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History – from student digs to high-tech company

PRIMES sets the standards for laser beams Founded in 1992, today PRIMES is one of the leading companies in laser measurement, with 60 employees and distribution in 24 countries.

The story of PRIMES began in the early eighties, with two physics students from Darmstadt. Reinhard Kramer and Joachim Franek were already doing research on high-power lasers even then, and wrote their Diplom theses at the Darmstadt Institute of Technology (today the University of Technology Darmstadt) under Prof. Gerd Herziger in the field of Applied Physics. When Prof. Herziger founded the renowned Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology (ILT) in 1985 in Aachen, Kramer and Franek followed in his footsteps and undertook applied research, which flowed into, amongst other things, Richard Kramer's doctorate about CO2 laser beams, published in 1991 in the series "Aachen Articles on Laser Technology".

In 1992, Kramer and Franek founded the PRIMES company with the vision of developing measuring devices for laser analysis and launching them onto the market – despite a shortage of funds and a patent problem. This was because the fundamental patent for a beam diagnostics process, created during Kramer's doctorate, was owned by another company.

PRIMES, whose name is derived from production measurement technology, mainly kept itself afloat financially by cutting satellite sections for a chain saw manufacturer. The equipment comprised a used CO2 laser and an xy-stage. With the money thus generated, the development of the measuring devices could be further progressed. Troubleshooting on laser beams that were not performing correctly provided the basis for their subsequent success.

Gradually the vision became a reality, the first FocusMonitors were increasingly well received by laser manufacturers, plant engineers and laser users and proved themselves on the market. The PRIMES measuring devices for beam analysis showed a problem that had received little attention to date: high-quality lasers sometimes failed to delver consistent quality – an unpleasant but ultimately helpful diagnosis for the client.

In 1996 the two founders went separate ways, and Reinhard Kramer took over PRIMES entirely.

From four employees in 1994, PRIMES grew to 18 employees in 2004. In the same year the premises on a former farm were abandoned and the move was made to the modern new building in Pfungstadt-Hahn. The company's growth forged ahead. The test environment consisting of a CO2 laser was supplemented by a fibre-guided Nd:YAG laser and the measuring devices were adapted to the new wavelength.

The company reacted to demand from around the globe with an international distribution network. Following neighbouring European countries, markets in Japan, the US and China were opened up. Round a third of exports go to each of Europe, the US and Asia at present.

In the course of further developments, devices for measuring beam power and intensity distribution for a wide variety of laser types and wavelengths were developed. Company founder Kramer built an independent calibration laboratory, which today operates various beam sources for a 100% test and calibration of all measuring devices. At present a total of 5 lasers with more than 1 kW power and seven lasers between 1 W and 1 kW are operated.

The need for laboratory and production space increased dramatically, and so, in 2006, the areas were added to by 300 square metres, and in 2012 by a further 1000 square metres. In the course of the extension works in 2012, the laser cooling system was redesigned for sustainability, so that its waste heat is used to heat the building (Energy efficiency).
In recent times, PRIMES has been focusing increasingly on the development of sensors and measuring devices that are employed directly in manufacturing. The company supplies and advises customers from the laser sector, systems engineering, the automotive industry and research institutions.