Interview with Aitor Aguirre, Lagun Machine Tools General Manager
Lagun Machine Tools was founded in 1954 with the aim to design and manufacture medium-sized milling machines at a competitive price and with proven reliability. Its product range has been expanding ever since, meeting market needs and focusing on innovation and diversification. This is evidenced by a number of highlights in its history, such as the introduction of the numerical control milling machine in 1984, the manufacture of lathing, boring and grinding machines, and the launch of its first portable CNC machine in 2013. This innovative spirit has led the company to become internationally renowned for its products and services in the industrial sector.
In this interesting interview, Aitor Aguirre, Lagun Machine Tools General Manager, explains how this innovative spirit works and how they apply it, in addition to sharing with us the new project in which they are currently immersed.
QUESTION. On your website you say, ‘Lagun Machine Tools has chosen diversification as a strategic option’. Why?
ANSWER. Because it is clear that there are a number of companies in the Basque Community manufacturing similar products in direct competition with each other. To move away from this context in which your main competitors are in your environment and with whom you share many strengths and opportunities, we believe in the importance of taking a step forward by diversifying and creating new products based on our know-how in machinery design and manufacture.
Q. This kind of commitment requires a highly qualified and innovative team. In fact, more than 10% of the workforce is part of the R&D+i department. What profiles make up this department?
A. The team is made up of engineers and technicians with extensive experience in R&D projects. We have also recruited technical-commercial profiles with the aim of diversifying and finding new market niches.
Q. In addition to your usual team, do you usually rely on or collaborate with other entities, institutions or associations?
A. Yes, we are lucky to live in an environment where we have many technology centres with which we collaborate regularly on specific, one-off projects, and we even have collaboration agreements for technological development with some of them with a forward-looking focus. This is the case of the agreement with the LORTEK centre for the new line we are working on for a technology known as Friction Stir Welding (FSW).
Q. Lagun Machine Tools is a continuously innovating company (CNC milling machine, CNC portable, new projects unit…) What triggers your decision to take on a new challenge?
A. We try to meet market needs that are in line with our know-how and industrial capabilities. We concentrate on our areas of expertise, but with a broader and more technological vision than the solutions already available on the market.
The casuistry is diverse: on the one hand, our existing clients demand for portable machines where we customise an ad hoc solution to the client’s needs and, subsequently, we try to contact similar market niches for which we have created the solution. On the other hand, we have projects created in business and technological collaboration that we believe will have a market outlet, but which have not yet had a real demand. The project is in the prototyping stage and once completed, we will explore the actual fit of the proposed solution.
New project with advanced joining techniques
Lagun Machine Tools is currently immersed in an interesting project, in collaboration with LORTEK, that will be officially unveiled in Bilbao next June during the BIEMH 2022: a Friction Stir Welding (FSW) machine. This type of machine is designed for friction stir welding, a technology that prevents the thermal deformations that occur with traditional processes, which does not require material to be added, and which offers high quality welded joints. In addition, the process is automated, repetitive and energy efficient.
The project is part of the international Light Bee initiative to develop a range of battery components for electric vehicles using innovative joining technologies. The purpose is to make the battery holder lighter, have better safety properties and be produced in a more environmentally friendly way.
Q. What diversification process are you currently engaged in?
A. Portable machines and FSW (friction stir welding).
Q. Why did you decide to start it?
A. Because, like every company, we need to find market niches to improve the profitability of our products and services.
Moreover, LAGUN has had a clear exporting spirit since its inception, which, together with creativity in the design and manufacture of machinery, has resulted in a wide diversification. As opposed to the conventional growth process, this is LAGUN’s natural approach to growth.
Q. How long do you estimate the process will take before you can bring your new service/product to market?
A. We already have several portable machines on the market and will showcase the first FSW prototype, built in collaboration with Ekide and Lortek as part of the CDTI-funded European Smart Light Bee project, at the BIEMH 2022 trade fair in June.
Q. What industry is it aimed at?
A. Portable machines can serve many industries including energy and shipbuilding. FSW machines are mainly aimed to the automotive, aeronautical, railway and shipbuilding industries.
Q. What is the role of sustainability in the current diversification process?
A. All our machines are playing a major role in renewable energies and mobility, providing lighter weight and lower energy consumption both in the end product manufactured, in the part and in the machines themselves.
We have a clear commitment to build our machines with recyclable or reusable materials.