The story of Lamifil goes back to the early beginnings of the previous century. On 31 August 1906, glassworks Verreries de l’Etoile were started up on the current terrains of Lamifil.
The glass-blowers were recruited primarily in the Walloon region of Belgium. They went to live in a nearby street, which was later given the name rue de l’Etoile or Sterrelaan, according to the company name. Many of these glass-blowers did not thrive in these surroundings and quickly returned to their home regions. The young glassworks had to declare bankruptcy after just half a year.
In 1920, the grounds were taken over by Auto Traction, a builder of freight lorries and motor coaches. Minerva, the legendary Belgian automobile brand, became sole owner of the factories in 1925. The freight lorries were thereafter given the brand name ‘Minerva – Auto Traction’.
In 1928, the grounds and buildings came into the hands of the French company Tréfileries, Laminoirs et Fonderies de Chauny from Paris. Not much later, these were used for the establishment of what became known first as ‘Franco-Belge’, and today as Lamifil.
On 22 July 1929, the Société Franco-Belge des Laminoirs et Tréfileries d’Anvers saw the light of day. The rich history of Lamifil starts here.
The ‘Franco-Belge’, as the company was quickly named, produced steel and copper wire and cables, and it was the only factory in Europe that could make these in the same laminoir or factory.
Gaston Magniette, a dealer in metals, takes over Lamitref after WW II. Based in the city of Antwerp, he looked after the commercial management of the company. His right-hand man, Technical Director Mr Oury, lived on the factory terrain and supervised daily activities.
Due to the reconstruction after the war, there was an enormous demand for rolled copper. This certainly did not harm the company during the next two decades. In 1948-49, Lamitref already employs 550 people.
Although the electrification of the Belgian Railways already started in 1931, it was only in 1966 that the last steam locomotive carried out a commercial journey. The North-South connection in Brussels, which was electrified in 1952 and for which Lamitref delivered copper catenary wire, contributed to the end of the Belgian steam era.
In 1959, the successful Lamitref expands its activities by adding aluminium products. The big advantage of aluminium, compared to copper, is that it costs less in comparison to its low weight, and that it also is a better conductor of electricity.
Locally, the products of Lamitref are sold amongst others to the Belgian P.T.T. (Post Office, Telegraph and Telephone). Internationally, exports are carried out amongst others to the Belgian Congo, India, Pakistan, the United States and Switzerland.
In the 60s, the usage of aluminium was booming. In 1961-62, Lamitref started to use the casting and rolling method. Aluminium blocks of up to a half tonne were imported from European countries, Canada and Africa. Back then, Lamitref was the only Belgian company that produced rolled wire from an aluminium, magnesium and silicon alloy.
At the end of 1968, Lamitref employed no less than 662 people, of which 262 came from Hemiksem. In this period, the company experienced a large influx of workers of Spanish origin, which compensated for a scarcity of local workers. To help the Spaniards in breaking through the language barrier, the instructions and signs in the factory were also displayed in Spanish.
With a capacity of 60,000 tonnes per year, Lamitref ran one of the largest casting-rolling mill installations for aluminium throughout the world.
Almost the entire high-voltage network in Belgium and the Netherlands was equipped with conductors made in Hemiksem. This also included the connection of the brand-new nuclear power station at Doel, to the 380 kV post at Zandvliet. At that time, Lamitref already developed cables with special alloys, allowing longer crossings over water.
At the start of the 70s, Lamitref processes up to 90,000 tonnes of copper every year. Raw material was imported from all over the world in the form of wire or copper bars, with a weight of 125 to 150 kg.
New factory buildings are erected and in 1973 the Fréderic Sheidlaan is built to provide a central access to the factory from the Bouwerijstraat. The staff at that time stood at 780 employees, of which 275 came from Hemiksem. In those years, workers earned between 100 and 150 francs ( ± 2.5 – 4 euros) per hour.
Technical Director Mr Oury passes away in 1974. Gaston Magniette is 75 years old at that time, and it would take three years before a successor for Oury was found. In 1977, Leo Cloostermans takes over the company, together with a minority shareholder Lessius N.V. Gaston Magniette passes away in 1978.
In the 80s, a wind of change can be noticed at Lamitref. Led by a completely new management team, the company is reformed, modernized and expanded. Investors are being looked for and research is being done into innovative products. For instance, new alloys and the patented AMS production technology were developed, which were to form the focal point of further growth.
In November 1981, Lamitref was divided up into two independent companies: Lamitref Koper and Lamitref Aluminium. The production units would be completely separated from one another for the next 10 years.
At the start of the 80s, the continuous rolling process was started up in the copper department. Thanks to a new welding technology and a new machine, copper cables were welded to one another in advance. This helped to save a lot of manual work, making it possible to produce units of up to 5 tonnes.
In 1982, both Alcoa, the largest aluminium producer in the world, and B.I.C.C., the most important British cable manufacturer, each acquired 25% of the shares in Lamitref.
In 1988, Lamitref takes over the copper factory of UCA (previously known as Cuivre et Zinc S.A.) in Chênée, close to the city of Liege. UCA is renamed into LBP (Lamitref Building Products) and would later produce the copper euro coins, amongst others.
In 1995, Lamitref takes over the previously state-owned company MKM (Mansfelder Kupfer und messing GmbH) in Germany. Lamitref will modernize this ailing German copper company, which employs more than 1000 people, and equip it with an innovative continuous rolling mill. Major investments were made and parts of the copper activities in Hemiksem came to be relocated systematically to Germany.
In 1997, the industrial investment company Koramic Investment Group takes over a majority share in Lamitref Industries through Lessius N.V. The Koramic Investment Group is still today the largest shareholder of Lamifil.
In the 90s, various new high-temperature alloys are developed and brought to market, including aluminium-zirconium. This alloy could be used for producing overhead conductors, which could handle higher temperatures than conventional alloys. The first closed design conductors with z-wires had already been made before the turn-of-the-century.
In 1998, a new machine is put into service that allows Lamifil henceforth to cast copper alloys in its own factory.
In 1998, the production activities in Hemiksem are given its current brand name: Lamifil. The company adopts a new corporate identity as well. Aphrodite, the goddess of beauty and love, takes a prominent place in that identity. Aphrodite was born on the island of Cyprus, where the metal copper was first mined and exploited commercially. The name copper or cuprum derives its name from the island of Cyprus. The goddess Aphrodite is therefore often linked to copper and incorporating her in our corporate identity symbolizes our appreciation of our heritage and our passion for our work as a copper manufacturing company.
In 2004, the German sister company MKM is sold to Kazakhmys plc. The difficult economic climate in Germany, increasing prices for copper and an overcapacity on the market brought MKM into difficulties. In the same year, the Liege branch of LBP, the earlier Cuivre-Zinc, was closed.
As of 2004, Lamifil relaunches and continues on its own. From then on it focuses on its core competency: the production of wire and cables in copper, aluminium and special alloys.
In 2005, an investment programme is started up to support Lamifil’s growth. Amongst others, investments are made in an extra vertical upcaster for the production of copper alloys. The production capacity for both aluminium and copper wires is increased, thanks to three new cable machines, three wire drawing machines and thermal treatment ovens.
In 2006, the introduction of a new conform machine allows Lamifil to produce solid conductors of up to 2000 mm², largely exceeding the previous limit of 300 mm². These can, for instance, be used in underground cables and for other applications and markets.
Lamifil has continued to grow during the last decade, becoming one of the world’s leading manufacturers of overhead conductors, catenary wires and specialty wires of the highest quality, in copper, aluminium and their alloys.
It continues to focus on its defined course as a specialized company, producing innovative products with the highest possible added value for its customers. Further international expansion has translated into new and important orders, in countries all over the world, including India, the USA, Paraguay and Romania.
In 2011, Lamifil launches its new UHC (ultra-high conductivity) alloys. Due to their composition, they prevent energy losses and show higher conductivity than ordinary alloys.
In 2016, the Lamifil laboratory is granted the ISO 17025:2005 certificate. An increasing number of customers counts on the expertise of this independent laboratory, for specialised tests of cables, contact wires, fittings and wires for special applications.
Lamifil continues to increase its commitment with regards to ecology and safety. In 2016, it is granted the ISO 14001:2004 certificate, which clearly shows that the company is continuously managing and improving its ecological footprint. In 2017, Lamifil is granted the OHSAS 18001:2007 certificate for safety.
In 2019, Lamifil celebrates its 90th birthday. A new milestone, in a rich and beautiful story of craftmanship and innovation.