The history of Flock Association of Europe

Facts, development and background

The association was founded in Büdingen on the 19th of May 1981. This date is on one hand the start of corporate work and on the other hand it is the completion of many, partially very different preparation activities.

Mainly there were three developments which lead to the founding:

  1. The flock seminars, later international flock symposia.
  2. The works in the VDE* for flocking security
  3. The flock newspaper.

The 1970s

The flock seminars started with a single speech of Ulrich Maag on the occasion of a plastic symposium at the wood and plastic institute in Rosenheim in 1972. At this seminar Lutz Hessen who was the coordinator then suggested to organise a workshop exclusively for flocking.  This first workshop with 24 participants took place in 1973 with Gert Bauer and Ulrich Maag as instructors. The second seminar followed in 1974 with Gert Bauer, Ulrich Maag and Helmut Schubert as instructors. The number of participants increased to almost 50 approximately 20 of them were from other European countries. Additionally two practical courses were held in which the participants could flock themselves under supervision.

1975 it was called the 3rd international flock seminar for the first time and took place in Rosenheim from 2nd to 4th of June 1975. Twelve instructors covered all aspects of flocking and 90 participants were present.

At this seminar flock tests have been made the subject of the discussion for the first time. In his speech Maag introduced different flock testing methods which had stood the test in the laboratory. Different suggestions resulted spontaneously from the discussion especially Wolfgang Flehming stood up for continuing the work that started with this speech. It was decided to found a “flock testing task force”. The constituent meeting took place in Grünberg/Hesse on the 2nd of December 1975 with 13 companies from Germany, Switzerland and France. In cooperative tests these testing methods have been checked for their road capability modified and checked again until they met the requirements of all participants. Subsequently the testing rules were developed and adopted on the 16th of December 1977.

From 1976 on these international flock symposia took place every two years in Rosenheim, then Munich, Aachen, Darmstadt, Dresden and Berlin. The 10th symposium took place in Darmstadt in 1988 with 240 participants from 20 nations. In the meantime the symposium had been completed with a small exhibition in which the important flock companies and suppliers presented their products.

Safety rules developed in the VDE*
Until 1973 the rules developed by the VDE committee “AK 239”, “electro static spraying devices and hand spraying devices“, applied automatically for flocking, even though no flocking specialist belonged to the committee. The company Maag & Schenk went after a seat in this committee since spring 1972 which then was permitted in 1973. Mr. Erich Schenk became a member of this important VDE committee on the 24th of April 1973. The VDE committee became aware quickly that the rules for electro static lacquering and powder coating cannot simply be assigned to flocking but for the flock fibre there was no material-specific data regarding their explosion behaviour. 

Maag & Schenk had a hand flocking device safety technically tested at the EMPA in Zurich and got the safety label SEV. This has not been approved in Germany though as this test took place without flocking material. Further tests of different flock types took place at the federal institute for material testing in Berlin and at the Michelsen institute in Norway.

At the VDE committee it was soon realized that the flock specific safety rules had to be developed separately and the subcommittee “AK 239.01” was founded which was joined in by different flock specialists. This subcommittee met for the first time on the 29th of January 1975.

The pressure of the industry control offices and government safety organisations increased more and more. The flock factories had to present data regarding safety of flocking, mainly regarding danger of explosion.

Four further flock types have been examined for the determination of their minimum ignition energy by the federal research centre in Dortmund-Derne in 1977. The results showed that the minimum ignition energy varied strongly with the different flock types. One had to conduct structured serial examinations with the different flock types to get resistant characteristics. From this resulted the founding of the task force avoiding dangers with electro static flocking on the 30th of July 1979 which was joined in by the Bayer AG Dormagen as most important fibre supplier. Gerhard Lenards, technical director of the yarn flocker Kühn, Vierhaus & Cie AG in Mönchengladbach, Germany’s biggest flocker was besides Erich Schenk the driving force of this task force.

The programme for the necessary tests was soon developed and one found with the explosion laboratory of the Ciba Geigy AG under the lead of Dr. Bartknecht a partner who was able to conduct these comprehensive tests. These costs were estimated with approximately 300,000 DM. This sum could not be borne by the companies involved with this task force. One tried for public aids. Such examinations which served the working security could be subsidised by the Ministry of Labour of the Federal Republic of Germany. However the condition was that they were not commissioned by a company but by a neutral institution, for example an association. This was the jump start for the founding of the flock association.

*     VDE = association of electrical engineering
**    EMPA = Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology
***  SEV = association of electrical, energy and information engineering

The 1980s and Flock newspaper

Starting 1973 and initiated by Gerd P. Bauer different people from the flock industry met sporadically for a flock regulars’ table at the company Collodin in Frankfurt (an important manufacturer of flock glue, then). These meetings served for reciprocal information and for exchanging experiences. With the thoughts about how one could publish flocking better and initiate a much bigger exchange of experiences, the idea of a flock newspaper came to life. Mr. Reinhold Müller from the fibre sales department of the Bayer AG often took part in this round. He already had press experience and was taken with the idea. Issue 1 of “Flock – Zeitschrift für Beflockungswesen” (Flock – magazine for flocking) was published in October 1975 and Mr. Reinhold Müller took on the editorship, publisher was Ewald Rautenberg, 521 Troisdorf and from 1978 on it was Luyken in Gummersbach. The members of the first editorial staff were Gerd P. Bauer, Dr. Dieter Bockmeier, Ulrich Maag, Dr. Walter Maier, Wolfgang Schulte. Until the founding of the flock association in 1981, 22 issues were published. For the first time the flock industry had a common mouthpiece. 22 issues had been published until the founding in 1981.

After Reinhold Müller had changed to another field of activity within the Bayer AG Professor Norbert Verse took on the editorship in 1982 and the publisher Pia Verse was responsible for the publication. Professor Verse committed himself to plastics technology at the Darmstadt technical college since 1973 he concentrated intensively on flocking and supervised different degree dissertations with flocking topics and was the academic tutor for the complete flocking test engineering.

As mentioned above the actual jump start of the flock association was caused by the open safety questions. In June 1980 there was a notification from the government safety organisation and the business inspectorate in which the flocking companies were asked to present the required safety technical data. Otherwise one might be forced to shut down flocking companies. Two of the big companies of our branch had already been approached by the business inspectorate and one was forced to act and present the relevant characteristics.

Thereupon the branch was asked through the flock newspaper to take action and on the occasion of the 6th international flock seminar in Aachen from the 8th to the 10th of September 1980 the complete branch was introduced to the topic of safety engineering. In a special event there was an informative meeting about the flock association which was well attended. At the end of the event a preparatory task force flock association was founded, which published concrete information for the flock industry regarding the founding of the association on the 16th of April 1981.This lead to the inaugural meeting on the 19th of May 1981.

Gerhard Lenards, technical director of the yarn flocker Kühn, Vierhaus & Cie AG in Mönchengladbach, who was the spokesman of the preparatory task force flock association could welcome 26 companies in Büdingen and inform at the same time that some companies that were not present have firmly promised their membership. He described impressively the necessity of an association regarding examinations of the explosion behaviour of flock for determining standards and for common public relations.
Subsequently Erich Schenk of the Maag & Schenk GmbH explained the work of the VDE task force and the necessity of comprehensive examinations regarding the explosion behaviour of flock. The costs for this are far too much for one single company and only if there was an association one could get the necessary governmental subventions.

Then the association articles were discussed and adopted. A total of 35 companies declared their membership and could elect a board of directors. The first board of directors consisted of

  •  Gerd P. Bauer (Rowa GmbH)
  •  Dr. Dieter Brokmeier (Bayer AG)
  •  Albert Maute (FTM Flocktechnik)
  •  Ing. Erich Schenk (Maag & Schenk GmbH)
  •  Dr. Peter Raymond Wilhelm (Wilhelm KG)

Within the board of directors Dr. Wilhelm was elected to be the spokesman and agreed on running the business and Mr. Maute took on the finance department. The first address was Verband der Flockindustrie e. V., Rotebühlstr. 163, 7000 Stuttgart 1. An advisory board consisting of 9 members was elected as well.

The first activities were the execution of explosion protection tests and the outward presentation of the association. At the end of 1981 there were already 38 members of the association and one soon could support some of the members in their discussions with the responsible business inspectorates. In all cases a possible shut down could be prevented. In spring 1982 the board of directors and the advisory board met for the fourth time in the “Haus Sonnenberg” in Büdingen and could report about the positive work of the association. The first advertising material was designed. The already executed questionnaire campaign regarding quality tests of flocked items only provided little results. Probably the reason for this is that flock products are too versatile that one could determine a common testing procedure. As a further activity the collaboration with universities, technical colleges and other institutions should be improved. At this meeting two very important decisions were made, first:

  • the newspaper Flock becomes the official forum of the flock association and the newspaper will be placed at the association members‘ disposal for free.
  • and the flock seminar in Darmstadt in September 1982 will be supported and on the occasion of this seminar a general meeting will be held.

With these decisions the three original activities which lead to the founding namely

  • flock seminar
  • explosion protection test
  • newspaper Flock

were brought together again. A very active time followed and further work was very successful. After the explosion protection tests had been completed one concentrated more on public relations and already in 1984 one could publish a 4 colour brochure with many flock applications called “Flock – verschönern, schützen, sichern” (“Flock – prettify, protect, secure“). 30,000 pieces were issued in German, English and French. Already two years later it had to be reprinted and because of the international interest in the work of the association Spanish and Chinese have been added. In 1988 the association could already count 85 member companies, after 52 companies in 1984 and 60 companies in 1985. It became as well more international with members from Switzerland, Italy, France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Great Britain, USA, Brazil, India, Hong Kong, China and Taiwan. 

The work that was still voluntary increased accordingly. Already in 1983 Mr. Gerhard Lenards offered to take on the provisional business management and the official address became: Bruckner Allee 200, 
4050 Mönchengladbach 2.

As technical director of the biggest flocker in Germany Mr. Lenards belonged to the co-initiators of the association and was very actively involved for many years. All members of the board of directors of this time do remember his Sunday calls when association matters were discussed intensively. We owe Gerhard Lenards a lot.

The 1990s

Next a flock video was produced in which the theory of flocking is explained and some facilities in practice were recorded including the flock production and in which the variety of flock applications are shown. The association planned a practical seminar for vocational and professional teachers to introduce flocking better in training. This took place after 1 year of preparation time as a 2 day practical seminar in Plettenberg. The feedback was so positive that it was repeated in Plettenberg on the 18th and 19th of May 1992.

To move on in testing it was decided that the association becomes a member of the support group of the German textile research centre “Nordwest” at the technical college Mönchengladbach, Professor Wehlo. Joachim Müller had held together with some suppliers of the branch practical seminars in Büdingen since 1978 already. These were very successful with strongly increasing numbers of participants. After he had reported about flock at other technical coursed at the TAE (technical academy) Esslingen he could convince the TAE to offer these practical seminars as well. The TAE Esslingen with lecture hall and big machine hall offered ideal conditions for this. Through the participation of the association and the collaboration of the machine, flock and glue suppliers a comprehensive 3 day programme became possible. Additionally the association offered significantly reduced participation fees to all interested teaching staff of schools and colleges.

In the following years press work was actively carried out on the one hand with the association publishing press releases and putting them at the disposal of the well-known professional journals and on the other hand with writing press releases about flock in general and putting them at the disposal of the members so that they could inform their regional press. 

The flock study trips, arranged by Joachim Müller contributed a great deal to the internationalisation of the association. Alternately the journeys were made to the USA and in the years of the flock symposium to Germany and 1991 to the Far East (Taiwan, South Korea, Japan and Hong Kong). This resulted in close relations between our association and the American and both of the Japanese flock associations.

A flock symposium was held together with Professor Bershev in St. Petersburg in November 1993 which was as well attended by a group of Americans and Asians on the occasion of a flock study trip with Joachim Müller.

The number of members increased to almost 100 and it was not possible anymore to run the branch office on a voluntary basis. With Gerhard E. Müller who had been working in the flock branch for years and had international experience, a specialist who was prepared to take on this task part time was found. The address changed accordingly to Tannenberg Straße 66/62 7410 Reutlingen. Further brochures with always new flock applications were published and put at the members’ disposal. Three new videos were produced as well which had also been designed with regards to the use in lectures in technical colleges. One took part in big fairs in Frankfurt, Düsseldorf and Hannover with a representative common stand (often over 100 m² and with up to 11 member companies) under the association’s leadership. All member companies could take part and compared to a small own stand the costs were significantly lower for the companies. As well these stands were much more attractive for the visitors and showed the significance of the flock industry excellently. 
The very successful work and growing tasks that came with it urged for the decision that a full-time executive director with a branch office had to be established. At the same time Joachim Müller wanted to hand the publishing of the flock newspaper to a successor. Mr. Lotze, a college graduate who already had association experience, was found. He worked for the newspaper publisher as well as for the association. The branch office was moved to the flock newspaper to Büdingen, Auf der obersten Beunde 29 at the end of 1999.

To intensify the contact with the members one thought about holding general meetings every year. But this was abandoned because of the long distances the members would have had to cover. Therefore regional meetings were held which were partially well attended. However the effort for these meetings was very high and no region could hold more than 2 meetings except for South Germany with 4 meetings. 

The 2000s

A new very informative association brochure was created which describes the process and points to many applications with pictures and words. As well the technical advantages of flocked surfaces, besides the classy look and the comfortable feel are described. A new sample card with the title “Flock Emotions” with 8 different flocked samples 60 x 80 mm with different flock lengths and gauges completed this brochure. All this went very well at the beginning however the number of advertisements of the flock newspaper decreased significantly due to economy measures at many industrial plants so that the issuing had to be stopped with issue 116 at the end of 2004. Mr. Lotze who came originally from Freiburg then moved to Freiburg and established the branch office there. From the 1st of April 2006 the address was: Lindenbergstr. 12, 74199 Kirchzarten/Freiburg. 

The popularity of the association increased and through a variety of collaborations with other professional associations active public relations work was carried out. On an internet platform was created and taken care of regularly which reached top ranks in the search engines. The number of hits on this website increased impressively.

Despite of this high number of activities with very positive effects the number of members could not be increased as hoped. Through economy measures, especially in bigger companies, some quit the association and some of the members stopped business operations either because of product changes or bankruptcy. It became evident in the following years though that this branch office with one full time employee and one sometimes even two part-time employees could not be financed by the association on a long-term basis.

With Ms. Susanne Thaler a talented and committed lady with international experience was found who took over the branch office on the 1st of March 2008 and established it in 96138 Burgebrach, Treppendorfer Str. 16. When she started she could complete an internship in some of the member companies to get to know the technical side of flocking better. She intensively revived the contacts to the member companies and as well many flock companies which are not members yet. With her efforts and enthusiasm for our industry the decreasing of members could be slowed down and the number of members has already an increasing tendency again.

On the occasion of the 30th anniversary the appearance was modernised and designed according to today’s requirements. As well the website was newly programmed and given an adjusted and modern layout. It was completed with an additional image brochure, a new technical brochure and a matching sample card. At the same time the growing internationalisation was considered and the name was changed to “Flock Association of Europe” FAoE with a new web address The former web address remains active.

The old names from the beginning have retired from the active work of the association appropriate to their age. It is now up to the current generation to continue this work and bring in commitment and new ideas. After 30 years of versatile work and a now again modern appearance there is a good basis on which the work can be continued. The “old guys” are happy to pass on their knowledge and experiences because we were happy as well when we could get advice from the “old guys” of our times.

The members have to contribute actively to the association’s work, design it, communicate it, exchange information and inform about interesting developments. It is important that the flock applications and the amount of flock products grow altogether then automatically the shares of the single companies will grow. Lectures at technical colleges, vocational schools and other educational institutions as well as practical presentations at practical courses can be held best by those who have the necessary practice, the member companies.

The branch office is excellently staffed and Ms. Thaler has the necessary enthusiasm for flock. She already has passed practical tests successfully. The fair participations of the association in the past 2 years together with some of the association members has been organised and conducted by her. The increasing number of members was her achievement. Now a special challenge was the organisation of this 21st flock symposium in Munich which was for the first time organised without Joachim Müller who however still helped with his enormous experience and some advice. For this we would like to thank him very much as well as for the large amount of his work for our common cause in all the above described past years.

The association lives from the active work of its members. May this review be an incentive for the future work. At the general meeting in Munich and the subsequent common events on the occasion of the flock symposium and the 30th anniversary of the association the plans for the next two years can be discussed. 

Gomaringen, March 2011
Ulrich Maag