75 years exploring for better

Comet marks 75 years in business

Comet through the eyes of fellow travelers.

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Comet looks back on 75 years of history this year. Some of its long-time fellow travelers in the business world talk about the past shared with Comet – and what they expect from the company in the future.

Upon its founding in 1948, Comet employed six people in Bern-Liebefeld: a designer, a technical draftsman, a mechanic, two lathe operators and an office worker. Seventy-five years later, more than 1,700 employees from many nations work for Comet around the world. Over 500 of them are based at today’s headquarters in Flamatt. This is a scale that is economically and socially relevant in a small Swiss canton like Fribourg.

“Comet is a popular employer for graduates of our universities and technology institutes.”

Jerry Krattiger

Director of Economic Development, Canton of Fribourg, Switzerland

Jerry Krattiger, Director of Economic Development for the canton of Fribourg, says Comet plays a “significant role” in the canton: “We don’t have many publicly traded companies here with over 500 local employees.” He says Comet has an impact on the canton’s labor market in particular: “Comet is a popular employer for graduates of our universities and technology institutes.”

“With MesoFocus, Comet has pushed the boundaries of x-ray technology.”

Lennart Schulenberg

Managing Director,
VisiConsult, Germany

Expanding boundaries through innovations

What has not changed in 75 years at Comet is its focus on innovation, technology leadership and niche markets. Even at the company’s founding in 1948, Comet’s view was that a small company can only survive with highly specialized products. One of its early innovations in the 1950s was DENTIX, an x-ray tube for dentistry, which was later further developed together with the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich. Also emblematic of Comet’s innovative spirit is the 600 kilovolt x-ray tube, for which development began in 2006 (Enlightening, or: The world’s most powerful x-ray tube). More than ten years passed before the product was ready for the market – which illustrates that most successful innovations are not created overnight and through curiosity and expertise alone, but also require perseverance and persistence. It was only through the combination of all these ingredients that the world’s most powerful x-ray tube was created.

And what about today? One evening in November 2022, the canton of Fribourg honored its most inventive companies with the Fribourg Innovation Award. The award in the “Established Company” category went to Comet, which had won over the jury with its MesoFocus x-ray technology. The technology allows manufacturers of electric-vehicle batteries to inspect them for quality and identify faults in the production chain. It impressed not only the jury, but also Comet’s long-standing customers, such as Lennart Schulenburg, Managing Director of Germany’s VisiConsult. “No one thought there was room to push the boundaries of x-ray technology like this – but with MesoFocus, Comet has done just that.” With the curiosity and drive to explore new frontiers that such feats attest to, Comet will continue to be a leader in the semiconductor and electronics industry.

Side by side through history

“In recent years, we have deepened our collaboration and expanded it into a systems partnership.”

Stefan Dörig

Chief Technology Officer,
KUK Group, Switzerland

Just like innovative strength and technology leadership, business and strategic partnerships run through Comet’s history. This common thread was there from the beginning, when founder Gerhard Steck succeeded in inspiring investors with his ideas and raised 750,000 Swiss francs in start-up capital. A few years later, Comet became the worldwide representative of the American x-ray tube manufacturer Machlett Ltd., under whose license it manufactured rotating anode x-ray tubes for almost 40 years, while building up the know-how in x-ray technologies that still characterizes Comet today.

Another example of successful partnerships: In the early 1990s, Vakuum-Kondensatoren AG (VC), now Comet’s Plasma Control Technologies division, was able to break into the semiconductor market together with one of the world’s leading semiconductor equipment manufacturers from Silicon Valley (From the Iron Curtain to Silicon Valley).

Later, mutually respectful partnerships were the basis for the entry by Comet’s Plasma Control Technologies division into the production of impedance matching networks (or matches) and radio frequency generators through two forward integrations, and for its becoming the Group’s largest division (Synertia® – more than an innovative product).

The example of the KUK Group from Appenzell, Switzerland, shows how such partnerships can develop. KUK, which has been supplying transformers and coils to Comet since 2014, recently purchased an x-ray system from Comet for its own quality assurance. So this supplier is also a customer, but not only that: Stefan Dörig, CTO of the KUK Group, says: “In recent years, we have deepened our collaboration and expanded it into a systems partnership.” In the future, we will assemble modules for Comet.”

“I have absolute confidence in Comet’s market position and prospects.”

Martin Lehmann

CEO and Fund Manager of
3V Asset Management AG, Switzerland

Prepared for the future

Speaking of the future: What may it have in store for Comet? One person who gives this question intense thought is Martin Lehmann, CEO and Fund Manager of 3V Asset Management AG, Switzerland. Since 2008, Comet has been “a significant position” in its equity fund. In 1996, to go public, Comet ventured onto the small Berne Telephone Exchange, later moving to the SIX Swiss Exchange on December 17, 2002. Since then, the value of Comet’s stock has multiplied from the entry price of just under 20 Swiss francs per share. “I have absolute confidence in Comet’s market position and prospects,” says Lehmann. In the end markets where Comet operates, he believes, megatrends are emerging that will provide a strong boost to business: “Autonomous driving, Internet of Things, general digitalization.”