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25 Years of AT – Automation Technology: Achieving Technological Excellence

December 12, 2023
  • How AT established itself as an innovator in machine vision
  • Why courage and perseverance have always been crucial for AT
  • Why not only technical expertise is necessary for AT’s progress

Bad Oldesloe. How has AT, a medium-sized company, managed to establish itself as one of the leading players in the machine vision industry? What was needed to significantly advance 3D technology and become a constant pioneer in the infrared sector? The North German company is celebrating its 25th anniversary, looking back on numerous milestones, including the development of the world’s first mobile NDT system, the launch of the world’s first 3D camera with an industry-standard interface, and the introduction of the world’s first smart infrared camera. With its innovative product ideas, AT has often been ahead of its time, causing so-called “Aha moments” among numerous customers to this day.

AT attracted attention from day one with its ideas

But let’s start from the beginning: AT was founded in 1998 by engineers Dr.-Ing. André Kasper and Michael Wandelt with the idea of offering system solutions using industrial image processing. André Kasper, a Ph.D. in laser metrology, brought extensive know-how in software and signal processing, while Michael Wandelt, an engineer, contributed his expertise and a broad network in the infrared sector. Their first IR projects included leak detection in filled infusion bags for Plümat, testing precision resistors for Isabellenhütte Heusler, and an NDT system for the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology (EMPA). With the third project, AT gained international attention, as Kasper and Wandelt had developed IRFlashlink, a unique frame grabber that enabled the connection of an infrared camera to a standard PC for industrial applications.

AT develops and manufactures all products in-house

”From the time of the company’s founding, Michael already had many contacts in the image processing industry, so many customers came to us with their problems, for which we then looked for solutions. AT has always been about technology and has always developed products that were really tailored to the customer,” reports AT CTO Dr. André Kasper. Michael Wandelt adds, “AT stands for ‘by professionals for professionals’. We know what the components must be able to do to be especially effective for the customer.”

The establishment of a second pillar, 3D technology, followed soon after, as AT was tasked by the client Raybestos to devise a system for inspecting clutch linings with a measuring accuracy of 0.01 millimeters, which was not possible with infrared technology. The solution: measurement using laser light sectioning. This led to numerous projects, prompting the North German company in 2003 to introduce its first own 3D camera series, the C3 series, becoming a pioneer in 3D technology with its innovative technology and the introduction of the first industry-standard interface.

AT components can be adapted to any industrial application

AT continues to be a pioneer, with its products being used worldwide in almost every industry for quality inspections. “Whether for the inspection of baked goods, food branding, or inspection of automotive parts, we offer solid support for almost every application, as we can configure our standard components so flexibly that they fit any industrial application,” says Kasper. However, it’s not only the know-how that has made AT a significant innovator in the image processing industry over the past 25 years. It’s primarily the team that maintains the company’s constant pioneering spirit.

Teamwork makes the dream work

Today, the component manufacturer’s team includes more than 50 people, including a multi-member U.S. team at the newly opened Boston subsidiary in 2023. There was also a leadership change in management in 2022, after founder Michael Wandelt handed over his CEO position to the new CEO Daniel Seiler, continuing to support the team as a Senior Product Manager. “With Daniel Seiler, I have found a perfect successor who had already advised AT as a board member for a year and who brings the right overall package with his empathetic nature and his long-standing expertise in leadership positions at well-known image processors,” explains Wandelt. Strengthened with a new team at the top, AT now aims to expand further internationally. “Thanks to the ideal handover by my predecessor Michael and the appreciative cooperation with our investor Pinova, I was able to start immediately. Expansion into North America is a key focus of my work. But there is also much to do here at the headquarters – with André, I have an ideal partner in the management, and we are jointly driving many digitalization projects at AT,” Seiler mentions.

And yet, with the new goals, one thing always remains in focus: “For me, AT is La Familia. We have a very family-like character here. Exactly this has always distinguished us and also earned us a lot of recognition from customers. We want people to feel comfortable with us and to enjoy their work. Because only in this way can we successfully master every challenge together,” says Wandelt proudly. “AT makes up 25 years of my life. We have always had the privilege of doing exactly what we enjoy,” adds Kasper. “And if we could set the course for the future in such a way that AT continues to gain even more momentum, then we know that we are still on the right track,” hopes Seiler.