Starting as a flash of inspiration for producing better stamps, Trotec has become a company that has made its mark on the laser industry: Trotec Laser was founded 25 years ago, and has made a global name for itself thanks to its high-quality service, its innovative power and its optimism. Christopher Müller, son of Trotec founder and today a member of the Trotec board of owners, and Andreas Penz, a general managing executive at Trotec Laser since 1996, share their insights into the past and the future.
Trotec Laser was founded by Christopher Müller’s father Klaus Müller 25 years ago, with the initial goal to simplify and accelerate stamp production at Trodat, a traditional company. Klaus Müller was CEO from 1983 to 2002. “My father first learned about laser technology in 1991 in the USA, and quickly realised its potential: Producing text plates with a laser machine is much faster, simpler and more environmentally-friendly,” says Christopher Müller about the development.
In 2021, the global leader in laser machines for engraving, cutting and marking had a workforce of more than 800 and was generating sales of over 150 million Euro. It is anticipated that sales will pass the 200 million Euro mark by 2025.
The first prototype was adapted from a laser machine produced by another manufacturer, which did not meet the desired quality standard. It was at this point that Andreas Penz, then a university assistant doing research in laser technology at Vienna University of Technology (TU Wien), came on board: “It was a modest start; our research lab was set up in a container, where we fiddled about with early laser systems,” remembers Penz. An in-house Trotec laser machine was developed and built in 1996 under his leadership. “The first machine set new standards in precision, dust protection and filter technology,” recalls Penz.
“Many of the small stamp manufacturers not only produce stamps, but signs as well,” Penz explains. They also wanted to use laser machines for this application. “As a result, we began specialising in other applications and discovered new, bigger markets that see stronger growth.” In 1997, the laser machine division became an independent sister company, a decision made by Klaus Müller.
“Trotec Laser’s route to success would have been much more difficult if we’d kept the new division as a department of the old company,” says Penz, looking back. The sales offices don’t only drive forward international expansion; they also promote quality standards by ensuring that local technical support is available.
“There are certainly more affordable laser machines to purchase, but when a problem arises, we are able to send a technician who speaks the customer’s language to the site very quickly, thanks to our local offices,” explains Christopher Müller. He adds, “So customers know: If I’ve got a Trotec laser, it’s going to work.”
In 2020, Trotec released Ruby® laser software onto the market. In keeping with the age of digitalisation, Trotec has once again set a new benchmark, evolving from being a laser machine manufacturer to also being a software business. In the future, Trotec wants software to be as important a factor in standing out from the competition as their laser machines: Penz is convinced that, “Software is the real differentiating factor.” Priority is given to customer needs, including requirements for increased digital workflows, thus setting new standards for the customers’ success.
Read the full article “Flashing laser machines, shining eyes”, in which Christopher Müller and Andreas Penz talk about past experiences and future prospects in the business magazine “Die Macher”.