Born in Konstanz in 1867, Ernst Sachs had shown an evident interest in technical mechanisms and great sporting ambitions from an early age. As an amateur driver, he celebrated his first successes in bicycle racing, but found that the bicycle's bearings did not run smoothly enough. His striving for perfection consequentially led to the development of the first precision hub. After moving to Schweinfurt, he met the accomplished merchant Karl Fichtel.

Dedicated to progress: Ernst Sachs.

Rapid rise

The patenting of Sachs' invention led to the joint decision to found the "Schweinfurter Präzisions-Kugellager-Werke Fichtel & Sachs" on August 1, 1895, for the production of ball bearings and wheel hubs for bicycles. The market launch of the Torpedo free-wheeling hub for bicycles in 1903 marked the start of the company's rise. The breakthrough of the bicycle as a means of mass transportation resulted in rapid growth; in 1905, Fichtel & Sachs already had 900 employees.

The Torpedo free-wheeling hub was the basis of success.

New products for mobility

When Commercial Director Karl Fichtel died early and unexpectedly in 1911, Ernst Sachs took over the sole management of the company that had grown to around 2,600 employees. Against the backdrop of the economic crisis, Sachs transformed the company into a corporation in 1923 before selling the ball bearing division in 1929 and focusing on the production of vehicle engines, clutches, and shocks and dampers. One of his last developments was a light two-stroke engine that was installed in almost all small motorized bicycles of leading manufacturers as of 1932. The inventor died in the same year and his son Willy took over the company.In 1945, after the turmoil of the war, 67 percent of the plant facilities in Schweinfurt were destroyed; in spite of this, production was restarted at the end of the year. New sales success was achieved at the beginning of the fifties with the legendary "Sachser," a 50 cc engine with a two-speed transmission for mopeds.

The path to a global brand

With the market success of other innovative developments, the parent plant in Schweinfurt had to be doubled in size in 1969. In addition, several companies were acquired and the corporation took the first step into North America, before Mannesmann AG acquired the majority of shares in 1987. The company's internationalization continued and in 1995 Fichtel & Sachs was represented around the globe, with 38 production and sales companies. Renamed ZF Sachs AG, the company became part of the ZF Group in 2001 and was merged into ZF Friedrichshafen AG in 2011. Today, products of the SACHS brand are successfully sold internationally by ZF Services, together with the LEMFÖRDER, TRW, BOGE and OPENMATICS brands.

Rapid development in the 60s and 70s.

Opening of the SACHS exhibition 2015

The eventful and successful history of the SACHS brand and family has been on display in an exhibition on the ZF plant grounds in Schweinfurt since May 2015. On 850 square meters in a reconstructed former manufacturing shop, visitors will not only find displays on the company history, but also a great number of exhibits. In order to make history tangible and provide visitors with a first-hand experience, the exhibition is divided into four sections: The company history from 1895 to 2011, the technological highlights and milestones, the commitment to motorsports up to Formula 1, and an outlook on current developments in e-mobility and lightweight design.

A look into the past and the future on 850 square meters.

Further information

ZF Friedrichshafen AG SACHS exhibition

Ernst-Sachs-Straße 62
D-97424 Schweinfurt

The exhibition can be visited Monday to Friday in guided tours with a group size of between 15 and 24 people.

Admission is free

Visitors must register in advance: Inquiries for dates and reservations can be e-mailed to