DIATOP SAMA: diamond tools handcrafted in KoreaPublished 29/12, 2016 at 15:57
Diatop Sama, a family-owned Korean company, has been manufacturing diamond consumables for 21 years. Despite its modest size of only 22 employees, it is a strong international player selling its products to over 30 countries. Andrei Bushmarin reports on his visit to the company in Daegu.
Daegu is Korea’s fourth largest city after Seoul, Busan and Incheon with a population of over 2.5M. For decades, Daegu has been one of Korea’s major manufacturing hubs. During the 1960s to 1980s, Daegu-based industries, the electronics companies in particular, were the main driving force behind Korea’s rapid economic development. Since the late 1990s Daegu, which is also known as Textile City, has been investing a lot of effort in becoming a fashion capital of Asia. Numerous factories manufacturing textiles, metals and various kinds of machinery are located in the industrial complexes in the western and northern parts of the city. Diatop Sama has its office and production facilities on the western side.
Export-oriented from the go
Established by Sung-hoi Huh in 1995 as a family business, Diatop was a global supplier from day one. The international business model was chosen by necessity. A small rookie manufacturer with 12 employees stood little chance in the domestic market against industry behemoths as Shinhan and Ehwa Diamond. So right from the start Diatop began to sell its products outside Korea, with Germany and the USA becoming its first customers.
The following year the company exhibited at a trade show in Europe for the first time. It was Eisenwarenmesse, a trade fair for hardware in Cologne, which the Korean manufacturer chose to launch its foray into the European market.
In Diatop’s formative years its main product was a range of laser-welded diamond blades for general applications ranging in diameter from 100mm to 230mm. Later on, in the early 2000s, Diatop developed and marketed under the brand name Supercombo a range of laser-welded blades for dry cutting that were a success with users and accelerated the company’s growth.
Branching out into surface preparation
In 2004 the company decided to diversify into surface preparation, which proved to be a pivotal point in Diatop’s history. Sung-hoi Huh first came across surface preparation technologies three years earlier at the World of Concrete show in Las Vegas. He realized then that branching out into this field would open up new perspectives and strengthen its position as a global supplier.
The first product Diatop marketed was metal bond pads modelled on HTC products. They proved to be a success, and Diatop went on expanding the range. Currently the company offers a comprehensive choice of consumables for any surface preparation task. One of the latest products and a real standout from the range is the IDT line of grinding wheels. IDT is an in-house electroplating process performed at a higher voltage than conventional electroplating, which results in a stronger bond between diamond particles. Thanks to this, IDT tools boast a winning combination of high grinding speed and long service life.
Some of Diatop’s premium-quality tools are manufactured by hand using scales and a manual cold press. These include metal bond diamond segments for floor grinders and segments for core bits. Using the manual technique ensures the even distribution of diamond and metal powders inside the segments.
Surface preparation now accounts for 40% of the company’s turnover, and the business keeps growing with a flow of new products. In 2017 Diatop will launch two new series of floor grinding and polishing pads called Diaclean and DiaShine.
A true manufacturer
Diatop manufactures diamond consumables for construction, stone extraction and surface preparation applications. Construction and stone industries are equally important for Diatop, which is why it participates in all major events dedicated to stone processing such as Marmomacc in Verona, Stone+tec in Nürnberg and StonExpo in Las Vegas.
On the construction side, Diatop is a staple fixture at every Bauma since 2007 where it traditionally occupies a booth in Hall A1 with all the other players of the concrete sawing industry.
Diatop is a manufacturer in the true sense of the word. Of the current 22 employees, 15 are engaged in production. To say that private label manufacturing is important for the company would be a gross understatement: in case of Diatop’s European customers it reaches a whopping 80%. International sales are handled by four people, including the founder.
Kotra, a state-funded trade and investment promotion organization operated by Korea’s government, helps Diatop’s overseas promotion through its extensive international network of Korea Trade Centres. At the moment Diatop sells to over 30 countries, with the US, Great Britain, Germany and France the largest customers. Prospective markets are Russia, the Middle East and Eastern Europe. Russia used to generate a lot of profit, but due to the current political standoff, Diatop’s business there has all but petered out. With tensions between Russia and the West now apparently receding, Diatop is hoping to revitalize business there.