Home » The History of the KARL DEUTSCH Company


The History of the

(by Prof. Dr. Volker Deutsch)

Prof. Dr. Volker Deutsch in front of a painting of
Karl Deutsch (in 1997)
The last time I summarized the history of the KARL DEUTSCH Company was for the occasion of our 40th anniversary in 1989, which was published as a brochure. Many have requested a new edition but the devices shown in 1989 are already outdated and have been replaced by a new generation.


Therefore, I want to tell the full story of KARL DEUTSCH again, starting with the early, difficult years.

This writing is again dedicated to the memory of my father Karl Deutsch and I also would like to express my gratitude towards my customers, my diligent co-workers and to my wife for their contribution to my successful work.
 The beginning
After the terrible world war and chaotic post-war years, Germany returned to normality. There was new money - too little - but at least one could buy something again. The prices remained stable and hard work was rewarded again. Some people were lucky to keep their property, home and friends. Many others lost everything except the will to work and their energy but they were optimistic!

Among those was my father Karl Deutsch. Has was born in 1900 in Wittenberge/Prignitz (near Magdeburg, Germany). After the war he was almost 50-years-old. He lost all his property in East Germany but he managed to protect his family from the bombings. The entire family survived the long trek from East to West Germany and outlasted the black-market period. In his search for work after the capitulation, he was drifting westwards and in 1946 he became manager of a wire mill in Neuenrade (100 miles west of Wuppertal). The wire was made from aluminum alloy and it was suitable for metal spraying. Karl Deutsch became interested in this technique because it enabled him to repair worn machine parts. This seemed promising.

Karl Deutsch (at the Hanover Fair 1951)

Karl Deutsch was an ingenious engineer and so he tried to improve the unimpressive "state-of-the-art".

The result was a new spray gun with a completely new wire transport system - his first patent after the war. A prototype was made and it worked!

 The first LEPTOSKOP
Initial experiments with the spray gun led to the need for measuring the thickness of the applied layer. A Coating Thickness Gauge was required but not available. Karl Deutsch was hoping to get help from the Institute for Material Science at the Technical University of Hannover, Germany where research was done on metal spraying. Prof. Matting, head of the institute, could not help, but his senior engineer proposed to develop such a device. Very soon a prototype was built. A small workshop was quickly found to produce the first series. The name LEPTOSKOP was created while having a beer in a pub where someone was bragging about his high school education: "Leptos" is Greek for thin. Karl Deutsch believed that this instrument could be a stable base for his own new business.

At the Hannover-Fair in 1948, Karl Deutsch had a stand "very small, far back in a corner and close to the toilets, therefore cheap but everybody had to pass by", as he recalled later. And he was lucky! He met important employees of the trading company Hahn&Kolb from Stuttgart. They knew each other from working together during the war. More or less out of pity, Hahn&Kolb offered to act as an agent for Karl Deutsch's LEPTOSKOP. They met again in Wuppertal, our new hometown which is located near Cologne. An order for 25 devices was placed. Also Karl Deutsch was offered the Hahn&Kolb agency for the area in and around Wuppertal. He founded his new company on May 13th, 1949 and specified the aims of his company with the appendage "Spray & Welding Equipment".

Representing Hahn&Kolb was a lot of work, but also valuable especially since many contacts to the industry resulted from this position. One day, the head of the research laboratory of a small steel mill showed Karl Deutsch a journal paper on the Sperry-Reflectoscope, the world's first ultrasonic flaw detector. It was developed during the war to find delaminations in the armored plating of tanks. He thought that this device would be useful for the German steel industry and "the market should be big enough to sell 10 units per year".

Karl Deutsch showed this paper to a young man named Branscheid who had approached him and had offered to build "something electronic". He used to be a radio operator during the war and he "kept" a large stock of electronic valves from the army. Branscheid was excited and offered to build a similar device within 6 months for 5000 German Marks. It took him longer and it also cost more money than expected but progress was made. The first experiments seemed promising but suddenly the whole project was in danger; a presentation on ultrasonic testing was given in Düsseldorf by a man who was unknown at that time: Dr. Josef Krautkrämer. He also had developed a flaw detector and, what was worse, he was already finished.

Nevertheless, Karl Deutsch and Mr Branscheid kept working and introduced their instrument under the name ECHOGRAPH. The first order is well remembered: during a presentation of the instrument at a hammer forge near Wuppertal, a large crankshaft was under inspection. An interior flaw was detected. The production manager did not believe the test result but he agreed to cut open the shaft under the condition "If there is no flaw you will pay for the damage!" A crane was used to move the shaft but it slipped from the crane and fell on the ground. It broke exactly at the marked position and a large interior flaw was visible. The owner of the company immediately ordered the instrument but threatened "Don't dare offer the ECHOGRAPH to my customers!"

The company became more successful and very soon Branscheid's laboratory, an old summerhouse, became too small. Karl Deutsch decided to organize the production by himself and let Branscheid do the R&D. He rented a few rooms of an old butcher store close to his apartment and hired three employees besides his secretary.

Development was rudely interrupted in 1955. Patent litigation developed around the ECHOGRAPH. To further complicate matters, Branscheid was left disabled after a severe car accident. Karl Deutsch could not afford a law suit against an American giant, so he turned his attention to negotiation and looked for new areas of development. He had many ideas: equipment to measure cogwheels, continuous on-line measurement of the thickness of sheet metal strips, surface roughness testing and control of the force of hydraulic presses (similar to modern electronic tensile testing machines). However, the development program was inversely proportional to the technical and financial resources. The LEPTOSKOP and the Hahn&Kolb agency were sufficient to live on.

 Crack Detection with DEUTROFLUX
Luck again played an important role. In a forge in Düsseldorf, a clever quality controller built a new device for magnetic particle inspection. Dry magnetic powder in a chamber was held in a liquid-like state by introducing homogeneously distributed compressed air. Magnetized test pieces were immersed in this powder bath and surface cracks were easily detected as fluorescent lines under UV illumination. Karl Deutsch immediately realized the importance of this "vortex chamber". He carried out his own tests and optimized the air supply where his prior experience in compressor construction was very helpful. A device was built and its demonstration caused great enthusiasm. The technique seemed optimal for the inspection of forged pieces. In addition there was a large demand for such an inspection technique because the German car industry was booming. Karl Deutsch found a suitable building and started promoting his DEUTROFLUX (DEUtsch-TROcken-FLUX, where "trocken" means dry) devices.

A second device also started selling well: the RMG (Rißtiefen-Mess-Gerät = Crack-Depth-Meter). Now, even the old butchery became too small. A former textile factory provided more space. The rooms were far too big for his team of twelve, but Karl Deutsch believed in expansion as his son would soon be joining the company.

 The Second Generation
Starting in 1953, I attended the Technical University in Aachen, Germany and after receiving my diploma in mechanical engineering, I moved to Hannover. In 1961, I graduated with a doctoral degree from the Institute for Material Science under Prof. Matting. During those years, I made some extra money by working for the Federal Authority for Material Testing. Those four years of practical experience proved to be extremely valuable. I was also involved in organizing the first courses on nondestructive testing offered by the DGZfP (German Society for NDT) and taught outside of Berlin.

Even before I joined the company, Karl Deutsch had discontinued the cooperation with Hahn&Kolb because he wanted to concentrate entirely on developing and marketing his own products. The product range was streamlined: The surface roughness gauge (MICROGEOMETER) including its patents were sold. The electro-polishing apparatus (POLIMAT) and the press-force controlling equipment were put on ice and all activities outside the NDT area were discontinued. This included equipment for measuring lengths and distances using magnetic induction probes as well as medical ultrasound. My suggestion to give up ultrasonics and to concentrate on the promising area of crack testing was overruled by Karl Deutsch. He believed in the old German saying "Two legs are better to stand on!" So it was decided to employ capable electrical engineers to make up for lost time which then would permit us to use the new transistor technology.

We also had to work on expanding our markets and to overcome regional barriers. Consequently, I often traveled within and outside of Germany, demonstrated equipment and searched and found many business partners and friends. The many discussions were fruitful and resulted in improved products. Success was not long in coming. The turnover increased by 10% to 25% each year - figures you will not easily find today. The number of employees grew and already in 1967 our first own company building was planned and financed!

 Moderate Growth
My father had already handed the company over to me and his business consultant warned him that "the son could fire him". He did not think that this was a big risk. The company continued to expand, it was reorganized, computer usage improved efficiency in organization and R&D and many capable employees were hired and most of them stayed. In 1977, more than 30 of the 100 employees had been with the company for more than 10 years. Expansion continued at a moderate pace and was generally achieved with our own financial means. Karl Deutsch did not like to buy on credit.

Due to further expansion, the first building became too small in 1971 and a four-story annex was added. The growth of the ultrasonic system division required a second building in 1979.

In 1974, my father died unexpectedly. However, he had the chance to see the fruits of his work, namely the extension of the first company building and the establishment of the first foreign subsidiary company in Sweden.

The decline of the nuclear power plant industry in Germany after the Tchernobyl disaster, the weak US-dollar, the change of the industrial landscape in Germany and the loss of east-European markets after the reunification also affected the situation of KARL DEUTSCH. Nevertheless, most companies in our field would be grateful to have survived those circumstances as well as we did.

One highlight in 1999 was the 50th company anniversary. A big celebration was organised for the employees and a second occasion was used to thank all the good customers which are crucial for a company’s success. More than 150 customers and interested friends followed our invitation into our two works in Wuppertal. To offer more than food and drinks, the technical motto was chosen to "systems for the ultrasonic inspection of tubes and bars" – presented by a KARL DEUTSCH division with decades of experience, celebrating a very successful year.

 The Third Generation
My eldest son Wolfram finished his doctorate degree in the United States of America in 1998. Both, his master’s thesis at the technical University of Hannover, Germany, and also the doctorate at Northwestern University, IL, dealt with a topic related to non-destructive testing. Together with the experienced executive personnel H.W. Krümmel and Dr. M. Platte, we will keep KARL DEUTSCH on track!

All our products are still manufactured in Germany and more than 60% are exported world-wide. Our subsidiary companies (in Italy, Sweden, China and Romania) and representatives are responsible for our world-wide presence.

KARL DEUTSCH is still proud to be an independent family business.

>> Our way: The milestones along the way of the KARL DEUTSCH company.

Current Dates

07 - 10 May 2019
33rd Control, Stuttgart

27 - 29 May 2019
DACH Annual Meeting, Friedrichshafen

14 - 17 October 2019
28th testXpo, Ulm

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(c) 2019 KARL DEUTSCH Pruef- und Messgeraetebau GmbH + Co KG    Phone (+49-202) 71 92-0     info@karldeutsch.de