The Institute of Production Engineering and Photonic Technologies has a long and rich history:
The institutional roots of the Vienna University of Technology, founded in 1815 as the "k. k. Polytechnic Institut in Vienna," can be traced back to military and technical schools that emerged in Austria and throughout Europe in the early 18th century. These schools included military engineering academies, mining academies, construction academies, as well as "Realakademien" with a predominantly commercial focus.
The establishment of these schools was driven by a growing demand from government administrations, the military, and the economy for professionals with technical and scientific education. For states like the Habsburg Monarchy, another motive emerged towards the end of the 18th century: the desire to catch up with England's clearly visible industrial lead as quickly as possible and thereby improve state finances in the long run. The direct inspiration for the founding of the Vienna institution was the "École polytechnique" established in Paris in 1795, and one of its immediate precursors was the "k. k. Realhandlungsakademie" founded in Vienna by Georg Fischer in 1770 (later known as Realschule (secondary school) at St. Anna). As early as 1797, the "Studienhofkommission," responsible for education in the monarchy, had been considering creating a central technical school, naturally located in the imperial capital and residence city of Vienna. However, these plans were initially interrupted by the wars against Napoleon.
On April 4, 1805, Emperor Franz II (I) (1768-1835) instructed the Studienhofkommission to prepare an opinion on the establishment of a polytechnic institute in Vienna. In March 1810, Johann Joseph Prechtl (1778-1854), at that time a professor at the Wiener Realschule zu St. Anna, was entrusted with the development of an organizational - and study plan for such an institution.
On November 6, 1815, the k. k. Polytechnics Institut was officially inaugurated. In the first half of the 19th century, the Vienna institution was by far the largest institution of its kind in the Habsburg Monarchy (similar educational institutions were eventually established in Prague, Graz, Brno, and Lviv). It served as a model for numerous new polytechnic schools in cities of the German Confederation, such as Karlsruhe in 1825 and Hanover in 1831.
Tasks and Organization
Prechtl aimed to establish a university-like institute with academic freedom for professors and students, and this was the truly innovative aspect of his concept. According to the "constitution" of the Polytechnic Institute of 1817, it was intended to fulfill three main tasks:
- Function as a technical educational institution with scientific aspirations,
- Serve as a "conservatory for sciences and arts" (today, a technological exhibition),
- Act as an association to promote the "national industry."
As a technical educational institution, the institute comprised a technical and a commercial department and a two-year Realschule (secondary school) as a preparatory school.
Already at the founding of the Polytechnic Institute in 1815 (opened on November 6th), the subject of "Empirical Technology" was introduced as a core subject in the Technical Department of the Polytechnic Institute and soon renamed "Mechanical Technology". Georg Altmütter, appointed as professor of Mechanical Technology in July 1816, is considered the founder of systematic tool theory and together with his student Karl Karmarsch (who later became director and principal teacher at the higher technical school in Hanover in 1831) and Johann Joseph von Prechtl, he authored the "Technological Encyclopedia". Altmütter established the "Fabriksproduktenkabinett" (Factory Products Cabinet), which comprised around 20,000 sample pieces in 1823, and his tool collection, which went beyond the needs of the Polytechnic Institute, became an institution of significant importance.
Photo: Georg Altmütter (Source: Technisches Museum Wien)
Successors to Altmütter were Jakob Reuter (1858-1863), Rudolf von Kulmer (1863-1865), and Ignaz Heger (1865-1880).
In 1880, Friedrich Arzberger took over the professorship and delivered the entire content of Mechanical Technology in three lectures:
- Mechanical Technology I: Raw materials and the processing of metals through casting, forging, and rolling, including the necessary equipment for these processes.
- Mechanical Technology II: Tools and machine tools for the machining of metals and wood.
- Mechanical Technology III: Fiber materials, spinning, weaving, and paper manufacturing.
In 1911, the professorship of "Mechanical Technology II and Machine Tools" (teaching of material processing including related machinery) was established, serving as a predecessor to the Institute of Production Engineering, with Prof. Julius Urbanek appointed to the position.
In 1924, the establishment of a teaching workshop for academic studies took place. During World War II, it was utilized for defense-related tasks and played a leading role in the production of training materials.
© Bildarchiv der Österreichischen Nationalbibliothek
Photo: Laboratory in the 1920s (photo archive of the Austrian National Library))
In 1946, Ludwig Tschirf took on the role of an authorized representative for the re-establishment of the Vienna University of Technology, reconstructed the institute and the laboratory, and was appointed its head in the same year.
In 1958, the institute's scope was expanded with the introduction of several business-related subjects, leading to its renaming as the "Institute for Mechanical Technology II and Industrial Engineering."
Prof. Ludwig Tschirf initiated a teaching assignment on "Factory Plant Construction" at the Faculty of Civil Engineering, which was established in 1958 by Jaro Merinsky at the Institute of Civil Engineering for civil engineering students. This course was designed for both civil engineering and mechanical engineering students. Thanks to the collaboration between the mechanical and civil engineering departments, students from both disciplines could work on industrial construction projects together in an interdisciplinary manner as early as the late 1950s, giving rise to the Institute for Industrial Construction.
In 1969/70, the Laboratory for Manufacturing Technology was completed on Engerthstraße, where mechanical engineering students have since been conducting their manufacturing technology internships.
Photo: Production Engineering Laboratory, Engerthstraße 119, 1220 Vienna (Source: IFT)
In 1980, the Department of Industrial Engineering and Business Administration was separated and merged with the existing Institute of Ergonomics (established in 1965) to form a new Institute of Industrial and Business Sciences (now known as the Institute of Management Sciences). Simultaneously, the "Institute of Production Technology II and Industrial Engineering" was renamed the "Institute of Production Technology."
In 1982, Helmar Weseslindtner (Associate Professor of Production Technology) assumed the leadership of the institute and was appointed as Full Professor for "Computer-Aided Manufacturing" in 1986. The chair of "Production Technology" at the Institute of Production Technology was filled by Professor Acel, who led the Department of "Theoretical Technology and Machine Tool Construction" within the institute.
Under Weseslindtner's guidance, the institute entered the era of computer-aided manufacturing. During his years of work at Scharmann & Co., Mönchengladbach, he developed a completely novel concept for computer-guided, integrated manufacturing systems, which was subsequently implemented in extensive industrial projects. Upon his return to the Vienna University of Technology and assuming leadership of the institute, the concepts for computer-integrated manufacturing systems were continually advanced through collaboration with renowned manufacturers in the Austrian and German machine tool industry (such as Scharmann, Deckel, Maho, Hüller Hille, Heid) in Vienna.
Photo: Helmar Weseslindtner (Source: IFT)
Especially in the construction of highly automated production facilities, a purely static design of plant components using conventional methods is inadequate, as it does not consider the influence of dynamic or control-related components. While the initial systems were examined based on physical models (the following image shows a model of a Flexible Manufacturing System for processing vehicle frames), Weseslindtner soon embraced computer-assisted simulation, which was utilized at the institute as a modern tool in numerous industry projects and further developed in collaboration with international research institutions (e.g., within the scope of the EU project "Forcast").
Photo: Functional model of a flexible manufacturing system (Source: IFT)
During this time, the first experimental laboratory for industrial robots is established at the Institute of Manufacturing Technology, aiming to explore the possibilities and integration of this new technology in the fields of manufacturing and assembly, making it accessible to a wide audience of experts. As part of the microelectronics funding program decided by the Federal Council in 1985, numerous initiatives are launched, and several pioneering projects are successfully executed in collaboration with Austrian companies such as Kapsch, Schrack, Siemens, or Philips. The institute also participates in the "Joint Coordinating Forum for the International Advanced Robotics Programme," which aims to promote international cooperation in robot system development, and conducts the first comprehensive study on the development and use of industrial robots in Austria (funded by the Federal Ministry of Science and Research).
By the late 1980s, the focus shifts towards integrating manufacturing with the upstream areas of CAD (Computer-Aided Design), CAP (Computer-Aided Planning), and PPS (Production Planning and Control). Due to increasing interest from the Austrian industry in implementing comprehensive CIM (Computer-Integrated Manufacturing) concepts and the growing demand for development and consultation in this field, the first CIM laboratory is established at the TU in collaboration with renowned computer manufacturers such as IBM, Siemens Nixdorf, and DEC, initiated by Professor Weseslindtner. Later, this laboratory is integrated into the Interuniversity Center for Computer-Integrated Manufacturing (IUCCIM), founded in 1991 as a joint venture of several institutes from the Vienna University of Technology and the Vienna University of Economics and Business. Professor Weseslindtner serves as the head of this organization from 1991 to 1997, and its mission is to intensify interuniversity research in this emerging field. Thanks to Weseslindtner's excellent industrial contacts, the establishment is generously sponsored with significant donations, resulting in a substantial investment boost for the participating institutes. Furthermore, knowledge transfer from universities to the industry is intensified through a series of university courses designed for executives. In 1997, the Institute of Manufacturing Technology withdraws from the IUCCIM consortium and subsequently takes over the production technology laboratory at the Aspanggründe location (known as the "Funkehalle").
The Teaching and Learning Enterprise - IUCCIM
In the 1990s, Prof. Weseslindtner led numerous international research projects and received recognition, including the "Eureka Lillehammer Award" for the most innovative product development. Towards the late 1990s, the institute's focus shifted back towards technology. Research topics in contract research included tool optimization, assessment of cutting fluids, cooling lubricants and machining processes, process comparisons, machining of new materials, the use of minimum quantity lubrication, optimization of cutting performance of water-abrasive jet cutting heads, and advancements in the medical field such as bone drilling.
After the passing of Professor Acel, the chair of "Production Technology" was renamed to "Chipless Manufacturing Processes" and filled by Professor Schuöcker in 1995. The department "Theoretical Technology and Machine Tool Construction" was renamed to "Physical Technology" in 1997 and was also led by Prof. Schuöcker. In 1998, the department was separated from the institute and incorporated into the newly established "Institute of Chipless Manufacturing and High-Performance Laser Technology," which was later renamed to the "Institute of Forming Technology and High-Performance Laser Technology" in 2004.
In 2008, as part of the faculty's reorganization, the reunification of the two institutes is decided, forming the "Institute of Production Engineering and High-Performance Laser Technology." After the passing of Prof. Weseslindtner in 2008, Prof. Schuöcker assumes the leadership of the institute until his retirement in 2009.
In 2009, Friedrich Bleicher is appointed as professor of Production Engineering and assumed the institute's leadership.
Photo: Friedrich Bleicher (Source: IFT)
The Chair of Metal Forming and High-Performance Laser Technology is filled by Professor Andreas Otto in 2011.
In 2012, the Learning and Innovation Factory is established as an initiative of the Institutes of "Production Technology and High-Performance Laser Technology," "Management Sciences," and "Design Sciences and Technical Logistics."
In 2018, the institute's laboratory, along with all the machinery and laboratory staff, relocates to the new facility called “TEC-LAB Laboratory for Production Engineering“. The old laboratory locations in Engerthstraße and Landstraße Hauptstraße are closed.
In 2019, the institute is renamed to "Institute of Production Engineering and Photonic Technologies."
In the development of manufacturing processes for modern mechanical engineering, the institute is one of the most significant research centers for manufacturing technology in Central Europe, with around 100 employees and well-equipped laboratories. The institute conducts applied research in areas such as manufacturing technology development, machine tool engineering, manufacturing automation, digitization, and quality assurance. It is a tradition at TU Wien, and specifically at the Institute of Production Engineering, to support technology transfer through project partnerships with industry to ensure their competitiveness. As a result, approximately 80 percent of all research projects are carried out in collaboration with industrial companies. Innovative manufacturing concepts have been implemented in many R&D projects through the application of specific designs of machine tool structures and manufacturing processes.
Since 2004, more than 1,000 projects have been successfully completed in cooperation with over 450 national and international partners from industry and academia. These project activities have also resulted in a number of patents. This opportunity is not only being taken by large companies to stay technologically up-to-date but also by many medium-sized enterprises. In this regard, the institute often acts as a company's outsourced innovation, research, and development hub. Over the past ten years, the institute has evolved from a small Faculty of Mechanical Engineering department into a fully-fledged scientific unit, divided into two research units with four research groups.