Head of Building Services
Technical order processing
And approximately 40 other staff
More than 20 years ago, we revolutionised the customised front panel business by developing Front Panel Designer, heralding customer-specific automated production in our company, long before the term Industry 4.0 was invented.
Today, as a medium-sized company based in Berlin and employing a staff of 60, we produce front panels, enclosures and milled parts with CNC precision. Our team includes people from the most diverse backgrounds, lifestyles and professions. Drawing on our pooled in-house expertise, we do our utmost every day to provide you with products of the highest quality. In practice this means that we produce every front panel to a customised order at our own facility, checking each one manually before they leave our premises. This is only made possible by the seamless organisation of internal teams within the company. Automating and digitalising work steps is a fundamental part of the corporate culture we embrace.
To ensure processes at the company remain independent and flexible, we develop our software in-house wherever possible using open source solutions. This applies equally to customisations in the free ERP system ADempiere and to optimisations in the production strategy – and of course very specifically and without exception to our Front Panel Designer.
You always have direct contact with us – irrespective of whether you have questions about Front Panel Designer or your order, or you need some technical advice. We really appreciate your feedback. Over the years, a lot of the innovative features in Front Panel Designer have started life as customer comments. Key milestones have included UV printing, glued-in studs and STEP export.
Across Europe, thousands of technicians, engineers, hobbyists and companies of all sizes place their trust in our long-standing production expertise and delivery dependability. We still have a lot of plans and will work passionately to keep impressing you with our quality, our service and innovation involving Front Panel Designer.
In 1961, the physicist Bernhard Schaeffer founded the family enterprise primarily producing an amusement machine that he had designed and developed – the Dynamometer. In the 1960s and 1970s, approximately 10,000 units were manufactured on the premises and marketed throughout Europe.
At the end of the 1970s, Bernhard Schaeffer designed another amusement machine, the original model of the Power Rocket, which was still to be found in the 1990s in many of Berlin’s amusement parks.
In the 1980s, the company started to develop and produce measuring instruments for thermodynamic research.
In 1992, Bernhard Schaeffer’s two sons joined the company. Jörg Schaeffer (technical computer scientist) and Kai Schaeffer (physicist) brought electronics and software to the company and formed a KG (Kommanditgesellschaft, limited partnership). Nevertheless, the manufacturing of front panels for the requested measuring systems in small production runs still involved laborious manual steps for the time being.
Files and drills ultimately gave way to the first CNC machine. This made everyday business increasingly easier, but the steps from drawing the front panel through to programming and right up to production remained cumbersome and time-consuming.
So, the idea for Front Panel Designer came about in 1997. Jörg und Kai Schaeffer developed a CAD/CAM system adapted to the production of front panels, which would allow individual customer wishes to be quickly and efficiently transferred to a CNC machine. The knowledge that many other engineers were facing the same problem sped up the decision to make free CAD software downloads available to customers on the Internet.
The first version of Front Panel Designer goes online! Customers could now configure and order their designs directly in the software. This step led to a completely new orientation: Demand for customised front panels was so great that Jörg and Kai Schaeffer have since then focused solely on the production of customised front panels.
Burgeoning order books meant that the company’s premises in the Zehlendorf area of Berlin, where 4 CNC machines were operating, quickly became too small. In spring 2001, the Schaeffers rented 450 m² near the original site and with five employees moved within Zehlendorf to Hohentwielsteig. Founder Bernhard Schaeffer increasingly dedicated his time to his own research projects.
Following on from the rapid growth in Germany, Schaeffer Apparatebau KG set up the partner company, Front Panel Express LLC, in 2002 in Seattle, USA, which has been growing ever since.
In 2004, brothers Kai and Jörg Schaeffer changed the corporate form of the enterprise to an AG (Aktiengesellschaft, stock corporation) and took over management of the business. At the same time, they rented an additional area of approximately 500 m² in the same building.
Relocation to Marienfelde, premises expanded to approximately 2,500 m². Schaeffer AG now employs 50 people. The company is continually enhancing and automating its internal processes with a keen eye on the future.
Commercially available, self-clinching threaded studs cause impressions on the opposite side of thin sheet metal used for front panels. In addition to the optical defect, this also affects the anodised coating. Schaeffer AG has therefore been using glued-in studs as standard from 2013. The process for this was developed and optimised in-house.
The Schaeffer brothers recognised the potential of digital printing for the production of front panels at an early stage and experimented with different processes in this area. After several years of research, UV printing is now offered as standard by Schaeffer AG and has been included in Front Panel Designer since Version 5.0.
Schaeffer AG celebrates 20 years in the front panel business. The webshop was opened. Here, customers can now place and manage their orders. Front Panel Designer is given a 3D view and the long-awaited STEP export.
Today, with a team of more than 60 employees, Schaeffer AG produces front panels and enclosures on 12 CNC machines, complemented by approximately 20 employees in the partner company in Seattle. The company remains true to its principles of quality, delivery dependability and innovation. Its customers include prominent companies, medium-sized engineering firms as well as ambitious individuals.