History of the WZL



Prof. Manfred Weck passes away on September 23, 2023 after a long, serious illness at the age of 85.

"Empower Green Production" - This was the motto of the 31st AWK, which will take place as a hybrid event at the Aachen Eurogress on May 11 and 12, 2023. Solution approaches for a value-adding circular economy that supports companies in meeting global emission and climate targets: More than 1200 experts and managers from around 360 companies responded to the call of RWTH Aachen University’s Machine Tool Laboratory WZL and the Fraunhofer Institute for Production Technology IPT to attend the 31st AWK at the Aachen Eurogress. The aim of the two-day conference was to learn from each other and discuss how the manufacturing industry can make its products more durable and its business models more independent of global uncertainties.


After the 30th AWK 2020 had to be postponed due to corona, we welcomed more than 1,400 visitors in September 2021 under the motto "Turning Data into Sustainability". The special feature: In 2021, the AWK was held for the first time as a hybrid event and offered participants a wide-ranging program both on-site and digitally.

On May 01, 2021, the Chair of Production Metrology and Quality Management and the IMA merged under the direction of Univ.-Prof. Dr.-Ing. Robert Schmitt. The merger will result in new opportunities and perspectives on our interdisciplinary research topics.


Four years after the WZL Test Hall burned down, the first machines moved into the new WZL Machine Hall in August 2020.

In May 2020, the »5G-Industry Campus Europe« switched on its radio network: With an area of just under one square kilometer, 19 antennas and a bandwidth of ten gigabits per second, this marks the start of the largest 5G research network in Europe. Funded by the German Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure (BMVI), the network at the RWTH Aachen Campus connects the WZL, the FIR at RWTH Aachen University, the IT Center at RWTH Aachen University and the Fraunhofer IPT with the new mobile communications standard and enables research into and testing of various areas of use for 5G in industrial applications.

In spring 2020, the deconstruction of the Herwart-Opitz-Haus has started.


In January 2019, the new Cluster of Excellence "Internet of Production" (IoP) started with a grant of seven years. It thus continues the work and successes of the predecessor cluster "Integrative Production Technology for High-Wage Countries" (2006 to 2018). Professor Christian Brecher, head of the Chair of Machine Tools, acts as spokesperson for the new cluster.


Prof. Dr.-Ing. Dr.-Ing. E. h. Dr. h. c. Dr. h. c. Fritz Klocke leaves the Institute's management after 23 years.

Fritz Klocke studied production engineering at the Lippe University of Applied Sciences in Lemgo and at the Technical University of Berlin from 1970 to 1976. After his studies, he worked as a research assistant until 1981 and as chief engineer at the Institute for Machine Tools and Production Engineering at the Technical University of Berlin until 1984. In 1982 he received his doctorate in engineering from the design and production department. From 1984 to 1994, Klocke worked in industry at Ernst Winter & Sohn, most recently as head of mechanical engineering in Norderstedt near Hamburg. On January 1, 1995 he was appointed university professor. Since then, Professor Klocke has held the Chair of Manufacturing Technology and is a member of the board of Laboratory for Machine Tools and Production Engineering (WZL) of RWTH Aachen University and head of the Fraunhofer Institute for Production Technology IPT in Aachen. From 2001 to 2002 he was also Dean of the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering and from 2007 to 2008 President of the International Academy of Production Engineering (CIRP).

In 1985 Klocke received the Otto Kienzle commemorative coin. In 2006 he was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Hanover, in 2009 an honorary doctorate from the University of Thessaloniki and in 2010 an honorary doctorate from Keio University. Klocke received the Fraunhofer Medal on the occasion of his 60th birthday in recognition of his services to the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft. At the end of 2012 he was appointed to the College of Fellows of the Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME), which presented him with the Eli Whitney Productivity Award on June 9, 2014 in Detroit/USA. Since 2014 Professor Klocke has also been a Fellow of RWTH Aachen University. Professor Klocke is married to Prof. Dr.-Ing. Martina Klocke and has three adult children.

With effect from June 1, 2018, Professor Dr.-Ing. Thomas Bergs took over the chair of Manufacturing Process Technology at the WZL and as Director of the Fraunhofer Institute for Production Technology IPT, Department of Process Technology.


As long-term member of the board of directors of WZL of RWTH Aachen Professor Manfred Weck was honored with the Aachen Engineering Award of 2017 for his life work. Weck represents like nobody else the development of machine construction from the difficult manual process to digitalization. “He explored the machine tools into its smallest mode of action“, explains Rector Ernst Schmachtenberg the influence of the man form Solingen.


On the night of February 5, 2016, the large WZL Test Hall burned out and collapsed. According to estimates, the damage amounts to around 100 million euros, of which 30 million euros is attributable to the building, 60 million euros to the procurement of the machine tools housed in the hall and 10 million euros to transitional measures. Until mid-March 2016, police fire investigators were unable to find a cause for the outbreak of the fire, as the damage was too great. The fire injured nobody.


The electric mobility laboratory (eLab) on the RWTH Aachen Campus was completed after a construction period of only nine months. The state of North Rhine-Westphalia and the Objective 2 programme of the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) support the research building in the Smart Logistics cluster. The investment volume is around eight million euros.

The long-standing director of the Laboratory for Machine Tools and Production Engineering (WZL) of RWTH Aachen University - Professor Manfred Weck - is honoured by Manager Magazin for his outstanding contribution to research and is inducted into the German Research Hall of Fame.


In January Professor Achim Kampker took over the newly formed chair “Production Engineering for E-Mobility Components (PEM)“ at RWTH Aachen University which cooperates closely with WZL.


In September, the Chair of Production Metrology and Quality Management celebrated its 25th anniversary.
In November, the demonstration factory in the RWTH Campus Logistics Cluster under the direction of the WZL moved into operation.


Prof. Dr.-Ing. Rainer Müller has left the Laboratory for Machine Tools and Production Engineering (WZL) of RWTH Aachen University after four years of work. As head of the Centre for Mechatronics and Automation Technology in Saarbrücken, he is facing new challenges.

In June, the financing of the Cluster of Excellence "Integrative Production Technology for High-Wage Countries" is approved for a further five years. This funding takes into account the special importance of production for the economy and people in Germany.

The "Aachen Centre for Integrative Lightweight Design" (AZL) at RWTH Aachen was founded in 2012 by Prof. Dr.-Ing. Christian Hopmann, head of the Institute of Plastics Processing (IKV) and Prof. Dr.-Ing. Christian Brecher, Chair of Machine Tools at the Laboratory for Machine Tools and Production Engineering (WZL) of RWTH Aachen University and member of the Executive Board of the Fraunhofer Institute for Production Technology IPT.

The AZL is an ordinary institute of RWTH Aachen University and part of the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering. The aim of the AZL is to transfer lightweight construction into mass production through close interdisciplinary cooperation between materials science and production technology in order to implement process chains suitable for mass production. This is done in close cooperation with the Aachen partner institutes of the AZL (IKV, IKA, ITA, ILT, ISF, ILB, IPT, WZL). This competence network in one place is unique for the lightweight construction industry: all the necessary expertise along the entire value chain is already within walking distance on the campus around the WZL in just a few minutes.


At the beginning of March 2008 another chair at the WZL of RWTH Aachen University started its work. Prof. Dr.-Ing. Achim Kampker has strengthened the team of professors since then. He heads the new Chair of Production Management.

Professor Kampker, born in 1976, is a real progeny of the machine tool laboratory. The scientist, who comes from Moers/Lower Rhine, began his mechanical engineering studies at RWTH Aachen University in 1995, which he completed with a diploma thesis on strategies in mechanical and plant engineering in 2000.

In 2000, Professor Kampker began his career at the Machine Tool Laboratory as a research assistant to Prof. Dr.-Ing. Walter Eversheim at the Chair of Production Systems. Kampker received his doctorate in 2004 on the subject of "Competence-based business expansion in manufacturing companies". In the same year he took over responsibility as chief engineer of the production management department.

As part of the Excellence Cluster "Integrative Production Technology for High-Wage Countries", the new Chair of Assembly Technology, headed by Prof. Dr.-Ing. Rainer Müller, was established on April 1, 2008. The aim is to develop and test scalable solutions in the field of flexible and modular assembly.


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


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.


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


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


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).


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.


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.


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 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".


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.


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


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.


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.


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


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