As enthusiastic about technology as ever
This year, our family-owned company celebrates its 70th anniversary. Seven decades in which we have repeatedly led the market with a high level of innovation. 70 years in which the success of our customers has always been our top priority.
In 1956, Otto Bihler developed the world's first automatic stamping and forming machine. In 1987, we presented the world's first software for designing stamping and forming tools. At the turn of the millennium, the BIMERIC servo-controlled forming system revolutionized the production of metal parts from strip and wire material. In 2019, we received the Brose Innovation Award for a particularly material-efficient automation solution for waterproof electric motor housings. And with our latest modular machine and tool technology and our digital services, we are ideally positioned for future tasks.
We are already looking forward to continuing our partnership with you.
The American dream in the Allgäu
Today‘s company and the history of Bihler are inseparable from the founding father Otto Bihler. A pioneer straight from the book. A man who lived his American dream in the Allgäu.
Otto Bihler was born on 26th May, 1926 in the Schwangauer Strasse in Füssen. After leaving school he served an apprenticeship as an aircraft mechanic at Dornier in Pfronten. During World War II, the 18-year-old Otto Bihler served in Normandy and was taken to the USA in captivity as a prisoner of war for two years. There he had to assemble wooden crates for the machine tool builder U.S. BAIRD in Connecticut, but he would have much rather followed an apprenticeship as a toolmaker. In 1946, Otto Bihler returned to Germany and was first employed on the American airfield in Füssen.
Back home via Switzerland
Due to the good wages Otto Bihler moved to Switzerland in the early 50s to work as a skilled craftsman and save the capital to start his own business. In Olten Otto Bihler found a job at Stewo, where he became familiar with the problems of spring production. He soon decided to develop his own spring coiling machine. Technical ideas were influenced by Edward Brüller, who he had gotten to know and appreciate at the MUBA trade fair in Basel in 1952, and who also worked at Stewo. Otto Bihler left Switzerland in 1953, founded his own machine shop in Füssen, and began manufacturing springs and simple devices for the production of springs. The headquarters of the one-man operation was located in the rooms adjoining the garage of his friend Franz Osterried in the Ziegelwies. In 1954, the financial means started coming to an end and so Otto Bihler was looking for a partner. With the timber merchant Böckling Bihler founded the Bihler Böckling-limited partnership in 1955, and the shares of the company were split 50/50. In 1956 Böckling went bankrupt, and the livelihood created by Otto Bihler with hard word was threatened to be ruined.
Together we are strong
At this critical juncture the paths of Otto Bihler (right) and Martin Niklas crossed once again. The two had made friends at a younger age during their common interests of skiing and motorcycling. „Together we are strong“, was the motto when Martin Niklas stood up for Otto Bihler at the bank and allowed him and his small team to continue their work.
A brilliant idea
Initially, Otto Bihler worked in the basement of the house of his first employee‘s parents, Max Schneider, in Pfronten. This is where the two began the production of the UFA 1 spring coiling machine. Later they moved into a larger workshop with eight people - a rented mill in Pfronten-Weissbach. It was a rough time for the small workshop that had to fight for its existence from day to day. But it was also the time of a brilliant idea, because here in Pfronten Otto Bihler developed the world‘s first stamping and forming machine based on ideas of Eduard Brüller, the so called RM 25. At the time, the machine was still divided into two parts so that it would fit through the front door.
The breakthrough at the Hannover Fair
In 1957, the money was running out again, but Otto Bihler and his small team scraped together all their savings in order to present the new radial machine RM 25 and the spring coiling machine UFA 1 at the Hannover Industrial Fair. With their last Deutsch-Mark Otto Bihler and Xaver Settele bought a chicken for lunch on their way to Hannover and ate it right by the roadside. The five days at the fair were a huge success and both machines were all the rage. The cost for the RM 25 on the first day of the fair was DM 7,000, but then the price rose by DM 1,000 every day. Despite this brilliant price increase, the order books were full after the fair, and now a separate, own building for the company was urgently required. The local banks however refused Otto Bihler any support for his young company, he had no collateral to show.
The success story continues
During this difficult situation, once again the owner of the Halblech sawmill, Martin Niklas, helped him out. He provided Otto Bihler with a piece of land in Halblech as well as financial resources, without requiring any collateral. All that was needed was a gentleman‘s agreement between two friends. Just one year later the first plant was built in Halblech. The total number of employees in 1958 was 18 people, including men of the first hour such as Max Schneider, Xaver Settele and Hans Riedhofer. Bihler immediately began training young people to become toolmakers, millwrights, electricians, technical draftsmen and industrial managers. In the coming decades the company grew steadily. In 1984, Otto Bihler was awarded the German Federal Cross of Merit by the German President for exemplary achievements in vocational education, and in 1989 for his contributions to the Federal Republic of Germany. He has been closely connected to his hometown Füssen during his whole life and donated substantial amounts to the municipal museum again and again.
„You always have to be the best!“
Otto Bihler died at the age of 68 on 19th February 1995 while snowmobiling in the Ammergau Alps. His life philosophy was always: „You can only exist on the market as long as you‘re the best.“ He lived this philosophy every day, and we will continue to do so.
70 years Bihler machines
UFA 1, KRM, RMP 25, BSA 45, ORM 0 or GL 3000. Who still remembers the old types? It's been a while. All these machines have contributed to the success of Bihler.
At the very beginning the machines still seemed simple in their construction. But even then, the basic concept was the same as in today's stamping and forming machines. Many things have been improved and optimized over the decades. The result are pioneering manufacturing systems such as the GRM-NC, the BIMERIC Modular or the new LM 2000 linear machines. What has remained unchanged is the unique "Bihler quality".
Mach-speed in production
What really lies behind all the abbreviations and numbers? It all began in 1953 with the Universal Automatic Spring Coiling Machine UFA 1. It was followed by the world's first radial machine RM 25 in 1956. The "25" meant that the total force of all units was a maximum of 25 tons. The RM 25 was followed by the GRM 50 (right), a large radial machine with a total force of 50 tons. The MACH-1 (above) broke the "sound barrier" in many companies with 1,000 strokes. In 1999, the Bihler presented the complete Multicenter MC series to the market. The "42" in the MC 42 for instance meant that the machine is compatible with the tools of the RM 40 and has two processing sides.
Bihler goes numerical
In 2000, the first completely NC-controlled production system BIMERIC is introduced. The word "BIMERIC" is made up of the words "Bihler" and "numeric". In 2005, the COMBITEC was introduced. It combines a strong press and large forming forces in one machine. By the way: KRM refers to circle (Kreis) radial machine, RMP 25 is a RM 25 with a large upstream press (P) and BSA 45 stands for Bihler high-speed stamping machine (Schnellstanzautomat). With the ORM 0 the “O” is a zero and means that this RM type was the smallest one and GL 3000 means large linear machine (Grosse Linearmaschine) with three central wheels. Is everything clear now?
A successful Italian-Bavarian partnership
In 1956, Carlo A. Carutti was looking for Otto Bihler and stood a little helplessly at the train station in Pfronten. His father had sent him to track down the mechanical engineer.
Carlo A. Carutti spoke only a few words of German, had no address for Bihler, and was surprised to learn that Pfronten consisted of thirteen districts. Via some detours, he finally arrived at Bihler's backyard workshop in a small house covered with wooden shingles. He descended four steps, then entered a room that was completely covered with drawings on the floor and walls. In the middle of the room there was also a large drawing table. It was here that Carlo A. Carutti first saw the reason for his journey: the world's first RM 25 radial stamping-forming machine, and its inventor: the young, notorious skier, daring ski jumper and skilled aircraft mechanic Otto Bihler.
Representative by handshake
The machine was simply ingenious and ingeniously simple. Aggregates arranged in a circle around a center on an inclined worktop. This concept brought decisive advantages in the processing of wire and strip material. Enthusiastic, Carlo A. Carutti called his father, who immediately gave his approval for the purchase. "I'll buy it," was all the Italian said to Otto Bihler, who looked at him in amazement with his big black eyes. As if he didn't trust the man in the black, wide-brimmed hat, who could easily have been mistaken for a Mafioso. But the latter confidently extended his hand to him and with a handshake the two young men sealed their cooperation. Carlo A. Carutti thus became Bihler's representative in Italy. After Otto Bihler and Carlo A. Carutti presented the RM 25 at the Milan Engineering Fair, they sold the machine like hot cakes. For one of the first Italian customers, Otto Bihler commuted countless times in his Borgward between Pfronten and Italy to commission the machine, complete with tools. In the years that followed, Bihler's automatic machines sold as if by themselves, especially in the north of Italy. Here, it was particularly wire processors and punching shops that were able to significantly increase their productivity and quality with the new machines.
Advertising material in the last millennium
Over the last seven decades, not only the appearance of Bihler machines has changed, but our advertising material has also been subject to textual and visual changes over time.
At that time, there were no digital media and company brochures were very important. They advertised for the favor of customers with carefully considered words, without anglicisms and with long nested sentences. The black-and-white photographs were still real handwork and usually presented a lot of metal and no people. But these simply designed, comprehensive brochures contained all the important information needed to win the trust of customers. And if you leaf through them today, many of the advantages of Bihler machines are still valid.
As an example, here is the introductory text of a Bihler company brochure from the 1960s in German language: