History of the institute

Research in the field of production technology has a long tradition in Darmstadt

It all began in 1893 with the decision of the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering of the Technical University of Darmstadt to establish a Department of Mechanical Technology. You will find the course in chronological order based on the institute directors of the PTW.

Prof. Dr.-Ing. Matthias Weigold succeeded Prof. Eberhard Abele in the Department of Production Management, Technology and Machine Tools in 2019.

His academic career began with studies in mechanical engineering at the TU Darmstadt, after which he became a research assistant at PTW in 2002.

In 2008, he obtained his doctorate with a focus on automation technology and manufacturing technology development, in particular machining with industrial robots.

After his doctorate, Prof. Weigold gained valuable experience in various areas during his 11 years in industry. He held responsible positions at companies such as Heidelberger Druckmaschinen AG and SAP SE.

Under his leadership, current research activities at PTW focus on data-driven production, applied artificial intelligence in production, climate-neutral production and sovereign and interoperable value networks, among others. Within this framework, he directs the research activities of the ETA Factory (Energy Technologies and Applications in Production) as well as the PTW's Manufacturing Technology Division.

Prof. Dr.-Ing. Joachim Metternich took over the newly created professorship for Production Management and Intralogistics as well as the deputy director of the institute in September 2012.

After successfully completing his studies in industrial engineering at the TH Darmstadt and his subsequent PhD at the PTW, he worked at several national and international production sites during his 11 years in industry and was most recently responsible for the global production system of a mechanical engineering company.

The research focus of his work at the institute is on application-oriented methods of lean production as well as process improvement through digital solutions and artificial intelligence. The main topics are researched in industrial joint projects as well as the Process Learning Factory CiP and communicated to a broad group of participants from university and industry. Since 2023, the FlowFactory has also been available for research, implementation and demonstration of a vision of future production.

Prof. Dr.-Ing. Prof. h. c. Eberhard Abele brought a wide range of experience from 15 years of international activity as head of production planning, technology development and plant manager to the expansion of research and teaching at the TU Darmstadt.

Under his leadership, the PTW Institute has grown continuously in the research areas of machining technology / machine tool and production management. Numerous new research areas have been developed based on the institute's experience, such as dental technologies, powertrain manufacturing, defense measures against product piracy or global production as well as energy-efficient production. The Microtechnical Production Center, which was opened in 2007, has extensive machinery and measuring technology for micro-machining and generative manufacturing processes (SLM).

In the special show “Innovations for the production of tomorrow” at the “AMB” trade fair in Stuttgart, forward-looking innovations were presented in cooperation with the numerous industrial partners of the PTW.

The process learning factory CIP (Center for Industrial Productivity), initiated by Prof. Abele, is now highly appreciated by students as part of a practical training program. Every year, several hundred senior employees of companies receive further training in lean management and process-oriented production planning. The learning factory CIP, which is used together with the consultancy “McKinsey & Company”, is regarded as a pilot model throughout Europe and the experience gained in it has since been incorporated into numerous other learning factories in Europe and the USA.

Due to the success of the first learning factory CIP, Prof. Abele and a highly motivated team initiated a new learning and research factory in 2010, the Eta factory (Energy Technologies and Applications in Production). This factory is supported by an interdisciplinary research group of mechanical engineers, civil engineers, and computer scientists. They are researching energy concepts for the production of the future, which contribute to the economic and ecological goals (CO2-neutral production) of manufacturing companies through energy efficiency, energy flexibility and resource efficiency.

In order to put the idea of a “learning and research factory” in the campus, which originated in Darmstadt, on a broader basis, Prof. Abele initiated a close cooperation of interested research institutes and founded the “Association of Learning Factories”, which today has more than 20 international members.

Prof. Abele has received numerous awards for his achievements in research and teaching:

  • 2003 Laureate of the Hessian Cooperation Award.
  • 2013 Friendship Medal Jiangsu Province, China
  • 2014 Award of the National Friendship Award by chin. Premier Li Keqiang
  • 2018 Athene Prize for Knowledge and Technology Transfer of the TU Darmstadt.

Prof. Abele's scientific innovations are recorded in more than 700 publications, textbooks and numerous patents.

Prof. Abele retired from the institute's management in 2020 due to his age and still contributes his experience from industry and research in advisory and supervisory board mandates. In addition, he is entrusted with a mandate in European research policy on the supervisory board of the major European project “EIT Manufacturing”.

Prof Dr.-Ing. Herbert Schulz was appointed the new director of the institute in december 1980, after the death of Prof Stöferles (died august 1978). He took up his position on 1 May 1981. The emphasis of the research activities is on innovative manufacturing processes such as high-speed machining, machine tool concepts for the realisation of new technologies as well as production organisations. The primary objective is to ensure practical relevance through close cooperation with industry. Prof. Schulz was editor of the journal “Werkstatt und Betrieb” since June 1981.

1977 | Der Maschinenbau bekommt sein Zahnrad

Historical facts

1977 | The mechanical engineering department gets its gear wheel 1976 | Forming technology is separated from the institute 1893 | Decision to introduce a machine tool laboratory

After Professor Stromberger's retirement, Prof. Dr.-Ing. Theodor Stöferle took over the Institute and the laboratory in 1968 and continued his predecessor's work in research and teaching. He also took over the journal “Werkstatt und Betrieb”. The number of staff at the institute grew with the supervision of numerous research projects. The range of lectures on manufacturing technology was supplemented by awarding further teaching assignments. From 1972 onwards, the institute also experienced a spacial expansion by moving into the new buildings of the department of mechanical engineering in the Petersenstraße 30. Prof. Stöferle represented an emphasised practice-oriented research, the contents of which were essentially determined by the increasing automation of machine tools.

Focal points were the:

  • Development of sensors for the detection of machine states
  • Application of the microprocessor for machine monitoring
  • Economic efficiency considerations in the design area
  • Research work in the field of machining

In 1944, Prof. Dr.-Ing. Carl Stromberger became holder of the chair and head of the laboratory, which was newly established in 1954. In the area of teaching, the subject areas of mechanical technology, machine tools, construction and operation as well as production-related measuring and testing were partially represented with special lectures. The research contents were mainly related to:

  • technological processes
  • cutting and chipless cutting
  • the behavior of machine tool guideways on the later taken up numerical control of machine tools

The laboratory of Professor Dipl.-Ing. Ludwig von Rößler was established in 1921. In 1924, welding technology was taken up. The remarkable work closely connected with the relevant industry was concentrated in this field. Unfortunately, due to the effects of war, the laboratory was completely destroyed in 1944.

The Institute was founded in 1894 as the fourth chair of the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering for the subject of Mechanical Technology. The first chair holder was Prof. Heinrich Krauß, who was very soon followed, in 1904, by Prof. Dipl.-Ing. Ludwig von Rößler. Even at that time, Professor von Rößler, without having a large laboratory at his disposal, carried out fundamental research on chip formation in machining on a modest scale.