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Next Scan Technology receives EPIC Phoenix Award for entrepreneurship in photonics

Next Scan Technology has been recognised for photonics entrepreneurship with the EPIC Phoenix Award. The prize was presented to Lars Penning, CEO and co-founder of Next Scan Technology, by EPIC president and Avantes CEO, Benno Oderkerk during the 14th EPIC annual general meeting held in Eindhoven on the 6-7 April.

Lars Penning, CEO and co-founder of Next Scan Technology, receives the EPIC phoenix award from EPIC president and Avantes CEO, Benno Oderkerk (Credit: EPIC)

The EPIC Phoenix Award is presented annually to a company that exemplifies the challenges and merits of entrepreneurship. The firm may have faced difficult times in developing its technology, selling its products, or raising capital, but ultimately manage to position itself as a successful company. ‘The EPIC Phoenix award symbolises the innovative entrepreneurship that eventually leads to success stories of innovative European photonics companies,’ said Oderkerk.

Next Scan Technology develops and supplies polygon scanner systems for ultra-short pulsed lasers to improve materials processing. These systems are particularly advantageous in large format applications ranging from patterning display surfaces or scribing solar cells, to micro-drilling and processing of semiconductor wafers.

Next Scan's CEO and co-founder Lars Penning originally purchased his own laser in 2006 and began using it in his free time to laser cut and process different materials in his garage. ‘I started with processing decorative plastics, engraving of wine boxes and ended up with welding and cutting medical devices,’ he said. ‘However, throughput-wise it was a challenge to make a profit with this expensive machine, so I questioned and challenged myself on how to improve performance.’

With his friend Ronny De Loor, now CTO and co-founder of Next Scan Technology, Penning raised the question of developing polygon scanners for CO2 lasers. ‘It wasn’t that easy,’ said Penning. ‘Beside the substantial resources required for engineering and prototyping, there was a challenge on the modulation performance of high power lasers.’

After developing a unique scanner concept, Penning and De Loor founded Next Scan Technology in 2010. With personal investments and loans, a demonstrator with innovative mirror optics was developed and introduced at the 2011 Laser World of Photonics in Munich. ‘The interest was overwhelming, leaving us no other option than to get the industrial product development funded,’ commented Penning. ‘A lead user fuelled our prototype development and were able to launch the product at the 2013 Munich show. From that moment, we received interest from system integrators in Asia and received our first orders. Validation projects were initiated and new requirements were materialising.’

With the market potential in Asia, Penning and De Loor faced the challenge of professionalising the company. ‘We needed to find a strategic partner offering credibility and funding of required investments besides input on lessons learned in this challenging industry.’ 

At the end of 2015, Next Scan Technology was acquired by Scanlab. ‘By teaming up with the market leader we are ready to continuously provide innovative and distinctive products that offer competitive edge to our customers,’ concluded Penning.

After being presented with the award, Penning commented: ‘Myself and Ronny De Loor are really proud to receive this EPIC Phoenix award. For us, it is an honour and recognition to be elected by such a remarkable group of European entrepreneurs in photonics. From the very beginning, we believed in the opportunity to address an uncharted area in laser material processing. Since timing determines the necessity of an enabling technology, we are encouraged and convinced that we grow with our partner Scanlab addressing the markets of the future and make further contribution to the EPIC community.’

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