Doctor blades originally were simple strips of flat steel with a sharply beveled edge used to wipe excess ink from a Gravure printing cylinder. These blades were usually produced in-house by the printer but the quality and consistency from blade-to-blade was often lacking. During a typical print run, the edge in contact with the cylinder wore down resulting in an increased contact area pressing against the cylinder. As this contact area increased, poor wiping would result in poor print quality. The solution was the development of the Lamella blade by Ringier, an international Swiss media company.
Lamella blades were revolutionary. During the print run, since the thickness of the blade was the same across the usable profile, as the blade wore down the contact area would remain constant. This provided a consistent wipe throughout the life of the blade and helped maintain print quality. Ringier produced these blades in-house by chemically etching strips of steel to produce the Lamella profile and then honed the wiping edge by hand. This was dangerous for the person honing the blade and resulted in frequent cuts. A solution was found when Daetwyler purchased the patent for Lamella blades from Ringier in 1972 and began developing an automated, hands-free process to provide printers with prefinished blades. After some experimentation with different chemical and chemical/mechanical processes, Daetwyler developed a proprietary roll-to-roll system which was safer, more efficient, and provided outstanding blade-to-blade consistency.
Daetwyler initially manufactured these blades at their headquarters in Switzerland and sold them through Henry P. Korn, their U.S. representative located in New York City. In 1975, Peter Daetwyler, son of the company’s founder Max Daetwyler, arrived in the U.S. with the intent to set up a U.S. operation. He and his wife, Rosmarie and her brother rented a corner in an shop in Mineola, NY and set up Daetwyler USA. They began by taking the doctor blades manufactured in Switzerland, cut them to length, lapped the contact area, packed them up and delivered them to printers. Starting small, they quickly grew and expanded. Over the years they have developed a number of different styles of doctor blades to address a variety of printing issues but the focus has always remained the same – provide precision solutions to the customer’s greatest challenges.
In 1975, Daetwyler USA exhibited at the Graph Expo in Chicago where they featured their new MDC Lamella Doctor Blade. Peter and Rosemarie were joined at the show by Walter Siegenthaler from Switzerland. This was Walter’s first time to the U.S. and, although he didn’t realize it at the time, was to be the beginning of a long career here in America.
“When I first came to the U.S. I hardly could speak any English,” said Walter. “It was just Peter, Rosmarie and myself at the trade show. Rosmarie’s knowledge of English at the time was similar to mine, so whenever Peter was busy with other customers or away from the booth, she and I would do our best to keep prospects occupied until Peter could come back and discuss the products. After the show I spent the next 6 weeks traveling with Peter from customer to customer discussing Doctor Blades and began to pick up more and more English. I went back to Switzerland in December of that year but returned 2 months later to become a permanent member of the Daetwyler USA team. Upon my return, I decided to enter an 2 week English immersion program where I lived and breathed English. It was a great experience and my instructor was very thorough. It provided me with the basics and enabled me to travel by myself and communicate with Customers. Although it has been 40 years, it was an exciting time and sometimes feels like it was just yesterday when I first came here.”
When asked about his experience starting Daetwyler USA, Peter Daetwyler recalled. “When Rosmarie and I came here in 1975 we rented a desk in an shop on Long Island, NY. We could hardly speak English, but we had good Swiss products to sell and we were young and full of energy. Over the years our business expanded and we outgrew several locations. In 1990 we moved our operations to North Carolina to be closer to our customers. But no matter the location, as we grew the team we made it a point to maintain a family atmosphere.”
Peter and Rosmarie embraced the American way of life while maintaining their Swiss Heritage. They became the proud parents of two sons, Marc and Ralph. The boys grew up bilingual which enabled them to embrace both cultures. Marc is now a successful commercial pilot based in Switzerland and Ralph is President of Daetwyler USA and an active board member of Daetwyler Global Tec Holding AG.
“Having grown up in the family business, it’s hard to imagine life without Max Daetwyler Corporation,” stated Ralph. “Many employees with the company today where around when I was born! I am very proud to be at the helm of our US division which is now in its 40th year, and I am happy to say that we are striving to keep a tight-knit organization with a family culture and almost 100 employees.”
In 1990, Daetwyler USA outgrew the last Long Island, NY location and built their current facility in Huntersville, NC. Known as Daetwyler Plaza, it houses the various Daetwyler companies as well as fully serviced individual offices and office suites for a variety of other companies.
Due to a lack of highly skilled workers in the area, Daetwyler decided to develop their own workforce. In 1996 they teamed up with several other companies to develop a Swiss style apprenticeship program. Initially offering a machinist apprenticeship, over the years the program has evolved to incorporate other disciplines including CNC Machinist, Welding Fabricator, Machine Technician, Mechatronics Electrician, and Mechatronics Technician.
Over the years, Daetwyler USA has expanded its business to take advantage of market trends. In 2009 they added the Micro Waterjet precision waterjet cutting services and machine sales. Also in 2009, they started the Daetwyler Clean Energy group and began designing and manufacturing solar panel mounting systems for commercial ground and rooftop applications. In 2014 they established a sales and service network in the U.S. for Fässler gear honing equipment.
After 25 years, the Daetwyler US offices are currently being remodeled to create a more open atmosphere. Inspired by the offices of their Swiss counterparts, height adjustable desks and glass walled executive offices are being installed to provide a bright open workplace while enhancing employee interaction. Remodeling will continue in stages to keep Daetwyler Plaza a wonderful place to work for employees and tenants alike.
The last 40 years has been an adventure and we have our employees to thank for our success! We’re looking forward to the next 40 years!