Precision engineering tools at Uwe Weller Feinwerktechnik. (Images: Ralf A. Niggemann)
Precision engineering tools at Uwe Weller Feinwerktechnik. (Images: Ralf A. Niggemann)

Uwe Weller Feinwerktechnik

The Very Finest

Over the last decades, the industrial landscape in the city of optics has undergone noticeable structural change. A long history of tradition has brought forth a number of successful start-ups. Uwe Weller Feinwerktechnik GmbH is a fine example of such a development.

When Uwe Weller Feinwerktechnik GmbH moved into its new company headquarters at the Leitz-Park in 2009, it had not even reached its coming-of-age. At the same time, Uwe Weller set up a totally new surface technology facility in the old factory in the Wilhelm-Loh-Straße. It’s almost as if a teenager were to build a huge villa and modernize his parents’ home on the side. You’d tend to think he was reckless, at the best overly high-spirited, or you might even wonder if he’d had a vision. In the case of Uwe Weller, it seems to have been the latter.

Production of highly sophisticated mechanical components

Tracking this recent success story back to its roots, you inevitably arrive at the company with the red dot. In 1994, Uwe Weller took over the machining division of Leica Camera AG, thereby laying the foundation stone for his own company. The production of highly sophisticated mechanical components for the camera manufacturer offered fresh prospects. However, a far more decisive factor for founding the company was the potential of the 46 experienced and highly qualified employees that Weller took over. In 1997, the young company merged with the father’s business, Günther Weller Feinwerktechnik. In 2005, the mechanical division of Leica Microsystems in Weilburg was integrated, followed a year later by the machining division of the Zeiss-Hensoldt Group in Wetzlar. Today, Weller Feinwerktechnik GmbH has around 150 employees on the payroll. It is highly unlikely that the 22-year-old company has finished growing, especially in view of the steadily accumulating production expertise and product quality of the precision engineering specialist.

High-precision parts where every detail counts

In the vast production hall of Uwe Weller Feinwerktechnik GmbH, dozens of turning, milling and grinding machines are lined up in rows. What we are witnessing here is a kind of precision engineering evolution, starting with 3-meter-long metal blanks and ending with high-precision parts and lens mounts where every detail counts. In the extremely specialized and exclusive sectors of high-end optics, medical technology, the semiconductor industry and aviation technology, mistakes are not forgiven. This is true for high-quality camera lenses as much as for any mechanical component used in microscopy, dental technology or other medical instruments. As well as maximum precision, a superlative surface finish is crucial.

All components are manufactured and anodized in the company

“As concerns the lens bodies we make for Leica Camera AG, for instance, it’s not only the precision of the parts that has to be perfect, the product has to look perfect, too,” explains Uwe Weller. “That’s what Leica expects of us. And Leica’s customers expect it of Leica.” For example, the cine optics use a special type of aluminum that satisfies the highest requirements of material properties and processing. The lenses of different focal lengths consist of a large number of mechanical components, all of which are manufactured and anodized in the company. Focus and exposure scales are engraved into the lens rings and then filled with paint.

At the limits of what is possible

“To be able to achieve results like these, we are always working at the limits of what is possible,” says Uwe Weller’s son Michael, who is responsible for production control. The CNC turning/milling centers attain axial and radial run-out accuracy of a few micrometers, the specifications for a perfect surface finish are becoming higher and higher. To machine complex inside grooves in cam rings, for example, the recesses used to be milled from the outside. It is now possible to mill the parts from the inside. It’s when conventional methods, systems or tools reach their limits that the challenge really begins for Weller staff. “For special orders, we have to tread unknown paths and develop new tools and production strategies. It’s often a lengthy and costly process, but after all it significantly adds to the wealth of experience at our disposal for every new job,” says Michael Weller.

Precision engineering expertise out of the spirit of tradition

As if to furnish proof of this, Michael Weller takes us into a screened room that could, in this context, be called the heart of the production facility: here all the tools, jigs and gauges needed for the production process are systematically archived, stored and re-used as required. The range of precision engineering tools is impressive; many of them have been designed and made by Weller himself. The archive is in the competent hands of an employee, who makes sure it is kept in good order – she always knows which tools are in current use and where. The tools that are not being used are borrowed by the young apprentices for further workshop training. In this way Weller passes on the precision engineering expertise that once evolved from the spirit of tradition of great companies like Leitz, Hensoldt and Zeiss to further generations.

Trend toward flexibility and individualization

Of course, lens and riflescope bodies are still the key disciplines of Uwe Weller Feinwerktechnik. Over the past few years, however, the company has substantially extended its expertise: expertise that is in great demand in other industries and areas of business, too – whether lightweight components for aviation, high-quality controls for the car industry or electronically driven stepless objective nosepieces for microscopes designed in cooperation with Brückmann Elektronik GmbH in Lahnau. “We are able to produce well over 6,000 different items in various quantities according to customer order,” says Uwe Weller. “This trend toward flexibility and individualization will continue, as the demands in the high-end sectors of optics, medical technology and mechatronics are growing all the time.”

A decisive role in developing new ideas

The outstanding production expertise is a unique selling point that Weller has worked on for many years. Another one is the extensive know-how that enables the company to provide a comprehensive solution for the needs of each customer and cover all process-relevant technologies within the company. For example, Weller’s engineers often play a decisive role in developing new ideas or in projects for new products. Nowadays, it’s rarely a question of single components; whole modules or ready-assembled systems are increasingly in demand. At the end of the process chain is surface technology, another area which Weller has gradually expanded and refined over the past seven years. Almost 80 per cent of the components produced are made of aluminum and are galvanized in the company’s own surface technology department.

“Meanwhile it’s quite natural to provide customers with intensive support from the predevelopment stage to series maturity,” explains Uwe Weller. “The earlier customers involve us, the more effectively we can work together to find ways of making ideas practicable.” And it’s amazing how often they succeed. Ultimately, it seems, a new evolutionary miracle emerges every time: the very finest in precision engineering.


Additional Information:


Uwe Weller his son Michael, Member of the Management Team and responsible for Production Control.
Uwe Weller his son Michael, Member of the Management Team and responsible for Production Control.