufacturing plant is already underway.
The company’s suppliers come from a global marketplace, but whenever possible, materials and services are purchased within Colorado and the Pikes Peak region.
Marketing is handled through a dedicated sales and product management team based in Colorado Springs but focused on global customers. Meyer Burger also sells through its subsidiaries in Asia, Europe and North America and relies on independent representatives in countries where it does not have offices.
The company’s 260 employees include a large percentage of materials, mechanical and chemical engineers as well a growing number of returning military veterans who Devine calls “great team workers” who are disciplined, well-trained and have excellent leadership skills.
With demand for its products on the rise, the operation also makes room for semi-retired or part-time talent.
“We operate four shifts – including management – 24/7,” he says. “We’re driven to build Diamond Materials’ profile as one of the world’s top three high-performance, consistent diamond wire producers
“We manufacture both diamond wire and wire saws in Colorado Springs,” Devine says. “It’s very a challenging engineering environment that relies on Lean and Six Sigma protocols. Since we’re competing with low cost competitors in Asia, we have to be excellent at execution in both. That means eliminating waste and variation in our processes.”
“To capture a large percentage of the increasing silicon and sapphire market demand that will be taking place during the next 48 months.”
“As I mentioned, we need very experienced and capable engineers.”