November 2014 marked the first time in the history of space travel to witness a successful landing on a comet. Since then at the latest, the micro drive systems from Faulhaber in Schönaich are known even outside of specialist circles. The landing robot called Philae incorporated a total of 14 different drive systems made by the company. These systems withstood the harsh conditions in a vacuum with extremely low temperatures to travel more than 500 million kilometres through space.
Faulhaber drive systems are also at play in the large-scale telescopes used by scientists for stargazing. The miniature drives control up to 4,000 glass fibres in order to evaluate the laboriously collected light in the telescope in as small an area as possible and with a high light density. This is the only way to detect even the tiniest of faint objects. "Faulhaber offers the largest consolidated portfolio of innovative miniature and micro drive technologies in the world today", says head of marketing Andreas Seegen.
The parts are used in a vast range of different industries. For example, a micro drive dispenses fluids with an accuracy of up to 0.001 millilitres. Window wipers with pressure-resistant casing for biotechnological or chemical reactors are also designed in Schönaich. Modern electromechanical door lock cylinders have to reliably complete hundreds of thousands of locking cycles over many years. Even car displays benefit from the micro drives, which carry out their work almost invisibly and have to withstand large fluctuations in temperature as well as vibrations. Also, some of the more unusual designs would not be possible without the miniature drives. For example, one design tap by Hansgrohe, the premium manufacturer of bathroom fittings based in Baden-Württemberg, features water running over a rim and a quiet motor that controls the addition of water and the water temperature. Micro drive systems from Schönaich are also integrated in the handheld machines used to create tattoos and apply permanent make-up. Surgeons too are working on objects that are getting smaller all the time. Because the human eye can see tiny structures only with great difficulty, a microscope worn on the surgeon's head like a pair of glasses has set new standards. Tiny multiphase motors adjust the magnification and sharpness to suit any eye.
The company's success story started in Murrhardt in 1947. "Dr. Fritz Faulhaber Feinmechanische Werkstätte" was initially dedicated to the manufacture of electrical devices and safety locks. Just two years later, the production site was moved to Schönaich. The service portfolio of the fledgling company at the time included the manufacture of machines for the leather-processing industry as well as lathes, grinding and milling machines. In the early days, means were so scarce that the young company founder used the backs of calendar pages, packing paper and old cardboard to draw his designs on them. He laid the foundations for the company's success story eleven years later when he filed a patent for an ironless rotor coil. This new technology, known as the bell-type armature motor, allowed electrical drives to be reduced to a minimum size, heralding a new era in measuring and control technology as well as in the world of model train sets.
Today the family-managed group has development and production locations in Switzerland, the USA, Sweden, Romania and Hungary in addition to its headquarters. There are also sales partners and branches in more than 30 countries around the globe. The drive systems specialist currently employs over 1,600 employees, 600 of whom are based in Schönaich. "We always want to have a big technological lead with small products", says Dr. Fritz Faulhaber jun. when describing the company philosophy.