ZF Friedrichshafen AG
The successful German car manufacturers are always in the limelight, thereby one tends to forget the suppliers, who in fact, manufacture up to 75% of the car. The number 1 worldwide is Continental, after additional
take-overs and a number of turbulences during the financial crisis of 2008 they pulled ahead of Bosch. ZF-Friedrichshafen is the number 3, after taking over the American supplier TRW, just in the year when the
company celebrated its 100th anniversary.
After crossing into the 20th century, a special technological development took place at Lake Constance. It was Count von Zeppelin, who triggered this development with his invention of the airship. The donation appeal
in Germany is famous for the fact that it brought in over six million Reichsmark. One had followed the multiple setbacks, which almost forced von Zeppelin to abandon his plans.
It was in this year, that Wilhelm Maybach also left the Daimler Motorenwerke and founded, together with his son, the company of Maybach Motorenwerke. In the beginning they didn't build the famous Maybach cars, but
engines for the construction of airships. Indeed, for the strong engines, there were no gearboxes with suitable gear-ratios to the propellers.
Thus in 1915, the chief of the airship construction testing department, Count von Soden-Fraunhofen, became one of the two founders of an independent gearwheel factory, in which mathematically precisely calculated
gearwheels were produced, after an invention by the Swiss engineer, Max Maag. At the start of the First World War, a resounding success of the newly founded company was unthinkable, particularly as it was battling
to to be recognised as being "essential to the war effort". Indeed, during the bad times after the war, the utilisation-rate was even worse.
For the numerous vehicle manufacturers, a large quantity production was not possible. Apart from this, they were producing gearboxes themselves and the high-quality products from Friedrichshafen were too
expensive for them. Two changes positively affected the impetus of the company: 1. The conversion to a corporation in 1921, 2. the reduced amount of manufacturers due to the crisis of 1923 and the hyper-inflation.
In 1925, the standard transmission for motor cars and trucks came on to the market, of which after all, 300.000 were produced. Although in the beginning they were also producing for other areas, e.g., motor-boats,
they concentrated more and more on the automobile sector.
Since 1932, ZF also produced steering gears. The first one was called the 'Ross-steering', because in this case, they were using a licence from the American Ross Gear & Tool Company. Because of the high
number of units produced in the first year, they had to expand. In 1937, this section of operations was outsourced to a joint operation with Bosch to Schwäbisch-Gmünd. The Bosch-share by the way, was taken over in
In the above picture, you can still see ZF Friedrichshafen as a producer of transmissions, this time however, inside the modern casing of a wind power plant. The current company name exists since 2002. They no
longer see themselves as a company which produces solely gearwheels. Indeed, the manufacturing, e.g., of suspension components has been added. The new sections can be seen in the picture at the top. Below
you can see the prototype of the ZF-Innovation Truck, which despite being 25 meters long, can be remote controlled using a tablet PC. 06/15