Affolter Group Celebrates 100th Anniversary
July 31, 2019
In 1919, Louis Affolter, the second child of the watchmakers Samuel and Marie-Louise Affolter, founded his own company and started to produce gears and pivots for the Swiss watch manufacturers in the area. 100 years later, nine Affolter family members work in the high-tech enterprise Affolter Group and its daughter companies Affolter Technologies and Affolter Pignons.
The 100-year history of the family enterprise was filled with technological innovations. After Louis had established the enterprise, the second generation – his sons André, René and Marc – developed the business further and built the first industrial premises. In the third generation, led by Jean-Claude, Michel and Marc-Alain Affolter, the company underwent a rapid modernization process. Electronics and high-tech equipment helped to improve the production processes.
Based on its innovative power, the Affolter Group expanded, diversified and grew. In 1980, a mere 15 employees worked on a workspace of 5,400sqft. Today, the company has 140 dedicated employees, 15 apprentices and 4 buildings with an overall workspace of 86,000 sqft. The fourth generation, led by Grégory and Vincent Affolter as well as Nicolas Curty, oversees the continued expansion and diversification of the Affolter Group, including the founding of Affolter China in 2013 – a milestone for the enterprise.
The two main business lines of the Affolter Group are the contract manufacturing of gear trains for the gear trains industry and the development, manufacturing, and marketing of machine tools and numerical controls.
Affolter Pignons is specialized on the manufacturing of gear trains for the Swiss watchmaking industry. For 100 years, the company has reinforced its position as a leading expert in the art of force transmission. Through automation, Affolter Pignons was able to realize the mass-production of top-quality, high-precision gear trains. “In a partnership with Affolter Technologies, we also develop our own machines. Together with our experience and know-how, that enabled us to grow quickly. We aim to continue this growth strategy”, explains Grégory Affolter, managing director of Affolter Pignons.
Affolter Technologies specializes in the design, manufacturing and commissioning of numerical control gear hobbing machines for microtechnology gears. “Through the decades, we were always dedicated to be a technology and innovation leader in the field of micro gear hobbing, aiming to make our customers more productive and efficient”, says Vincent Affolter, managing director of Affolter Technologies. That is why the company continues to invest heavily in R&D. Affolter continues, “Robots, machine learning, in-house designed and developed CNC controls, our own software, Industry 4.0 – we embrace the future.” The CNC gear hobbing machines of Affolter Technologies are used for the production of microtechnology gears in markets such as watchmaking, micromechanics, automotive, aircraft, robotics, servo motors or dentistry. 80% of the machines are being exported into the main markets EU, Asia and USA.
Talent of tomorrow
The extensive apprentice program has become one of the backbones of the Affolter Group. Today, more than 15 apprentices are trained in-house and in a network of six highly specialized businesses in the Swiss Valbirse area. Nicolas Curty, CFO at the Affolter Group:
“Our apprentice program makes sure that the micro-technical know-how and expertise is transported efficiently from generation to generation in the company.” The chief mechanical engineers of tomorrow are trained in high-tech fields such as profile turning, gear hobbing, burnishing and assembly.
Affolter Technologies will present its innovative gear hobbing centers at the trade show Motion + Power Technology Expo in Detroit from October 15-17 (Booth #3131).
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