ZF Friedrichshafen has opened its extended R&D Centre in Plzen.

The location in the west of the Czech Republic has a workforce of around 250 employees responsible for development services for the ZF Group and its divisions.

"Strong research and development is fundamental to ZF as a technology company," said chief executive officer Stefan Sommer. "The extension of our R&D Centre in Plzen is an important step in further expanding our capacities in this area globally."

ZF took over the Plzen location from an independent engineering service provider in 2007.

With the new building, ZF has doubled the usable space in its R&D Centre to around 7,000 sq m. In addition to office space, the centre houses facilities for manufacturing prototypes, fixtures and jigs, as well as laboratories along with test benches for climate and service life testing.

The main fields of expertise of ZF Engineering Plzen, run by Mathias Eickhoff since 1 January, include software development and software testing as well as the development and qualification of mechatronic components. The engineers support the designers of mechanical components with calculations, fine tuning, and 3D modelling. Rapid prototyping has also always been an integral part of the Plzen facility's expertise - an area of expertise ZF is now further expanding by commissioning the first 3D metal printers in the group. This will allow geometrically complex parts, such as functional prototypes or tool inserts, to be manufactured directly from metal or aluminium by means of additive processes. This technique makes manufacturing faster and cheaper than traditional processes involving metal machining and processing.

ZF has spent EUR4m (US$4.47m) expanding the centre.

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