This year, VIAOPTIC GmbH looks back on 20 years of company history. The company celebrated the occasion with an anniversary event for around 160 employees, which was also attended by the company advisory board and its chairman, Dr. Andreas Kaufmann.
The managing directors Bernhard Willnauer and Uwe Bommersheim welcomed the staff and guests and thanked the employees for their commitment and many years of loyalty with a ceremony.
Since the spin-off from Feinwerktechnik Wetzlar GmbH (FTW) in 2003, VIAOPTIC exists in its current form. The experience in the field of plastic optics goes back more than 50 years and began within the Leitz Group. Located in the Leitz-Park in Wetzlar, the company develops, manufactures, and assembles optical components and systems made of plastic. Within this product range, the company is one of the leading experts for the automotive, sensor technology, and medical technology industries.
Anniversary event with a celebration speech by Dr. Andreas Kaufmann
During the anniversary celebration, the managing directors Bernhard Willnauer and Uwe Bommersheim, the chairman of the works council Stefan Brandl and the chairman of the advisory board of VIAOPTIC, Dr. Andreas Kaufmann, delivered speeches and recounted key points of the company's history. The origins of VIAOPTIC dates back to the injection molding department of LEICA Camera AG, which was !!!then housed!!! in the Taubenstein facility under the name Feinwerktechnik Wetzlar (FTW). The combination of toolmaking, injection molding, and optical expertise from Leica provided the ideal conditions for producing optical components from plastic. Hardly any other company had been able to replicate this until then. In 2002, the idea of polymer optics became concrete and LEICA was seeking a new owner. The focus on polymer optics no longer aligned with LEICA cameras and binoculars. Thus, the idea of VIAOPTIC was born, and its journey to today's success story began on Ludwig-Erk-Straße in Wetzlar.
Without VIAOPTIC no entry of ACM 2004 at LEICA Camera AG
The new VIAOPTIC was born in 2003 with 25 employees and was taken over by Austrian Capital Management GmbH (ACM). As Dr. Andreas Kaufmann elaborated in his speech, VIAOPTIC played a role in two significant developments at LEICA. The investor ACM would not have decided to join LEICA if there had been no connection to the camera manufacturer through VIAOPTIC, and without VIAOPTIC's need for space and the search for a suitable site, the idea of Leitz Park would never have been born. But the first four years were difficult for the young company. Large investments were made, which at the same time laid the foundation for later growth. Plans for the location also became concrete in 2007 and VIAOPTIC, with 45 employees and 12 injection molding machines at the time, moved to the Leitz-Park optics campus in Wetzlar in 2009. At that time, the Leitz-Park consisted of only two companies, Uwe Weller Feinwerktechnik and VIAOPTIC.
Milestones and growth from 25 to over 100 employees
In the third year after moving to Leitz-Park, VIAOPTIC successfully established a crucial new technology for the company's future by setting up PVD (Physical Vapor Deposition) coating. At the same time, VIAOPTIC founded its assembly department in 2011 to combine optical and electronic components. Subsequent years were marked by continuous growth. Steady growth characterized the following years. In 2015, the company already had more than 100 employees and started with the process of continuous improvement process (CIP), better known as LEAN, which enables the company to continuously improve even today. Among other things, this paved the way from a national to an international player.
Another milestone was the entry into automation. This allowed VIAOPTIC to produce polymer optics in large-scale production at globally competitive prices in Germany. With five existing modular automation lines today, the company strengthen its position as an innovation and quality leader in the still young plastic optics industry.