Lithuania holds the leader position in the field of lasers
The members of the Laser and Engineering Technologies Cluster (LITEK™) unanimously state that LITEK™ is particularly important for small and medium-sized companies in both cross-sectoral and international activities, discovering and creating new business opportunities abroad, developing research and experimental development and innovation (R&D). At the moment, the cluster unites 17 companies that are famous for their inventions and products all over the world.
Nikolajus Gavrillinas -the director and founder of ultra-short laser solutions JSC “Integrated Fiber Optics” says he joined the cluster three years ago. With the help of a cluster, he develops a revolutionary invention in the laser market, which has been patented worldwide and talks for its use are being held with various manufacturers and consumers. In his view, it is too weak to say that the cluster is helping its members, it is fairer to say: “The cluster strengthens each of its members at times”.
“For the laser market, we have developed a generator (oscillator) based on fundamentally new technological solutions that, with all the parameters, is tens or hundreds of times better than the existing ones, can change all of them because it changes its own parameters and adapts to the needs, doesn’t have the parts that wear it, so does not require constant checks, – says N. Gavrilinas- But most importantly, our work in the industry can be customized in a few minutes, when other devices need several years, also can be much cheaper as well as laser devices, such machines with a laser, which usually cost about 90% of the price, will cost much cheaper too. A concrete example – a Lithuanian company producing laser machines with our technology will be able to discount its products at least 3-5 times. ”
Many of the world’s specialized publications are writing about this invention and conferences, in this invention field, also begin. According to Nikolajus Gavrillinas, they have gone through a traditional cycle of invention, when scientists are initially interested in it, and when the benefits of the invention become apparent, after three to five years, the industry is interested in it. “With the help of a cluster, we are rapidly moving to a final product that is protected by global patents,”- says director.
Global giants are interested
Dr. Karolis Ratautas from the cluster member Center for Physical Sciences and Technology (FTMC), Department of Laser Technologies has developed a technology that interests in such giants as MacDermid Enthone Industrial and Molex (USA), working closely with the FCA concern (Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Italy), MISTA ( Italy) and others also cooperation and confidentiality agreements with these companies are signed. In collaboration with the FIAT Research Center, existing electronic circuits have already been produced: a touch-sensitive opening mechanism for the lid of the FIAT 500 glove box.
“Molded Interconnect Devices (MID) on the molded thermoplastic surface of the part allows connecting electrical conductivity tracks and installing electronic components such as contact surfaces – antennas, sensors, switches – saving materials, reducing the weight of the device, its production is shortened, – says technology inventor Dr. Karolis Ratautas – MID has great potential in the automotive, aerospace, lighting, computer or medical equipment, where fast-growing innovations require an increase in the number of electronic components on the device. ”
The biggest MID technological challenge is the production of electric conductivity tracks. Because the technology is geared towards 3D complicated plastic parts, standard techniques are not suitable for production. FMTC has developed a combined laser-chemical selective metal deposition technology to form electrical conduction paths on dielectric surfaces. The circuit diagram can be written with a laser beam directly on plastic, glass or ceramic surface by modifying it and further selectively precipitating the copper in a chemical flow to the modified sites. This technology is more cost-effective compared to the technology used by the German company LPKF Laser & Electronics.
The naming of the benefits of cluster membership
Karolis Kvietkauskas, director of engineering design and innovative production JSC „3D prototipai“, says that the easiest way for a small and unknown company to become noticed and gain market presence is to join a cluster.
“in production, we use industrial plastic and metal 3D printers that operate by laser, so it was logical to become a member of LITEK,- says K. Kvietkauskas. – We immediately started to work closely with other cluster companies and we bought their services and they buy us. We export about 80% of our production, mainly to Scandinavia and Western Europe now also we operate for 5 years and grow 30% annually.”
According to him, it is even more important that the cluster makes it easier to go to the Structural Funds, for example, to get financing for equipment. In addition, this, often very expensive, equipment in the cluster is rationalized for all its members. It is no less important that the entire investment project is managed by the cluster, which takes time-consuming activities from each company, for which a small company would not even be able to allocate resources, especially to manage large projects. It is equally important that the cluster attracts many foreign organizations, companies and even state delegations whose visit is an opportunity to find potential partners. The cluster also participates in numerous foreign events, where it represents its affiliates and presents its activities to potential clients.
Dr. Kęstutis Juškevičius, the Head of R&D in JSC “Altechna Coatings” – the company that already produces optical coatings for laser and laser systems for 22 years, says that the greatest value of the cluster is the ability to work closely with science and business, as well as making use of Structural Fund investments with other cluster members.
“Creating an environment where research and technology can be carried out, because it is difficult for a company to do it alone, by working closely and effectively with different companies and scientists, a more qualitative, creative work takes place, and results are achieved faster. And this is because we are in the same yard – scientists, laser component makers and laser manufacturers, a mechanical processing bar – almost everything that needs to be innovated in this field, “- says Dr. Kęstutis Juškevičius. In fact, LITEK™ members are based in one area – in ten buildings at the end of Savanorių avenue of the capital city.
According to Julius Paužolis, the Head of LITEK™, looking from the outside may seem to be simple and easy to be in a cluster, but the reality is complicated because different companies have different interests and business culture, expectations, understanding of innovation – this needs to be coordinated. However, sharing of experience, knowledge, abilities with your partners in a cluster is a possibility to enrich each other and yourself.Therefore, the cluster is a great environment for a company to grow drastically, only it is necessary to understand and exploit its opportunities.
Not only the common yard unites
Nikolajus Gavrilinas points out that support for young and small innovators is crucial for enabling them to go and present their inventions at exhibitions, conferences and other global events. It is thanks to agencies funded programs, that help LITEK™ attract funds for presenting inventions in the world, as well as helping to prepare various documentation for funding or participation in the exhibition. According to N. Gavrilinas, it would be an unachievable task for a number of innovators in their field without cluster assistance.
Vytautas Gatelis, the Head of Production of Lasers and their Components in JSC Ekspla, one of the initiators of LITEK™ and the main financial sponsor, says that it is always more difficult for one to do something than to join forces. As a result, JSC “Ekspla”, which is world renowned for its production, initiated cooperation between science and business still before the creation of the cluster.
“Today I can assert that relations with LITEK™ members are multifaceted, including buyers of both our products, our suppliers, and joint project executives. The technical capabilities have also been expanded by the acquisition of various machine tools, other sophisticated and necessary equipment, which individual member would not make sense to buy,”- says Vytautas Gatelis. He also notes that the cluster has greatly increased the attention to each member because it is visited by top state delegations and business missions.
“One of the biggest challenges in cluster work is building mutual trust and fostering strong collaborative relationships despite competition. LITEK™ demonstrates by its performance that it is not only possible but also economically beneficial. Fostering and strengthening clustering in Lithuania is an important investment: EU-wide clusters are prioritized for a number of reasons, but above all for their potential for innovation, “-Kęstutis Šetkus, director of Agency for Science, Innovation and Technology (MITA), commented praising one of the 10 clusters of Lithuania LITEK™ which can be proud of the international certificate – the „Bronze Label“.
LITEK™ participates in the project “Promotion and Development of Innovation Networking (InoLink)”. InoLink is a project of the EU measure Inogeb LT, which is implemented by MITA together with the Lithuanian Innovation Center. The aim of the project is to promote the merger of companies into clusters, increase cluster maturity, promote growth and international cooperation. The project and its activities are funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).
The source of the text: Verslo žinios
Photos by Vladimir Ivanov / Verslo žinios