New ams Osram CEO arrives with micro LEDs very much on his plate

April 3, 2023
Aldo Kamper will also assume double duty as head of the Osram division, and even serve as interim corporate CFO.

Ams Osram’s new back-to-the-future CEO took the reins over the weekend with more extensive duties than previously disclosed, thus adding more Osram LED flavor back into a blended entity that has been driven by the ams side since it acquired Osram nearly three years ago.

The company had announced in early February that former Osram semiconductor division boss Aldo Kamper would return after several years away and replace Alexander Everke as ams Osram CEO in the spring.

Two days later it said Kamper would start on April 1. That day arrived on Saturday, and as Kamper stepped in, ams Osram said that not only would he serve as corporate CEO, but he is also now CEO of the Osram division.

The extra duty is notable because it emphasizes the importance of Osram’s LED operations and especially the soon-to-be micro LEDs on which Everke has staked significant future business. Kamper had a big hand in early micro LED development plans before he left Osram back in August 2019, about a year before Premstaetten, Austria–based ams won regulatory approval to take over Munich-based Osram.

He also was a key figure in the November 2017 opening of Osram’s €370 million Kulim, Malaysia manufacturing plant, earmarked not only for LEDs but also for micro LEDs, amid an anticipated clamor for new applications of LEDs. Ams Osram upped the ante considerably in Kulim a year ago as it committed nearly a billion dollars to expand the plant. The expansion is geared at using 8-inch wafers rather than the less economical 6-inch wafers to crank out LEDs and micro LEDs.

In February, analysts expressed concern that the timeframe for starting micro LED production in Kulim is slipping. At the time, ams Osram responded that it will ramp up production soon enough to start deriving significant micro LED revenue in 2025.

Micro vision

Micro LEDs have been a vital part of now ex-CEO Everke’s revenue vision, as they are expected to play a big role in display technology for small devices, including smartwatches, phones, and metaverse gear for virtual and augmented reality, of which Everke had been a big proponent. Micro LEDs could also work their way into larger displays as they become more cost effective to manufacture. Everke has often claimed that ams Osram is out in front of competitors in micro LED development. He has also said that a customer has agreed to make a substantial prepayment but has withheld details on the customer and the payment.

The task of bringing the micro LED vision to fruition is now Kamper’s. As head of the Osram division, Kamper replaces Ingo Bank, who has been serving double duty as ams Osram chief financial officer and head of Osram.

Bank had been scheduled to officially leave both posts at the end of April. But in a double surprise announcement over the weekend, ams Osram said Kamper is immediately assuming the Osram CEO post, and will also serve as interim corporate CFO starting at the end of the month, with Bank’s departure.

Ams Osram said it has hired a new permanent CFO, Rainer Irle, who won’t start until July 1, when Kamper will relinquish those interim duties. Irle has been CFO of Munich-based silicon wafer manufacturer Siltronic AG since 2013.

Hands full

Kamper thus marks his return to the Osram fold with his hands more than full. He has spent nearly four years as CEO of Nuremberg-based automotive wiring and cabling company Leoni Group, where he has helped steer the company through difficulties which included halting production for a period of time at two factories in Ukraine.

As CEO of ams Osram, he will also oversee the sensor and optical chips businesses beyond LEDs. Those businesses, which are varied and at one point sold facial recognition chips to Apple, have felt more center stage since the ams takeover, especially as the company has sold off former Osram illumination operations.

But the parent organization still retains the Osram LED business, which is coming increasingly into the spotlight (the loss of Apple sales was at the time a blow to the sensor business). It has also held onto Osram’s intelligent automotive headlamp systems, which the company now refers to as “dynamic forward lighting.”

In a press release announcing that Kamper had moved in to the executive suite, ams Osram singled out three LED-related areas as examples of his expertise, a reference that seemed to symbolically place LEDs into prominence at the sensor and optical chip company.

“During his career he pioneered the development of micro LED technology, dynamic forward lighting, and LED performance roadmaps for new applications such as horticulture lighting,” the company said.

In the same release, Kamper himself gave a broad overview of his intentions, including micro LEDs.

“I am very excited to lead this company, working with our teams and supervisory board to further develop our strategic focus and execution ability,” he said. “Ams Osram’s expertise in emitting, sensing, and processing light makes us the partner of choice for many industries. We have an outstanding portfolio of products, technologies, and solutions that enable innovative, market-changing applications for the automotive, consumer, industrial, and healthcare sectors.” He added, “We are at the forefront of development in optical semiconductor technology, including the industrialization of our leading micro LED technology. I believe that we have exceptional potential to deliver new, additional value to our customers.”

MARK HALPER is a contributing editor for LEDs Magazine, and an energy, technology, and business journalist ([email protected]).

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