Over 90 years of progress and tradition
For more than 90 years, the name Ottobock has stood for innovation and entrepreneurial success, combined with the calling to provide handicapped people with the best possible quality of life through freedom of movement and independence. Driven by a pioneering spirit, courage and decisiveness, Otto Bock founded the company Orthopädische Industrie GmbH in Berlin in 1919 – the starting point of an unprecedented success story.
In the year 1919, the prosthetist Otto Bock founded a company in Berlin in order to supply victims of the world war with prostheses and orthopaedic devices. But the demand could not be met with traditional methods of craftsmanship. This is why Otto Bock realised his idea to produce prosthetic components in series and deliver them directly to prosthetists on site. That laid the foundation for the orthopaedic industry.
Soon after its founding, the company moved from Berlin to Königsee in Thuringia, the home of Otto Bock, because of the uncertain political situation during the postwar era. In addition to the further development of prosthesis components, the company founder kept on having new materials tested to determine their suitability for production. He was using aluminium components in prosthetics even in the early 1930s. Later up to 600 people were employed in the steadily growing operation.
New Beginning in Duderstadt/Lower Saxony
Three years after World War II the company suffered a cruel blow. The entire private assets of the family and the factory in Königsee were expropriated without compensation. A difficult new beginning in postwar Germany found its basis in Duderstadt, Lower Saxony. This is where Dr. Ing. Max Näder E.h., the son-in-law of Otto Bock, had established a new sales location since 1946 to supply what was then the western zone, and where he becomes the general partner and managing director of the newly founded Otto Bock Orthopädische Industrie KG in 1947. The lack of skilled workers, money and material represented a major entrepreneurial challenge in those times. Innovativeness and inventiveness were in demand here. As an alternative to wood which was in short supply as a raw material, polyurethane synthetic materials for example were used in lower limb prosthetics for the first time and some of these are still used today. Otto Bock Kunststoff, an important technology partner for Ottobock to this day, is subsequently founded in 1953.
Max Näder also pursued the international angle very early on. The internationalisation of the company begins with the founding of the first Ottobock foreign branch in Minneapolis, USA in 1958. Another 45 foreign branches have been added around the world today, so that the family company has advanced to become a global player in the industry.
Return to Königsee
In 1992, the Näder family buys back the expropriated headquarters in Königsee and establishes a wheelchair manufacturing facility. While 200 wheelchairs per year are turned out initially, this number increases to over 45,000 products today. A logistics center was constructed in Königsee over the coming years along with new seminar facilities for the Ottobock Academy. Fabrication and assembly were expanded as well.
Product Development Milestones
The modular lower limb prosthesis set a technology standard worldwide starting in 1969, and its patent made a major contribution to the company's current market position. Another milestone in the 1960s was the development of the myoelectric arm prosthesis, which is controlled by muscle signals. With the application of such complex technologies, Ottobock transformed from a manufacturer of single components into a provider of complete prosthesis systems. Finally in 1997, Ottobock presented the C-Leg as the first fully microprocessor-controlled leg prosthesis system in the world, opening up a new dimension of walking. Innovation remains the company's main growth driver. The latest product developments such as the Genium leg prosthesis system, the Michelangelo Hand and the mechatronic C-Brace orthotronic mobility system continue to set standards in fittings for handicapped people. Other Ottobock business areas are successfully undergoing the transformation from suppliers of single products to providers of integrated fitting concepts as well.
The success story begins in Berlin Kreuzberg, where prosthetist Otto Bock founds the company ‘Orthopädische Industrie GmbH’. Component fabrication developed by Otto Bock revolutionises the industry, making it possible to supply the large numbers of disabled veterans with prostheses.
In December, the young company relocates to Königsee in Thuringia – to the home of Otto Bock, who was born on 19 November 1888 in Rudolstadt, 25 kilometres away.
Max and Maria Näder found the ‘North Branch’ in Duderstadt in southern Lower Saxony to secure sales and the procurement of raw materials in the west.
Max Näder becomes manager of the newly founded ‘Orthopädische Industrie KG’.
The company assets and private property of the family in Königsee are expropriated without compensation.
Company founder Otto Bock dies at the age of 64.
To replace poplar wood, which has become a scarce commodity, synthetic materials are used in lower limb prosthetics for the first time. Otto Bock Kunststoff is founded in 1953 and is now a leading supplier of foams and foam systems for the automotive and other industries.
The internationalisation of the company begins with the founding of the first foreign branch in Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA.
Two groundbreaking developments take the quality of prosthetic fittings to a new level—myoelectric upper limb prostheses and the modular system for lower limb prostheses.
Max Näder founds the independent Otto Bock Foundation.
Since the Summer Games in Seoul, Ottobock has been supporting Paralympic sports and providing technical service for the athletes during the games.
Professor Hans Georg Näder takes over as head of the family company at age 28. Ottobock is still owner-managed in the third generation and develops into a strong brand with locations in more than 40 countries around the world.
After German reunification, the company buys back its former headquarters in Königsee and builds a production facility for wheelchairs there.
As the world’s first fully microprocessor-controlled leg prosthesis system, the C-Leg opens up an entirely new dimension of walking, with unrivalled safety and dynamic response.
The prolotype of the first thought-controlled arm prosthesis in the world is presented to the public in Vienna. lt points to a time in the future where remaining nerves will be used to control arm prostheses directly.
Ottobock returns to its roots when it opens the Science Center Berlin. The unique stage is dedicated to the topic of mobility and its interactive exhibits are a fascinating experience for all.
In the year of the company’s 90-year anniversary, Max Näder dies at the age of 94.
At the Orthopädie + Reha-Technik trade fair in Leipzig, Ottobock presents two groundbreaking products in prosthetics with the Genium leg prosthesis system and the Michelangelo Hand.
Professor Hans Georg Näder breathes new life into the site of the former Bötzow brewery: the site, with over 23,000 square metres, will include a creative mix of residential, commercial and cultural space as weil as Ottobock's new wheelchair manufacturing plant.