WS Thermal Process Technology is a medium-sized and owner-operated business with headquarters close to Stuttgart in Baden-Württemberg. With pride, we are looking back on our over 40 year long story of success.
Our innovative and high-quality products, continuous research and development activities, as well as our customer-centered service approach made us the prime partner for customers all over the world.
Like many defining moments, the founding story of WS is connected to various coincidences. So it happened that only drastic political changes in the Middle East led the business man Dr. G. Schönfelder to Stuttgart. A city that he had no connection with so far but one where he met Dr. J. A. Wünning one night. Dr. Wünning was already well-known and very respected in the world of thermal processing and long desired to found his own company in order to fully concentrate on his inventive spirit. Quickly both of them realized that they had a great opportunity in combining their talents. Wünning and Schönfelder were from now on known as WS and the young company started its path to revolutionize the thermal processing industry with high-efficiency and clean, low-emission gas burner technology.
Aside from maximum efficiency, a core goal of WS has always been to reduce NOx emissions to a minimum. Dr. J. A. Wünning therefore constantly ran tests in the WS lab facilities on how to further reduce thermal NOx emissions of high efficiency burners. So he did one day in 1989, when suddenly the visible flame disappeared and at the same time unusually low NOx emission were registered. This phenomenom could not be explained by science yet, so it cost WS two new exhaust gas analyzers until Dr. J. A. Wünning was finally convinced he discovered something very special that day.
That was when the revolutionary FLOX® technology came to life.
The first affiliated company within the WS group was founded in 1989 with the name ROLLMOD GmbH. Dr. J. A. Wünning always shared his passion for gas burners with his desire to solve the most complex problems in modern furnace building. A gas-tight transportation system for high-temperature industrial furnaces was the goal no-one was able to accomplish so far. But only until ROLLMOD entered the market with a modular system offering exactly what is needed to offer a superior alternative to traditional belt-furnaces.
Since that day, ROLLMOD has helped numerous customers to achieve extremely efficient heat treatment of high-quality products.
It did not take very long until the combustion community recognized that FLOX® would have a major impact on science and industrial applications for decades to come.
The 1990s were characterized by building a sound scientific foundation to the FLOX® phenomenon. Additionally, WS immediately started to follow a stringent path to commercialization over all existing product lines. When Dr. J. G. Wünning finalized his doctoral thesis about FLOX® combustion in 1996, there was no doubt anymore about FLOX® playing a major role in industrial combustion from thereon out.
Immediately after the succesful defense of his doctoral thesis, Dr. J. G. Wünning went on his way to the U.S.. He was determined to promote the idea of clean and efficient combustion within the large industrial community in North America. Even though energy efficiency with environmental goals in mind was not a primary goal in the US during the 1990s, the idea of saving fuel for more economic operation quickly caught on with customers. It did not take long until the first small and larger projects were realized with great success, leading to healthy growth from thereon out.
WS was on a path of growth not only in the U.S. but subsequently also in Germany. The ever growing demand for more space led to additional extensions of the existing buildings. Only a few years later, WS used the opportunity to purchase neighboring real estate in order to prepare for the anticipated growth of the future. A decision that proved very valuable only a few years later.
The extension of shop and office space proved right very quickly after being finalized. Aside from the ever growing success of WS combustion equipment, a new company was added to the WS group. Now that FLOX® was well established in industrial furnace applications, it was time to also introduce the technology to process engineering. Steam reforming of hydrocarbons qualifies as a particularly well-suited application, since FLOX® allowed for unique advantages for the clean, efficient and very uniform heating of these specialized reactors.
Early on, WS recognized the uniquie potential of hydrogen as a clean fuel of the future and founded WS Reformer GmbH in year 2003. Since then, the company concentrates on hydrogen production through thermochemical conversion processes. A variety of reformer modules and ammonia crackers are available for WS Reformer's customers. In addition, the company cooperates with many major players in the chemical industry.
After the turn of the millennium, FLOX® had already long been a very well established technology in industrial applications and in science. It was not surprising that several researchers approached WS with business ideas to make use of the unique advantages of FLOX® in additional technological areas. So it came to be that a group of renowned scientists cooperated with WS to found the company e-flox GmbH, aiming at the goal of using FLOX® combustion in energy related applications. While all were aware that there was some risk associated with these plans, the opportunities were much too big to pass on them.
Today, e-flox tackles major challenges of the energy revolution. Specialized solutions for emission abatement, combustion and use of LCV gases, and even the production of green hydrogen from biogas are made possible by the unique knowledge about FLOX® within the WS group.
While with WS Reformer and e-flox two new companies were added to the group, the core business of WS bloomed as well. Energy prices were on the rise globally and lowering their environmental impact became part of many companies' strategic goals. WS was able to achieve record order intakes after more and more customers recognized the huge potential for savings, especially in the operation of continuous galvanizing lines. WS was able to celebrate the most successful business years so far even though the world was trying to cope with a huge financial crisis at the same time.
At that time, only the move into additional offices and further extensions of the existing buildings made it possible for WS to cater to the huge demand for clean and efficient burner technology.
In 2011, the inventors of the FLOX® technology received the extraordinary honor of being awarded the DBU German Environmental Award, one of Europe's most prestigious environmental awards. The award is not only a testament to the relevance of FLOX® itself, but also to the relentless dedication both Dr. Wünning Sr. and Jr. have shown while bringing FLOX® to its global application in industrial combustion.
It has been a very special honor to have personally received the award from the German Federal President at the time, Mr. Christian Wulff and to share this distinct accolade with a long row of famous awardees.
The growth in the core WS business was driven by a good part due to the positive development of the US business. Here it was, where several continuous galvanizing lines were built at the same time and the demand for high efficiency and low emission burner technology skyrocketed. It was only logical for WS Inc. to invest in real estate and lay the foundation for future growth in North America.
Over 6 acres of land are now the home to the North America operations of WS, including room for burner repair, a dedicated service team, and a competent group for the engineering of new projects in the field of high-efficiency and low emission industrial heating systems.
There are not that many companies in the world able to build high quality fabricated parts based on temperature resistant, high nickel alloys. One of these specialized companies almost closed, and decades of experience were at stake. However, the WS group helped to avoid this loss in order to save an important vendor for both the WS group and the entire industry.
After the takeover and rebranding as TPC GmbH, the WS group now set foot at a new location and in a new field of business. From now on, the group was able to offer complete industrial combustion systems, consisting of fabricated radiant tubes and high-efficiency gas burners to the customer as an integrated system as a single source supplier.
Once the takeover of the TPC business was finalized, the order volume quickly increased to a level that justified the investment in a new building. Today, the home of TPC GmbH is in Haiger, Germany, close to the city of Siegen. A shop floor of more than 30,000 ft² with additional room for major expansion since then offers room for the fabrication of high quality alloy furnace parts. The high quality standards are well documented by the certifications DE EN ISO 9001 as well as DIN EN ISO 3834-2.
Major changes within the energy system have to lead to new ideas and solutions. In order to use regionally distributed potentials of green energy, several very different stakeholders need to work together. A common understanding of the overall goals as well as competent design and engineering of new plant concepts require sound understanding of the system itself and the parties involved.
Equipped with exactly these competences, as part of the WS group, Dr.-Ing. Andy Gradel and his team started the company BtX energy GmbH, aiming at solving the challenges connected to the use of biomass energy potentials. Core technologies are innovative systems for the gasification of wood as well as the thermochemical reformation of biogas in order to produce green hydrogen.
After all, we are convinced: the efficient use of distributed green local energy potentials from biomass will play a major role in the green energy revolution.
The future is green, at least the future of energy. That it will be just that has been considered a fact at WS for a long time already, as impressively proven by the group's history so far.
Therefore, the strategy was long laid out: Our products need to be green, clean, and efficient.
So it was no surprise that - once again - it was the market pioneer WS to be the first to make its gas burners "green gas ready", thus prepared for the future of green fuels. We do not only concentrate on one possible outcome, but aim at the use of green hydrogen as well as methanol or ammonia. Today, WS shows ways how to make the best use of fluctuating renewable electricity while still maintaining the same flexibility and reliability industrial applications have come to require and expect for decades.
After all, only those who are considering all possible paths to the future will come to offer the flexibility customers need in order to succeed in the ever changing conditions of the future energy system.
In order to further intensify the research and development activities, WS is heavily investing into professional lab infrastructure. Among other aspects, the seemless supply of our test furnaces with hydrogen and ammonia is key to our future success in research and development.
The future energy system concentrated on a medium-sized company: At WS, we take action long before the world has decided in which direction it wants to go exactly.
What started in a shop that felt "way too big" about 40 years ago, today does not fit into buildings many times the size. In order to account for the growth of all companies within the WS group, yet another new construction is required. Since all neighboring land is occupied, this time, we need to use land a few streets away from the headquarters. What is going to be built on another 2.5 acre lot will offer space for up to date manufacturing and R&D facilities, also for larger sized projects.
At the very minimum, the history of the WS group has shown one thing so far: For the protection of our environment, it is worth thinking big. With courage, ingenuity, and optimism we are now heading in to the future: Green, clean, and efficient.