Following World War I mass production was launched in the automotive industry. And the invention of finer enamels that dried more quickly made manual painting of vehicle bodies uneconomical. This was the reason why spray painting, first developed in the United States, became popular.
Richard Curt Walther, a Wuppertal native, was the general representative of Leipziger Tangier-Werk AG. In this function he became familiar with the new technology even before it was widely known in Germany. He recognized the potentials of spray painting and, in 1923, founded the “Spritzapparate und Maschinenbauanstalt” – the “Spray Apparatus and Machine Building Establishment” in the town of Vohwinkel, later to become a part of Wuppertal.
High-quality spray equipment was developed and distributed. Among the initial best sellers were the modest spray painting systems – comprising the compressor, a spray gun with cup, and a practical carrying case. Thus the development of the company, under the name WALTHER PILOT, quickly became firmly established in what was then the Weimar Republic.
It was in particular the versatility of the WALTHER products that contributed to the company’s great success. Wherever it was necessary to apply paint or enamel, that is where the novel technology was embraced. The start was in the automotive industry. It then spread to furnaces and heating systems, and continued to painting and coating glass and shoes. But spray technology was not suited only for applying paint. It was also used in agriculture, for instance, to atomize pest control agents.
Answers to problems associated with spray technology were quickly found. When applying larger amounts of materials, for example, portable pressure tanks were produced.
The health and environmental effects exerted by the spray fog were recognized and appropriate exhaust systems were developed.
Following World War II, WALTHER also profited from the boom of the Wirtschaftswunder. In 1961 a new production plant was set up at Neunkirchen-Struthütten in the Siegerland region. By the middle of the 1960s, Walther employed a staff of about 350. The firm launched the construction of material conveyance containers and quickly became the market leader in the field of pressure tanks.
In the years that followed, antiquated company management, misguided projects and a poor presentation to the public lead to the firm’s economic decline. Resulting from a management buyout in 1987, the WALTHER PILOT brand and production operations with 75 employees were saved.
This company, steeped in tradition, was taken over by employees and business associates. This was followed by further development to become a system vendor for spray and painting technology. The line was also expanded into related business areas such as adhesives application and non-contact marking techniques. In 2002 the J. Wagner GmbH acquired the company. WALTHER’s widely diversified line serving a multitude of industries, flexible manufacturing and niche product specialization were the basis for the brand’s success.
Today WALTHER PILOT employs approximately 140 persons at the Wuppertal and Neunkirchen-Struthütten locations. Even today the management offices and spray gun manufacturing are located i in Wuppertal – exactly where everything started in 1923.