History - from 1906 to current



Prof. Dr. Ing. E.h. Adolf Wallichs is appointed to the Chair of Machine Tools and Production Engineering at the RWTH Aachen.


Prof. Dr.-Ing. Herwart Opitz takes over management of the chair and the associated institute.

Prof. Opitz


WZL shop floor 1937


A substantial extension of the institute creates the conditions for expanding research activities to include problems of modern machine tool design and production engineering.
Under the guidance of Prof. Opitz, the WZL develops into one of the most modern and important research institutions of its kind.


Together with a small staff Prof. Opitz starts rebuilding the institute, which has been almost completely destroyed in the war. Once rebuilding is completed, the first Aachen Machine Tools Colloquium (AWK) is staged in 1948 under extremely difficult circumstances. The economic boom of the late nineteen-fifties leads to a strengthening of research activities clearly reflected in the enlarged WZL workforce.


Another field of research is defined by the creation of the Department of Metrology in Automated Production.

Before retiring after 37 years as director of the WZL, Prof. Opitz transfers management of the institute to:
- Prof. Dr.-Ing Dr. h.c. mult. Dipl.-Wirt. Ing. W. Eversheim
- Prof. Dr.-Ing. W. König
- Prof. Dr.-Ing. M. Weck


WZL shop floor in 1974, shortly before the move from Wüllnerstrasse to Seffent-Melaten


Following a proposal of the WZL, the Fraunhofer Association for the Promotion of Applied Research e.V., supported by the Region of NRW, founds the Fraunhofer Institute for Production Technology (IPT).
This step extends the capacity for contract research in Aachen, building on the firm base of scientific and technical expertise created the WZL, and in close cooperation with it. The four WZL professors for the Board of the Fraunhofer IPT.


The Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME) USA gives its SME Education Award to WZL for its outstanding work in the field of engineering training, noting the institute's "unique worldwide position as a center of excellence in the training of engineers", which deserves to "become a model for the entire world".


The Association of German Machine and Plant Manufacturers (VDMA) awards the first German Machine-Building prize to WZL for its research work in support of machine building, underlining the close cooperation between research and industry which allows scientific know-how to be transferred quickly and effectively into industrial practice.


The Department of Metrology in Automated Production becomes Germany's first Chair of Metrology and Quality Assurance. Prof. Pfeifer is appointed to the new chair.


Based on a suggestion of WZL, the Aachen Demonstration Laboratory for Integrated Production Technology (ADITEC) is founded. The ADITEC's goal is to exploit WZL know-how for practice oriented initial and continued training.

WZL shop floor 1992


At the end of 1994, Prof. Dr.-Ing. Dr. h.c. mult. W. König leaves WZL management after a career spanning 37 years.
Prof. König expanded research activities at WZL to include metal-forming technology and took and intensive interest in questions of materials science in production engineering. The machining of engineering ceramics was a key area of his more recent research work.
He gave new impetus to the international Institution for Production Engineering Research (CIRP) during his presidency from 1990 to 1991.
His work, especially in the field of metal cutting technology, earned world renown and was honored among other awards, by honorary doctorates from the Universities of Leuven (1979) and Thessaloniki (1994) and by the SME Federick Taylor Research Medal (1992) and the Erich Siebel Medal of the European Sheet Metal Working Association (1995).

Prof. König


Prof. Dr.-Ing. Fritz Klocke takes over the Chair of Manufacturing Technology.


Prof. Wilfried König dies on June 27th, 2001, at the age of 72 years following a short serious illness.


Prof. Dr.-Ing. Dipl.-Wirt. Ing. Dr. h. c. mult. Walter Eversheim is retiring from the Management Board of the Machine Tool Laboratory on 31 August 2002 after nearly 30 years of service.

As one of the pioneers of Simultaneous Engineering, Professor Eversheim was instrumental in expanding the scope of research work to encompass the field of product and process development, thus preparing the way for a new era of cooperative thinking. His work in the areas of Virtual Engineering and the Digital Factory, has constantly provided new impetus in recent years.

His area of activity extended well beyond the confines of the Machine Tool Laboratory. Professor Eversheim was a member of the Board of Directors of the Fraunhofer-Institute of Production Technology IPT (1980), Director of the Research Institute for Rationalisation FIR (1990) and Director of the Institute of Technology Management at the University of St. Gallen, in Switzerland (1989). In his capacity as Guest Professor at a number of universities, he has been a major force in the world of research, both nationally and internationally.

The high regard in which he is held in the scientific, economic and political communities, is reflected in the national and international honours which have been bestowed on him. These include honorary doctorates from the Universities of Trondheim in Norway and St. Gallen in Switzerland, the Honour of Merit from the State of North-Rhine-Westfalia (1988) and the Herwart-Opitz-Medal of Honour (1997). Prof. Eversheim was a member of many associations and committees.

Prof. Dr.-Ing. Dipl.-Wirt. Ing. Günther Schuh will take over as the successor of Professor Eversheim the Chair of Production Engineering at the Machine Tool Laboratory as from 1 September 2002.

Prof. Eversheim


Prof. Dr.-Ing. Dr.-Ing. E. h. Manfred Weck retires from the management of the Laboratory of Machine Tools and Production Engineering after about 31 years.

With his innovative ideas in the domain of machine tool construction and automation, Professor Weck played a major role in the development of production engineering and strongly influenced this area in education and research.

The impassionate lecturer and researcher Professor Weck took responsibility far beyond his original field of activity, the WZL. In the years 1991 and 1992, he led the activities of the department of mechanical engineering of the RWTH Aachen. His expertise was in demand in numerous advisory boards (amongst others DFG and AiF). Professor Weck has been one of the founders of the Fraunhofer Institute of Production Technology (IPT) in 1980, where he led the department of Production Machines until his retirement. In 1988, Professor Weck founded the research association for ultra precision technology, constantly delivering trend-setting stimulus for this key technology.

The high esteem Professor Weck is enjoying worldwide becomes apparent through the numerous distinctions and awards he received during his unique career. After the Borchers medal of the RWTH Aachen and the Taylor medal of the International Academy for Production Engineering (CIRP), the honorary doctor of the University of Hannover (1992), of the University of Dresden (2005) and the Jakob-Wallenberg Award of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences (1995) followed. He is bearer of the Herwart-Opitz medal of honour (1997) and received, amongst others, the Ernst-Blickle Award of the SEW-EURODRIVE foundation, the Lifetime-Achievement Award of the european association for ultra precision technology (2003) and the Georg-Schlesinger Award of the senate of Berlin (2003). Professor Weck was member of several organisations and committees.

Effective from January 10th 2004, Prof. Dr.-Ing. Christian Brecher has taken over the Chair of Machine Tools at the Laboratory of Machine Tools and Production Engineering of the RWTH Aachen and the department of Production Machines at the Fraunhofer IPT.

Prof. Weck


At the age of 65 Prof. Dr.-Ing. Dr. hc. mult. Prof. hc. Tilo Pfeifer retired from the Directory Board of the WZL. He was the first Professor on a Chair of Metrology and Quality Management in Germany ever. He was regarded as the figurehead of the German quality sciences at all.
From the beginning of his activities as professor he cultivated continuously the national and international collaboration of the different institutions of measurig techniques, automation, and quality management.

Again and again he took responsibility in exposed positions and so he gave new impulses to measuring techniques and quality management. So he was president of the VDI/VDE Society for measuring and control techniques, between 1979 and 1982 he was president of the IMEKO ( International measurement Confederation), and in this function Prof. Pfeifer headed the world congress of measuring techniques in Berlin in 1982. Since 1995 he is president of the German Society of Quality Management (DGQ), an association of German professors of quality management.

Professor Pfeifer received the Distinguished Service Award of IMEKO (International Metrology Confederation). He was awarded the Degree of Honorary Doctor (Dr. h.c.) by the State University of Santa Catarina, Florianopolis, Brazil in 1989. 1995 he was awarded the Degree of Honorary Professor (Prof. h.c.) by the Tsinghua University, China. 1997 he was appointed to the BLH Representative of Aachen University and received the VDI Badge of Honour. In 2003 he was awarded the Degree of Honorary Doctor by the University of Zaragoza in Spain. He received the Herwart-Optiz medal in 2004.

Professor Pfeifer is member of the General Council of IMEKO since 1976 and member of the Executive Board of the VDI/VDE Society for Measurement and Automation Techniques (GMA) since 1980. Furthermore he is chairman of the Scientific Council of the German Association for Quality (DGQ) as well as chairman of the German Society for Quality Sciences (GQW). Since 2000 he is member of the “International Academy for Quality” (IAQ).

Prof. Pfeifer has authored more than 1.000 publications in technical journals in the field of Industrial Measurement, Laser Metrology, Quality Management and Production Automation and published 40 books. He gave more than 500 speeches all over the world.
Besides his scientific achievements, Prof. Pfeifer forged links with multiple companies. He is member of the supervisory or advisory boards of companies in the engineering, software, consulting and automotive sector.

On September 1th, 2004, Prof. Dr.-Ing. Robert Schmitt became his successor on the Chair of Metrology and Measuring Techniques at the WZL as well as Director of the Department of Measuring- and Quality techniques of the Fraunhofer Institute of Production Technology IPT.

Prof. Pfeifer


In the autumn of 2005 the new WZL building was finished and took over by the professors Christian Brecher, Fritz Klocke, Robert Schmitt, and Günther Schuh, and their collaborators.
The new building was necessary since the use of the old Wehrmacht bunker at the Rütscherstraße, where a lot of test stands of the WZL gear department had been, was forbidden by the cause of safety aspects.

Manfred-Weck House


In May 2006 the WZL celebrates its 100 anniversary with 1300 guests.

from left: Prof. Eversheim, Prof. Schuh, Prof. Schmitt, Prof. Brecher, Prof. Klocke (v.l.)


The new WZL building is named after Prof. Weck.

Prof. Weck