Manfred Weck Receives Aachen Engineering Award

Five people looking into the camera Andreas Schmitter

For the fourth time RWTH and the City of Aachen have awarded a scientist for outstanding achievements. The Aachen Engineering Award was presented to Manfred Weck for his lifework on September 8, 2017. The Solinger native, who will turn 80 in November, was head of the Chair of Machine Tools from 1973 to 2004 and director of the Laboratory of Machine Tools WZL at RWTH.

The ceremony in the Coronation Hall at Aachen City Hall honored a man considered to be a pioneer in the field of machine tools and production facilities. This was emphasized by professor Joachim Milberg, former chair of BMW AG and professor at the Chair of Machine Tools at TU Munich. Actually, Manfred Weck was supposed to have taken up these positions at the time. However, he remained at the WZL in Aachen and dedicated himself to the behavior of machine tools. He created, for example, methods, with which the static, dynamic, and thermal behavior of machine tools can be simulated, visualized, and optimized. "Manfred Weck not only intensively conducted scientific work in his field but also paved the way outside of his field providing stimuli across Germany and Europe and around the world."

For more than three decades Manfred Weck shaped research in the fields of development and design, metrological investigation and evaluation of machine tools, control and automation tehcnology, and handling techniques and robotics "with enthusiasm, dedication, and an uninterrupted wealth of ideas." As an innovator, he influenced the great changes in production technology of his time and shaped the change towards highly precise high-tech devices.

The new recipient of the Engineering Award was significantly involved in the introduction of CIM technology, that is computer-supported production. "Without these previous achievements Germany would not have become a leading market for technologies in Industrie 4.0," stated Milberg. Furthermore, with his scientific and very practically-oriented research, Weck contributed to overcoming the challenges of German machine tool engineering in competition with the Japanese. Last but not least, Weck was also an outstanding teacher, who valued a good balancein engineering studies between theory and practice and idea and the implementation into a usable product. Over the course of 31 years Weck supervised almost 240 doctoral dissertations and more than 1,000 Diplom theses and final projects. This demonstrated his passion and life-time achievement as a professor, according to Milberg.

RWTH awards the prize to highlights its tradition in engineering education, explained RWTH Rector Ernst Schmachtenberg. Engineers are the drivers of technological breakthroughs and these individuals should be put first. Lord Mayor Marcel Philipp emphasized the importance of the university to the city. Many important innovations have originated in Aachen, many of which were developed at the WZL.

The Association of German Engineers, VDI, endows the award every year with the sculpture "Intersecting Ellipses," which Manfred Weck also received this year. VDI president Udo Ungeheuer knows Weck from his time as a chief engineer at the WZL. At the time he learned to appreciate Weck's leadership skills and outstanding knowledge. "Weck is the type of person who is terribly missed nowadays: clear ideas, great tenacity, and one hundred percent reliable."

When asked for his impression of the award ceremony, the award recipient gave a sample of his previously lauded humor: "I was very impressed with myself," said Weck. He accepted the award on behalf of all the colleagues at WZL. Without such coworkers, work with that degree of success would never have been possible. Weck described this as a special "we-feeling" at the WZL, where one learned to meld with others for the good of the group. As a researcher and university professor he had a wonderful time. "I view myself as a practican and theorist. This allows me to offer a great deal to the younger generation."

He will have an opportunity to do exactly that at the RWTH Graduation Celebration at the Aachen Dressage Stadium. As the recipient of the Aachen Engineering Award, Manfred Weck will give the keynote address.