Berthold Leibinger was born on 26 November 1930, in Stuttgart as the son of a surgical instrument technician and an art dealer of East Asian antiques.
The life of Berthold Leibinger: A look back from four perspectives
A talent for engineering, a willingness to take risks, and open-mindedness – many of his contemporaries name these qualities held by Berthold Leibinger as the key to his personal success, along with the ascent of TRUMPF to the role of global market leader in mechanical engineering and laser technology.
"I just want to give something back to this country of mine that has given so much to me."
For more than five decades, Berthold Leibinger made TRUMPF a company that guarantees innovation with his passion for always trying out something completely new. He was aided here not only by his strong work ethic – shaped by his Protestant-pietistic upbringing in Korntal, Germany – but also his love of technology and open-mindedness, which he also inherited from his parents. His father, a qualified surgical instrument technician, came from a family with roots in medical technology; his mother ran an East Asian business in Stuttgart. This meant Berthold Leibinger made a leap abroad early in order to independently advance important technological breakthroughs in his company, and develop TRUMPF into a global player. Berthold Leibinger had three children with his wife Doris. In 2005, he handed over the presidency and chair of the Managing Board to his daughter Nicola Leibinger-Kammüller; son Peter Leibinger became Vice Chairman of the Managing Board. Their youngest daughter Regine Leibinger manages the architect firm Barkow Leibinger in Berlin.
Berthold Leibinger was not only a gifted entrepreneur and engineer with the constant will to bring about change, but also a public figure, who always also examined his actions as regards his social and cultural contribution. The influences that shaped him, his most important inventions and company decisions, as well as his actions within the economy, politics and society can be found summarised on this page.
"Curious by default"
Childhood, childhood home, and education – Berthold Leibinger and his early influences
"A laser is a tool that can serve to separate or connect – it all depends on the setting."
Berthold Leibinger's inventing spirit and engineering talent as a promise of innovation in sheet metal processing
First patent when he was a student
In 1957 when he was about to graduate, whilst working at TRUMPF, Berthold Leibinger studied the technical shortcomings of the curve shears which were common for cutting sheet metal at that time. The result of this was the copy nibbling machine, which was to become the driving force behind TRUMPF's success in the years of the "Wirtschaftswunder" ("Economic Miracle"), resulting in the German press branding TRUMPF the "Nibblerkönig" ("king of nibblers").
Living and working in America
In 1958 Berthold Leibinger and his wife Doris fulfilled their dream of living and working in the USA. He worked at the Cincinnati Milling Machine Company in Wilmington (Ohio) – at the time the largest machine tool manufacturer in the world – as a designer for two years.
A return to Germany full of new ideas
Berthold Leibinger first came into contact with numerically controlled machine tools in the USA. These inspired him to try to develop a numerically controlled copy punching machine himself in the mid-1960s. His courage paid off – the TRUMATIC 20 was a sensation at the European machine tools exhibition in Paris in 1968.
New inventions in the field of power tools
In 1963 Berthold Leibinger made another breakthrough in the field of power tools: In a complete reversal of the previous process, with the new, manually operated TKF beveler a worker could produce bevel edges by gradually processing stationary sheet metal. This innovation was just one of his numerous patents.
A revolution in sheet metal processing
Whilst staying in the USA again in 1978, Berthold Leibinger personally investigated whether a CO2 laser was also suitable for cutting sheet metal. His intuition once again proved to be true: one year later he presented the first combined punch laser machine, initially still with beam sources from the USA.
The laser becomes the bestseller
Of course, ambition drove Berthold Leibinger to produce the beam sources in-house. He succeeded in 1985 with the first, self-developed CO2 laser, the TRUMPF LASER TLF 1000. Just four years later, he launched the first "folded" laser by TRUMPF on the market, which still today is the top-selling multi-kilowatt laser in the world.
Internationalisation, independence, customer insight: Berthold Leibinger's corporate principles as the driving force for the advancement of TRUMPF
After spending time in America, in 1961 Berthold Leibinger became head of the design department in Weilimdorf, which employed seven people at this time. Within this role he implemented numerous important new designs which led to a complete restructuring of the TRUMPF product range, and which formed the basis for later growth.
From 1966 to 1978, Berthold Leibinger was Technical Managing Director and shareholder. In this period, he and fellow shareholder Hugo Schwarz consistently pushed ahead with the internationalisation of the company, and founded subsidiaries in Switzerland amongst other places, as well as the company's own sales and service companies in numerous key European markets. Today proximity to the customer is still one of the most important pillars of success for TRUMPF.
In 1969 Berthold Leibinger opened the first foreign TRUMPF production location outside Europe. In Farmington (Connecticut) on the East Coast, he managed to establish TRUMPF in the United States at an early stage – at this point in time, the world market for machine tools was dominated from here. Today, after China, the USA remains the largest foreign market for TRUMPF outside of Europe.
After his Diplom thesis, Berthold Leibinger obtained several patents for his inventions. By using proceeds from these, step by step he gained company shares. In 1978, at the age of 48, Berthold Leibinger had the majority of shares in TRUMPF.
In 1978 Berthold Leibinger took over the presidency and chair of the Managing Board, and for the first time TRUMPF surpassed the turnover mark of 100 million Deutschmarks. Up to 2005, when he handed over the management of the company, Berthold Leibinger developed TRUMPF into a global player with a turnover of 1.4 billion euros and around 6,000 employees.
In 2005, at the age of 75 and after 40 years on the Managing Board, Berthold Leibinger decided to hand over management to the next generation. His daughter Nicola Leibinger-Kammüller became President and Chairwoman of the Managing Board, and his son Peter Leibinger Vice Chairman of the Managing Board. Berthold Leibinger took over as Head of the Supervisory Board, a role he carried out until 2012.