I recently came across a vintage item on Etsy: a beautiful crystal structure model of two fcc unit cells. However, the description claims that the German manufacturer, Leybold, is no longer around.
To which I said to myself, "Huh?"
There were a few other details in the description that are wrong as well, but the fact that Leybold is no longer around was news to me.
In my professional life, I'm well acquainted with Leybold vacuum pumps and was aware that the company that owned the brand recently sold the division to a Swedish conglomerate. However, I've always been fuzzy about how Leybold Vacuum fits with the Leybold that makes crystal structure models. I obviously needed to take a dive into the history of Leybold...
Leybold's roots start all the way back to 1850 when it was started to distribute pharmaceutical and other technical equipment. Ernst Leybold was actually serving as manager for the founder who died a year after starting the company, and E. Leybold sold it in 1870. The company started producing vacuum pumps in 1906 when they also got out of pharmaceutical equipment.
So Leybold wasn't started by a Leybold. It also didn't start selling its core product until 50 years after its founding when Mr. Leybold had been gone for over 30 years. OK. Now hold onto your hats for some merger madness...
In 1948, the Metallgesellschaft conglomerate invested in Leybold, and Degussa did so in 1955. In 1967, Leybold merged with Heraeus Hochvakuum, and thus was born Leybold Heraeus GmbH, a scientific and technical equipment juggernaut that was around for the next 20 years. Metallgesellschaft and W.C. Heraeus sold their shares in 1987, and the new company, solely owned by Degussa, was renamed Leybold AG. In 1994, Degussa sold Leybold to Oerlikon, which merged it with Balzers AG. (I always wondered why my process pump in grad school was a Balzers-branded Leybold!) In 2006, Leybold Vacuum was renamed to Oerlikon Leybold Vacuum. And then in 2015, Oerlikon sold the unit to Atlas Copco, who renamed it to Leybold GmbH.
Now we have the vacuum part of the story straight. (Well, as straight as 168 years of mergers and acquisitions can possibly be.) How about the models?
Well, Leybold had been making equipment intended for education/demonstrations all along. (While I'm not sure when they began selling crystal and molecular models, I've noted that Deane Smith's monograph in 1959 makes no mention of commercial sources and Arnold Beevers started his company in 1961.) Anyway, around 1985 (during the Leybold Heraeus years), Leybold Didactic GmbH was started. In 2000, they sold the division to private investors. The company unfortunately went bankrupt in 2008. However, they were bought by an investor consortium in 2009 and now operate under the name LD Didactic, which maintains the Leybold brand name in scientific teaching supplies.
So is Leybold still making crystal structure models? Yes! Besides the all-plastic models that are now ubiquitous on the internet, they still sell some of the wooden ball and steel spoke models that aficionados still seek out. However, their product line is shrinking compared to just a few years ago.