Plzeň/Friedrichshafen. Roughly a year after construction began, ZF Friedrichshafen AG has opened its extended R&D Center in Plzeň. The location in the west of the Czech Republic has a workforce of around 250 employees responsible for development services for the ZF Group and its divisions.
“Strong research and development is fundamental to ZF as a technology company,” says ZF Chief Executive Officer Dr. Stefan Sommer. “The extension of our R&D Center in Plzeň is an important step in further expanding our capacities in this area globally.” ZF had taken over the Plzeň location from an independent engineering service provider in 2007.
With the new building, ZF has doubled the usable space in its R&D Center to around 7,000 square meters. In addition to office space, the R&D Center houses facilities for manufacturing prototypes, fixtures and jigs, as well as laboratories along with test benches for climate and service life testing. The main fields of expertise of ZF Engineering Plzeň, which Dr. Mathias Eickhoff has been in charge of since January 1 of this year, include software development and software testing as well as the development and qualification of mechatronic components. The engineers support the designers of mechanical components with calculations, fine-tuning, and 3-D modeling. Rapid Prototyping has also always been an integral part of the Plzeň facility’s expertise − an area of expertise ZF is now further expanding by commissioning the first 3-D metal printers in the Group. This will allow geometrically complex parts, such as functional prototypes or tool inserts, to be manufactured directly from metal or aluminum by means of additive processes. This technique makes manufacturing faster and cheaper than traditional processes involving metal machining and processing. ZF has invested €4 million (around CZK 100 million) in the expansion of the R&D Center.
Over the past eight years, not only has the building increased in size but the number of employees in Plzeň has also risen substantially – from 50 to the current 250. “We are delighted that our research and development location in Plzeň has developed so positively and highly qualified engineers are choosing to join ZF as an attractive employer,” said Jürgen Holeksa, Member of the Board of Management and Director of Labor Relations at ZF, at the opening ceremony in Plzeň on Wednesday. “We also benefit from the University of West Bohemia in Pilsen, whose graduates we welcome with open arms at ZF.” Students in particular from the electrical engineering and information technology faculties as well as software and hardware developers are in demand, as are mechanical engineering graduates for design and computational tasks.
ZF in the Czech Republic
ZF is represented at eight locations altogether in the Czech Republic, namely in Benesov, Frydlant, Jablonec, Klasterec, Plzeň, Repov, Stankov, and Stara Boleslav. The company employs approximately 3,200 people in the country. Last year, ZF – still excluding TRW – generated sales of nearly €100 million in the Czech Republic.