Company History

VON ARDENNE GmbH

VON ARDENNE GmbH was founded in 1991 as a spin-off company of the former Dresden Manfred von Ardenne Research Institute. The new beginning involved 67 employees who brought with them the know-how from this famous research institute into a new chapter in the history of the company, laying the technological foundations for future development. Today, more than 620 employees make up the staff, which has increased almost tenfold. The values embodied by Manfred von Ardenne live on in them and define the profile of the company as before: scientific curiosity, the constant search for innovative technological solutions, quality awareness, effective action and reliability.

The following pages go back to the roots of the company and illustrate the unusual diversity of the research and development topics that are connected with the name of Manfred von Ardenne.


1928-1945

Laboratory for Electron Physics

In 1928, Manfred von Ardenne founded the VON ARDENNE Laboratory for Electron Physics in Berlin-Lichterfelde. He created the economic foundations for it by being commissioned by well-known electrical companies for the development and first application of multi-system electron tubes for radio, with the construction of special oscilloscope tubes and a new type of broadband amplifier.

Through pioneering contributions to television technology and electron microscopy, optoelectronic image conversion, nuclear physics and electron beam technology, the Research Institute won for itself an unusual reputation within a short time until it was removed to the Abkhazian Black Sea coast by the victorious Soviet Union in May 1945.

Research and Development

On 14 December 1930, von Ardenne achieved the breakthrough to a fully electronic television as an alternative to the electromechanical scanning using a Nipkow disc with the first usage of the Flying Spot Scanner. At the telecommunications exhibition "Funkausstellung" in Berlin in 1931, he presented broadcasts of pictures and film purely electronically using electron beam tubes for both transmitter and receiver. This event later went down in history as the first fully electronic television.

The laboratory in Lichterfelde also developed the electron-optical image converter for infrared night vision devices and the X-ray image amplifier in 1934. In 1937, the first high-definition scanning electron microscope was developed and built – which remains until today an essential tool in many current and seminal areas of research, including microbiology, cell physiology and genetic engineering. In 1939, the magnetic universal electron microscope was produced, which would maintain its preeminent status until 1950, followed by the construction of the van de Graaff Neutron Generator in 1941, and the construction and testing of a Cyclotron with a 60 t magnet for tests for particle acceleration in 1943.

The latter project marked the beginning of a series of research work which was focused on the production and medical application of radioactive isotopes.


1945-1955

Institute for Industrial Isotope Separation

Shortly after the arrival of the Soviets in Berlin in May 1945, von Ardenne was advised to continue his research in electron microscopy for the Soviet Union. After the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, it became clear however that he had no alternative but to work in the Soviet nuclear network. His whole institute was relocated to Sinop near Sukhumi.

Some of the chief tasks of the Institute for Industrial Isotope Separation of which von Ardenne was the head, included electromagnetic mass separation of uranium isotopes. This method however proved to be inferior and unsuitable for industrial production of Uranium-235 compared to the methods investigated by other German specialists.

In addition to experimental nuclear physics, the institute in Sinop was concerned with electron microscopy and special tasks for electronic measurement techniques.

In 1948, a strong-current ion beam source with double focusing through non-homogeneous magnetic fields was created with the Duoplasmatron, which is used until this day in particle acceleration and as correcting drive mechanisms in space travel.

The work on the “Tables of Electron Physics, Ion Physics and Over Microscopy” was begun in Abkhazia, which collected the knowledge in these fields up to that time. It would serve development engineers as an essential tool and guidebook for several decades.

Institute building in Sinop at the Black Sea

1955-1990

Manfred von Ardenne Research Institute, Dresden

At the beginning of the 1950s, von Ardenne set to work forging plans for a return to Germany. Soon it became clear that he only had a future in East Germany if he did not want to give up his complete plant, equipment and personal property which were all brought to the Soviet Union in May 1945. Initially, two villas in the Dresden district of Weisser Hirsch became the location of the newly founded Forschungsinstitut Manfred von Ardenne. Today, they house the offices of the executive officers of VON ARDENNE GmbH.

On 24 May 1955, Manfred von Ardenne arrived with his family and a team of 30 scientists and staff in Dresden and set to work under privileged conditions almost immediately after his arrival.

Notwithstanding the prevailing reason of state, Manfred von Ardenne was able to push through the private legal status of the new institute, which remained in place up to the 1990 German reunification in spite of countless restrictions. The astonishing success story of the Manfred von Ardenne Research Institute began despite the challenge to prevail within the tension between research and development in the private sector on one side and the planned economy of state industry as the predominant customer on the other. Within a few years it had developed into a highly effective and internationally recognized research facility. More than 500 staff members have been employed since the 70s.

Basic Principles of the Institute

Right from the beginning, the main focus had been on physical-technological development projects with a strong practical basis. The choice of subjects for research and development were made strictly with regard to expected economic usage and in as close contact with the prospective production facilities as possible.

In contrast to other comparable institutes, work was characterized by the building of a special efficient prototype during work on the project. In this way, the transference of promising development results could be accelerated in production long before the corresponding decisions within the planned economy: an advantage that made the Ardenne Institute attractive in the eyes of the customer.

Direct feedback from the experiences and suggestions of the customer on further scientific technological development was ascribed great importance.

For the head of the institute, the involvement of the younger generation was important: Talented young scientists and engineers were given their own design space early on and entrusted with complex tasks involving a high level of personal responsibility.

   

German Reunification

By 1989, the Manfred von Ardenne Research Institute had grown into a highly effective, internationally recognized facility for applied research and development, with more than 500 employees. It was able to finance itself by selling its results together with attractive design and special engineering. The customer for numerous development projects concerning new industrial applications of electron beam and plasma technologies was the East German state industry. Furthermore, the Institute received grants from the Ministry for Science and Technology for pure research geared to application for its department “Technological Research” (5%), as well as from the Ministry of Health for financial standard equipment for its departments “Basic Biomedical Research” and “Medical Engineering” (90%). The extremely high stocks of material and machine components represented an unusually high debt. This was necessary to put into effect short-term projects underlying planned economic conditions and for export.

Both circumstances – dependence on the state industry sector and the high amount of stock – were to prove fateful in the summer 1990 economic and monetary union: the old state industries disappeared within a few weeks, and signed, mostly long-term contracts were broken unilaterally. The stock of components and materials became worthless overnight. Their devaluation to zero was set against the loans taken out which remained. 7.5 million Deutschmarks appeared to be an impassable barrier, out of which salaries for 500 employees had to be paid in Deutschmarks, and further bank loans with interest and repayment installments were taken out against the old debts. The lay-off of nearly 60% of the workforce became unavoidable and called for redundancy payments for which the Ardenne family had to take out new loans.

The staff was reduced to 220 employees, who in future were to work in the new companies:

  • VON ARDENNE Anlagentechnik GmbH,
  • von Ardenne Institut für Angewandte Medizinische Forschung GmbH (von Ardenne Institute for Applied Medical Research),
  • Forschungsinstitut von Ardenne OHG (administration and maintenance of estate)

and in the transitional institution of the Fraunhofer Institute for Electron Beam and Plasma Technologies (FEP). One year later, this became the Fraunhofer Institute FEP, which is today a permanent part of the Fraunhofer Association in Munich.

Up to 2000, the von Ardenne Institute for Applied Medical Research at first continued the medical life work of Manfred von Ardenne with its own private clinic for the evaluation of the systemic Cancer Multi-step Therapy. After his death in 1997, phase I and phase II studies for further evaluations of this type of therapy were carried out with the support of the German Cancer Aid at the Charité Hospital in Berlin.

The development and production of medical technology equipment for hyperthermia as well as all major variations of Oxygen Multi-step Therapy in the Center for Oxygen Multi-step Therapy remained in the premises of the former Institute at Weißer Hirsch in Dresden. About 400 hyperthermia plants based on water-filtered infrared beams produced by VON ARDENNE are still in use today. 

Main Areas of Work of the Manfred von Ardenne Research Institute

  • Electron beam technology
  • Plasma physics technologies
  • Vacuum coating
  • Biomedical engineering
  • Basic biomedical research

1991 to the Present

VON ARDENNE GmbH

2005

In 2005, Robin Schild joined the senior management of VON ARDENNE. A year later, he took over the position of the CEO. In 2016, Thomas Krischke succeeded him as CEO/CFO. In the same year, Pia von Ardenne-Lichtenberg joined the company and the executive management as COO. Hans Christian Hecht, who holds a degree in physics, has been a member of the executive management since 2012 assuming the position of chief technology officer (CTO).

With 35 years of knowhow as its most important startup capital, VON ARDENNE Anlagentechnik GmbH was reestablished under the market economy in 1991, with Dr. Peter Lenk as managing director. 65 especially experienced members of staff with knowledge of the scientific and technical tradition of the company were recruited. The von Ardenne family invested a startup capital of 200,000 Deutschmarks as 100 % shareholder.

Dr. Lenk – who was a member of the former Research Institute as a physicist and economist – created hope that a cost effective business might be possible by setting up a trust from the few remaining old customers from the former eastern bloc, as well as clients from Japan, Korea and Taiwan. In this way, the young company made it through the difficult startup years, helped by the acceptance of the stock of materials for specific tasks by the trust and by the first acts of faith on the part of companies from the former West Germany.

The breakthrough came in 1994/1995 with a bulk order for an in-line glass coating system. A short time later in 1996 the amount of orders even called for an additional 3,200 m² production site 6 km away from the head office in Dresden Weissig. The rapid development of the company rested on the application of innovation, such as multilayered coating with unusual optic, thermal and mechanical properties and particular structures on random substrates in a vacuum. Production of electron beam guns with a shot-blasting efficiency of up to 1,200kW for the extraction of highly reactive and refractory metals in electron beam multi-chamber furnaces also gained increasing international importance. 

2006

In 2006, VON ARDENNE inaugurated the biggest investment project in the history of the company to date: the growing market for photovoltaics had increased demand so much that the hitherto existing capacity was not enough. At the end of 2005 the decision was made to enlarge the production and logistical areas, which had been built step by step since 1996, by 4,500 m². The reason for that was the clearly increasing demand for equipment using thin-layer photovoltaics, in which the company had subsequently specialized.


Company History Milestones since 1991

1993

Electron beam-based batchtype systems for metal strip coating. For the first time, the planar dual magnetron is used for architectural glass coating in an upgrade project.

1994

Electron beam-based in-line system (air-to-air principles) for reflection-enhancing metal surfaces

1995

Electron beam gun with VarioCathode for beam power control at constant acceleration voltage. This key component substantiated the company's top position in the world in the field of high-power electron beam technology. 

1996

First horizontal in-line sputter coater for architectural glass in jumbo format 6.00 m x 3.21 m;

First in-line sputter system for CIS-technology (back contact and TCO). With this coater, VON ARDENNE for the first time actively enters the business field photovoltaics and henceforward specializes - though not exclusively - in thin-film technologies.

1997

First web coater for optical lowE layer stacks, main application: radiation protection for PC and TV-monitors

1998

Electron beam-based ceramic coater (batchtype system) for gas turbine blades

1999

The world's first in-line ceramic coater for gas turbine blades

2000

Vertical in-line sputter coater for display technology (TCO)

2002

VON ARDENNE purchases the know-how for the dual magnetron with rotatable targets. With the acquisition of an American competitor, VON ARDENNE enters the Chinese architectural glass coating market.

2004

First in-line sputter system for CdTe technology (back contact and active layer) for an American customer who settled just 200 km from Dresden. Once more, VON ARDENNE had succeeded in establishing a job-creating investor from its clientele in its vicinity.

2006

VON ARDENNE Vacuum Equipment Co. Ltd., Shanghai, is founded for maintenance, repair and service.

2007

Complete coating equipment for another large CdTe project

2008

VON ARDENNE Malaysia Sdn Bhd. is established in Kulim for maintenance, repair and service.

2009

VON ARDENNE gains market leadership in the field of architectural glass coating.

VON ARDENNE Vacuum Equipment moves into the new workshop and office building in Shanghai.

2010

The 120 m long GC330H in-line coater for flat glass (TCO) is put into operation. It is the longest of its kind in the world.

2011

With VON ARDENNE North America Inc. and VON ARDENNE Taiwan Ltd., two more subsidiaries are founded.

2013

The 50th VON ARDENNE coating system for architectural glass is sold.

2014

VON ARDENNE Japan Co. Ltd. is founded with offices in Osaka and Tokyo.

2015

We have entered the crystalline photovoltaics market with the XEA|nova®, a wafer coating system for the production of high-efficiency solar cells.


Key Technologies & Research Areas

ELECTRON BEAM TECHNOLOGIES

New areas of application were continually found for the electron beam, the importance of which Manfred von Ardenne recognized early on as being an energy intensive and flexible tool for a great number of industrial processes. Equipments and technologies of the research institute for vacuum melting and refining of reactive and refractory metals, for cutting and welding, for thermal and non-thermal microstructuring, for structured tempering of surfaces as well as high-rate evaporation of metals and dielectrics arose from key components, such as electron beam guns and plasma sources, and were used in many branches of industry.

The first tasks that were worked on after the founding of the Institute were predominantly those attached to the established areas of electron and ion beam technology. For this, experience was used that was gained in Berlin-Lichterfelde before 1945 and during the 10 years work in the Soviet Union.

The profile and core skills of the later department “Technological Research” began to become apparent somewhere around 1960. By 1965, it formed approximately 80% of the capacity of the Institute, 10 years after its founding.

PLASMA PHYSICS TECHNOLOGIES

The first project developed by the Manfred von Ardenne Institute in the plasma physical field was the plasma torch in 1963, which worked on the basis of the physical principles of the high-pressure electric arc. It was mainly used for plasma arc cutting of metallic semi-finished products for machine building, especially ship building. The state-owned company "Schweisstechnik Kjellberg" in Finsterwalde was the institute's partner in the industry up to 1990, which became part of the "Mansfeldkombinat Eisleben" in 1972.The first plant was built in 1964 at the research institute. Until 1980, 700 more were manufactured and operated at home and abroad.

In the mid-60s, evaporation technology experienced a great international boost. The Eastern German government promoted the call for material and energy saving, eco-friendly technologies, which caused a reinforced development for evaporating steel strip, flat glass, plastic foil and paper. Both the technology and the equipment were getting more productive and completely novel fields of application emerged.

Hence, the Manfred von Ardenne Research Institute devoted much of its capacity to this promising and versatile technology.

The first milestone was the development of an in-line coater for microelectronic hybrid circuits in 1964, which was ordered by "Keramische Werke Hermsdorf" in Thuringia. This project was the starting point of a long, successful and reliable cooperation during the proceeding miniaturization of special electronic components and circuits.

In 1960, five years after the foundation of the institute, there were already 120 employees working at Dresden Weisser Hirsch. By the end of 1962, there were even 230 members of staff employed by the institute, which was enabled by government tax privileges. Further buildings and labs were added. 

BIOMEDICAL ENGINEERING

The work of the Institute in biomedicine goes back to 1936 with the development of the first electronic spectral photometers for carrying out enzyme optical measurements, which was commissioned by the Institute for Cytophysiology in Berlin-Dahlem.

By this time, Ardenne had already come into contact with biological and medical problems in connection with the pioneering work on the electron microscope and the scanning electron microscope. It was therefore natural that the development of medical equipment became part of the activities of the Institute shortly after its foundation in Dresden. One of the first developments was that of the ingestible intestinal sender. This is a miniaturized probe – less than a centimeter in diameter and only 26 mm long – that goes through the human organism within a few hours and continually transmits the pressure and the pH-values from the stomach and the intestinal tract.

Early on, Manfred von Ardenne recognized the special importance of biomedical engineering for modern medicine, and set up a research and development capacity. The incorporation of a team of researchers working in Berlin contributed to the potential of the institute in this area. The first heart and lung machine was developed and constructed by this team for the Eastern Bloc. Many cardiac centers were equipped with these machines in the years following.

In the 1960s, the focus of biomedical technology was in the development of new principles of physical and electronic measurement technology for medical purposes. In cooperation with the "Medizinische Akademie Dresden", the Charité Berlin and the Martin Luther University in Halle, equipment was produced which soon went into mass production, such as the electro-cardio tachograph for observing patients and was manufactured by "Messgeraetewerk Zwoenitz" from 1964, or ultrasound scanners for diagnosis which were developed in 1961. 1000 machines were produced up to 1980.

THE CHICKEN AND EGG PRINCIPLE

Normally, an effective industrial technology can only be worked out at manufacturing plants. On the other hand, the “obligatory” technology has to be developed for the requirements of the manufacturing plants. This leads to the practical application and transference to a plant which is essential for research purposes, thus ensuring that procedures at the highest industrial specific level can be developed further through experience gained during production.

In 1970, a new stage was reached at the institute. A whole cycle of technological research, asset development and transition to production was planned for every project. Only projects which could be transferred to industry were worked on. The scientific results alone did not count – the material and personal conditions had to be given for industrial usage. The expected progressive demand for new technologies and products were supposed also to correspond to the operating expenses. Staff at the institute worked in the production plants for months – they gained experience which they subsequently employed in developing their subject. Partnerships with industries were established. They would remain customers up to the 1980s.

This strategic mode of operation, geared to social realities, ensured the stable economic success of the institute right up to the events leading to German reunification in 1990.

ELECTRON BEAM-BASED MELTING AND REFINING

The reason for this development was the new economic demands of the 1950s: reactive and refractory metals and substances with better properties were required. And so the potential of electron beam based melting and refinement for the development of new materials suggested itself. Work began in 1959. The prototype of the electron beam multi-chamber furnace (EMO) (picture left) was built within only nine months. It was a milestone in the history of the institute, as it marked the beginning of industrial use of its research results.

Numerous electron beam multi-chamber furnaces with a capacity of up to 1,200 kW were developed and built in cooperation with state-holding company LEW Hennigsdorf and Edelstahlwerk Freital.

The know-how flowing back helped to create the worldwide leading position of the company in high-performance electron beam technology, which is still the basis of many essential high-purity metal substances for air and space travel or microelectronics.

The development of the electron beam multi-chamber furnace simultaneously marked the birth of electron beam technology for the von Ardenne Institute. The first electron beam processing system was put into operation in 1961, followed by the first electron beam welding system in 1965. New approaches for machine and automobile construction were invented with electron beam welding, thus saving the necessity for expensive materials.

Electron beam guns are at the core of electron beam-based systems. Comprehensive scientific analysis of the subject and industrial experience over decades has contributed to the electron beam guns developed by the Institute. Among other things, these are used for the annealing of defects in semiconductors, in micro structuring, in evaporation, radio sterilization, welding, melting and tempering in a wide range which still has no alternative today – at least as far as the high-performance range is concerned. So far more than 400 high-performance electron beam systems have been installed all over the world.

VACUUM COATING

There followed a multitude of development projects related to industrial large-area coating, such as the electron beam based high-rate vacuum coating of steel strip with aluminum for the packaging industry (1966), a series of batch type facilities for the production of high-quality capacitor foil for the electronics industry (1969), or the first vacuum coating plant with inner storage for the production of heat insulating flat glass for architectural glazings (1972).

If vapor coating in its different varieties dominated the first projects concerned with large-area coating, the triumphant progress of the sputtering technologies began in 1974 using the new key component “annular slot magnetron”. Sputtering has specific technological advantages, such as stoichiometric exactitude, long-term stability and homogeneity of coating. It has gradually come to dominate vacuum coating technology.

The predecessor of the annular slot magnetron was the development of an ion getter pump of analog build for the production of low-oxygen ultravacuums in 1963, which already possessed all the significant functional elements of the later magnetron.  However, its potential for large-area coating was only recognized 10 years later. 

LARGE-AREA COATING

By using the results of basic research ordered by the state and by industry, the institute played an important part in contributing to the fact that in the late 1970s East German companies achieved an internationally recognized leading position in the areas of electron beam and plasma technologies and their use in vacuum coating especially.

Several times the institute broke new ground in large-area coating and the development of highly productive and at the same time more eco-friendly production processes and systems. Special focus lay on the requisite key components in primary research and also in technological development.

The basis for many of the developments of the Research Institute lies in the realization that energy conservation is one of the central questions of the century. “One of the most important new sources of energy will be energy saving”, as it says in a publication by the institute, and “New technologies and production which make saving of energy possible will be given priority”.

Another important milestone was the creation of the first in-line sputtering equipment in 1983 for continuous coating of precious metal-free mirrors for the furniture industry. It depended on the use of large-area planar magnetrons, and was the predecessor of major equipment engineering and construction for the production of heat-insulating architectural glass today using the physical foundations of sputter technology.

However, due to the revolution of 1989/1990, this field was entered in only in the 1990s and first limited to delivering single components and upgrades for existing machines.

BASIC BIOMEDICAL RESEARCH

The motivation to introduce major unsolved medical research tasks into the work program of the institute goes back to von Ardenne’s contact with the Nobel Prize winner Otto Warburg. After a lecture given to the “medical class” of the "Akademie der Wissenschaften der DDR" in 1959, Otto Warburg encouraged von Ardenne to tackle the problem of cancer. A small research team was formed by 1963.

In 1980, the basic biomedical research team consisted of 25 employees.  The work was personally supervised by the head of the institute.  Knowledge and methods from physics and electronics provided valuable help. The result of this method of research became internationally known as Systemic Cancer Multi-step Therapy, in which cancer cells and metastases were combated in a defined combination of steps, using chemotherapy where necessary. The basis of this therapy is an extreme hypothermia of the whole body combined with over-acidification (induced hyperglycemia) and targeted oxygen feed (relative hyperoxemia).

Another result of basic biomedical research was the Oxygen Multi-step Therapy. The amount of oxygen in the blood through the lungs determines the capabilities and the well-being of the human body. The heart and lung system degenerates with increasing age and the quality of the arterial oxygen pressure sinks. In 1977, Ardenne discovered that the heart and lung systems can be regenerated by an oxygen multi-step process lasting approximately 36 hours. The patient is given artificial respiration using oxygen-enriched air over several sessions. Between the sessions he is treated to bodily exposure in doses. After this “cure”, the amount of oxygen in the blood reaches a value similar to that in youth over several months. Hospitals and medical practices today use this process to combat heart and circulation illnesses, as well as chronic bronchitis, diabetes in old age, eye diseases, blood pressure anomalies and peripheral impaired circulation.