Thilo Horvatitsch, Journalist, Mainz, Germany
Around 250 different optical glasses and other optical materials are used by SCHOTT Guinchard to manufacture individual products and processed semi-finished products.
In virtually any geometrical shape.
Competently Close to Customers
For SCHOTT Guinchard, the Swiss precision optical component specialist, the secret of success is “converting customer needs into customer benefits”.
Visitors to Yverdon-les-Bains can enjoy a tour of the senses. Steeped in tradition, the town in French Switzerland is well known for its thermal spas, used in former times by the Romans and the Helvetians. Its prominent position on the southern shore of Lake Neuchâtel, in what is known as the “Three-Lakes Region” not far from Lausanne and Geneva, offers first class scenery.
It is a view that it is easy to share with SCHOTT Guinchard. The company, which is based in Yverdon, has built up an internationally recognized reputation over more than thirty years as a specialist in the high-end production of precision optical components. Using some 250 optical glasses and other high-grade optical materials such as quartz and sapphire plus advanced technical manufacturing processes, the company produces individually tailored products and processed semi-finished products for industry in the form of prototypes, pilot runs or large scale runs.
The company’s main applications and products include:
- Aspherical and cylindrical lenses and other polished glass substrates for use in such areas as telecommunications and lighting
- Optical components made from specially conditioned sapphire
- Coating of substrate surfaces, for example as protection against steaming up of glass for instruments in avionics, dentistry, the automobile industry and camera lenses
- (Un)coated prisms and elements for guiding light for optics and opto-electronics
- High performance laser protection windows
- Machine processing of ceramic components into any geometry
SCHOTT and Guinchard:
An Ideal Combination
This wide range of capabilities played a major part in SCHOTT’s decision to acquire an 80 percent shareholding in the Guinchard company at the end of 2000 and its subsequent role as SCHOTT’s “High End Competence Center“ in Europe. “Our cold processing of optical materials is an excellent complement to SCHOTT’s research and glass melting expertise, and this opens up a wide range of market benefits, above all through our involvement in SCHOTT’s “Advanced Optics” international sales activities. Even more important, however, is our many years of customer and application knowledge and the matching expertise of our 125 employees,” explains Jacques Guinchard, CEO, shareholder and son of the company‘s founder Eric Guinchard.
SCHOTT Guinchard’s expertise also includes high-precision automated grinding and flat polishing processes.
ISO-certified quality assurance plays an important part in the company’s sophisticated production chain.
These customer and integration benefits are also defined by the mission statement which the company has formulated as a guideline for its activities and which it applies to itself. These are not empty words, as a practical example shows: when a Scandinavian customer was looking for a producer of high precision filters for use in digital cameras, the Guinchard solution was well ahead of the competition‘s and not only from the aspect of its much higher yield. “We enabled our customer to meet the very tight marketing delivery date imposed by its customer by carrying out the installation work required on the spot ourselves over the weekend,” explains Sales and Marketing Director Jean-Luc Wulliamoz. They also came up with a very good solution for a demanding internal problem raised by SCHOTT Research, which involved producing rods from glass plates for digital projection applications and carefully polishing the glass sheath without breaking the glass. A 99 percent yield was achieved.
Converting Customer Needs to Customer Benefits
The secret to made-to-measure development achievements and high yields, says Jacques Guinchard, is detailed recognition of customer needs plus the knowledge of the best combination of machines, processing technologies and use of materials for the particular application. Another factor is the high level of employee expertise, including craft skills which are still of great importance in high-end production. The most important, however, is the relationship with customers that has been nurtured over several decades. “As a result we have the specialist knowledge to deal with customers’ wishes and to meet the requirements of the particular application according to the standards involved,” said Guinchard.
SCHOTT Guinchard’s aspherical lenses are used in telecommunications and lighting applications.
The resultant know-how enabled Guinchard to achieve a breakthrough in 2002 in the processing of aspherical lenses for example. The development of a new process known as Magneto-Rheological Finishing (MRF), removes one of the classical sources of defects in the high-precision processing of optics: tool wear with local polishing. At the end of the day this speeds up lens processing and improves product quality, which results in extra benefits for the customer such as optimization of geometry, weight and quality.