History of ZEISS subsidiaries

ZEISS comprises numerous subsidiaries that all write their own history. Today, the largest subsidiaries of Carl Zeiss AG are: Carl Zeiss Meditec AG, Carl Zeiss Vision GmbH, Carl Zeiss SMT GmbH, Carl Zeiss IMT GmbH, Carl Zeiss Microscopy GmbH.

ZEISS company history

Explore the company history from 1846 to today.

History of Carl Zeiss Industrielle Messtechnik GmbH

How it all started

The Precision Measuring division was founded at Carl Zeiss in 1919. That same year was the first time that Carl Zeiss presented instruments for production metrology at the Leipzig Spring Trade Fair. After World War II and the subsequent division of Germany, a new plant was built in Oberkochen. The Precision Measurement division was re-established as well.

This business division has been operating under the name Industrielle Messtechnik (Industrial Metrology) since 1976. Between 1989 and 1998, the company grew considerably: Strategic partnerships were concluded with the companies Stiefelmeyer and TSK. Numerex, an American manufacturer of bridge-type measuring machines in Minneapolis, was acquired in 1989. The factory in Minneapolis was now the second production site. In 2002, its assembly area doubled in size when it moved to a new building. Just two years later, the Shanghai plant – the third assembly site for coordinate measuring machines – opened.

Today, more than 1,800 people work at Carl Zeiss Industrielle Messtechnik GmbH. The range of products extends from bridge-type and horizontal-arm measuring machines to measuring instruments for determining shape, contour, and surfaces, right up to an extensive array of accompanying services.

1919 - 1989


Fine Measuring department founded; first presentation of industrial production measuring technology from Carl Zeiss at the Leipzig Spring Fair; Schuchardt & Schütte distribute the instruments.


Jena initially occupied by American forces who take the leading employees to their zone. These employees establish a new company in Oberkochen, which later also carries the name Carl Zeiss. Jena becomes part of the Soviet occupation zone.


Rebranding: Fine Measuring becomes Industrial Metrology.


Acquisition of Numerex, an American manufacturer of bridge-type measuring machines in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Current production site of measuring machines for the USA and Asia.

1990 - today

Unterzeichnung der Bibelrieder Absichtserklärung.


After the fall of the Berlin Wall, Carl Zeiss in Oberkochen acquires parts of the former combine VEB Carl Zeiss Jena.


Carl Zeiss merges with Stiefelmeyer to supplement its own range of horizontal-arm measuring machines.


Carl Zeiss enters into a strategic alliance with TSK for surface-measuring instruments.


Founding of Carl Zeiss 3D Metrology Services GmbH together with 3D Control with the aim of offering joint metrology services.


The factory in Minneapolis doubles its assembly space when it moves to a new building.


The third production site for coordinate measuring machines after Oberkochen and Minneapolis opens in Shanghai.

ZEISS Industrial Metrology Business Group
CNC coordinate measuring mchines and complete solutions for multidimensional metrology

ZEISS Unternehmensbereich Industrielle Messtechnik

History of Carl Zeiss Meditec AG

How it all started

The history of Medical Technology at Carl Zeiss began in 1893 when Carl Zeiss built a monocular corneal microscope to the specifications of the Dresden-based ophthalmologist Fritz Schanz. Then, little by little, new and better systems were added – all developed in close collaboration with outstanding physicians. The partnership with the Swedish ophthalmologist and subsequent Nobel Prize winner Allvar Gullstrand was of particular importance. The first scientifically calculated eyeglass lenses were his idea. Ophthalmic optics inspired ophthalmic instrument construction and vice-versa.

In 1912, the first two business divisions were established.

While ophthalmic instrument production was commenced at Carl Zeiss at the end of the 19th century, the surgical disciplines were not discovered as a field of application for the medical optics made in Oberkochen until after Carl Zeiss had been split up as a result of the Cold War. The OPMI 1 surgical microscope developed by Hans Littmann in 1953 was the first of a new class of instruments, and – as the standard in microsurgery – it became a permanent feature in clinical practice.

In December 1990, even before the official reunification of Carl Zeiss, the management teams of the Medical Technology divisions in East and West agreed to have Oberkochen focus on surgical microscopes, while Jena was to devote itself to ophthalmic instrument technology. When a fundamental restructuring of the Carl Zeiss Group was initiated in 1995, the remodeling of Medical Technology was already largely complete. And yet one basic problem remained: Oberkochen, Jena, and Carl Zeiss subsidiary Humphrey Instruments in Dublin, California, all worked independently of each other and on separate projects. There was hardly any synergy, and the instruments from each individual site rather gave the impression that they were from completely different manufacturers.

The road from individual products to complex solutions began at the turn of the millennium. In 2002, the founding of Carl Zeiss Meditec AG became a reality. Initially, just the medical technology divisions of the Carl Zeiss sites in Jena and Dublin, California, as well as Jena-based Asclepion Meditec AG were united in the new company. The formation of this company as a reverse IPO (the acquisition of a company already listed on the stock exchange) solved several problems at once: It gave Carl Zeiss access to business with refractive lasers (hitherto the sole domain of Asclepion), strengthened the Jena location, enabled extra capital to be raised on the stock market, and placed all the medical technology activities dispersed among the various sites under one umbrella. The process was completed with the reform of the Foundation in 2004 and the new opportunity for Carl Zeiss Meditec AG to acquire the Oberkochen OPMI business.

However, this was just the beginning of implementing the actual strategy of complete diagnostic and treatment solutions. Through the acquisition of IOLTECH in 2005 and of Acri.Tec in 2007, Carl Zeiss Meditec AG expanded its portfolio, offering products such as intraocular lenses and consumables for eye surgery. Thus, Carl Zeiss moved beyond the traditional divisions of Optics and Precision Mechanics towards consumer goods less impacted by economic cycles. This certainly contributed to the fact that Carl Zeiss Meditec AG proved to be a stable pillar of the Group's activities during the global financial and economic crisis in 2009. Since the health sector continues to grow on a global scale, the forecast for Carl Zeiss Meditec AG is downright positive.

1901 - 1945

Nobelpreisträger Allvar Gullstrand


Start of collaboration with Swedish ophthalmologist and later Nobel Prize winner Allvar Gullstrand.


Department for medical-optical devices (Med) and eyeglass lenses and glasses (Opto) founded


Jena initially occupied by American forces who take the leading employees to their zone. These employees establish a new company in Oberkochen, which later also carries the name Carl Zeiss. Jena becomes part of the Soviet occupation zone

1946 - today


After the Fall of the Berlin Wall, Carl Zeiss in Oberkochen acquires parts of the former Combine VEB Carl Zeiss Jena, including the Medical Instruments division.

The overlapping product lines at both locations are demerged:

  • Oberkochen: OPMI and laser systems,
  • Jena: ophthalmic diagnostic systems.


Acquisition of Humphrey Instruments in Dublin, California – manufacturer of ophthalmic systems for glaucoma diagnosis and refraction testing.

Carl Zeiss Meditec AG


Carl Zeiss Meditec AG is created through the merger of the Ophthalmic Instruments division at Carl Zeiss and the firm Asclepion-Meditec AG


Acquisition of Laser Diagnostic Technologies, Inc. (LDT) in San Diego, California.


Acquisition of French intraocular lens manufacturer IOLTECH SA in La Rochelle

Carl Zeiss Meditec Hennigsdorf


Acquisition of ophthalmic surgery specialist Acri.Tec GmbH in Hennigsdorf, Germany.

ZEISS Medical Technology Business Group
Innovative technologies and application-oriented solutions for ophthalmology and microsurgery designed to help doctors improve the quality of life of their patients

ZEISS Unternehmensbereich Medizintechnik

History of Carl Zeiss Microscopy GmbH

How it all started

Carl Zeiss Microscopy GmbH is the microscope manufacturer under the roof of Carl Zeiss AG. It was a long road from the humble beginnings of microscopy at Carl Zeiss in the workshop founded in 1846 to the establishment of Carl Zeiss Microscopy GmbH. The development of microscopy at Carl Zeiss began with the manufacture of simple but very precise monocular light microscopes and grew to include more complex forms such as the compound microscope. The work of Ernst Abbe, Otto Schott and August Köhler was a key component of this process.

The Second World War and the partition of Germany exerted a strong influence on the development and production of microscopes during the 20th century. In 1947, most of the Jena factory was dismantled. A new company with the same name was established in Oberkochen, West Germany. The Carl Zeiss companies in both East and West Germany operated independently until 1991. In 2006, the areas that manufactured microscopes were merged under the umbrella of Carl Zeiss MicroImaging GmbH, headquartered in Jena. In 2011, the electron microscopy department was integrated with the production sites in Oberkochen, Peabody and Cambridge. The company was renamed Carl Zeiss Microscopy, and its headquarters established in Jena, where it all began.

Alongside Jena, the Göttingen and Munich sites offer perfect solutions for biological research, industry and the public health sector. Its product line comprises light microscopes, confocal systems for laser scanning microscopes, the entire electron microscope range and customized software for image evaluation and documentation. All these products have made Carl Zeiss Microscopy GmbH one of the leading manufacturers of microscope systems.

1846 - 1879

1. Werkstätte (Neugasse) 1846-1847


Carl Zeiss opens a workshop for precision mechanics and optics in Jena.

Einfaches Mikroskop, 1847/48 (Photo: Dr. Timo Mappes: www.musoptin.com).


Simple microscope with doublet and triplet optics. Production of simple microscopes begins.

Stativ ||| b, 1871 (Photo: Dr. Timo Mappes: www.musoptin.com)


Carl Zeiss sells his first compound microscope.

3. Zeiss-Werkstätte, Johannisplatz, um 1865


Beginning of the partnership with Ernst Abbe.

1880 - 1945

Jenaer Glaswerk, 1884.


Partnership between Zeiss, Abbe and Schott. Optical glass from Otto Schott (1851-1935) enables more effectively corrected microscope systems.

Beobachtungsmikroskop, Sonderanfertigung für AEG-Elektronenmikroskop, 1941.


Beginning of TEM development by AEG. Carl Zeiss delivers inspection microscopes for the first TEM.

Firmenlogo "AEG ZEISS".


Cooperation for electron microscopy started by AEG and Carl Zeiss.

Bombenschaden am Hauptwerk, Jena 1945.


Jena initially occupied by American forces who take the leading employees to their zone. These employees establish a new company called Carl Zeiss in Oberkochen

1946 - 1999

Elektronenmikroskop, 1961.


Prof. Ernst Brüche founds the Süddeutschen Laboratorien Mosbach (SDL) and begins production of electron microscopes with electrostatic lenses.


Cooperation with SEMCO for development of SEMs (NovaSCAN).

Unterzeichnung der Absichtserklärung zur Carl-Zeiss-Stiftung Ost/West, "Biebelrieder Erklärung", von links: Dr.Wolfgang Adolphs (Schott Mainz), Dr. Klaus Gattnar, Dr. Horst Skoludek und Dr. Dieter Altmann (Jenaer Glaswerk), Mai 1990.


After the fall of the Berlin Wall, Carl Zeiss in Oberkochen acquires parts of the former combine VEB Carl Zeiss Jena. including microscopy. The activities in this field in Oberkochen and Jena are merged.

LEO (Zeiss) 1530 Gemini FESEM, 2000


The activities of Carl Zeiss and Leica in the Electron Microscopy Technology are bundled in the 50/50 joint venture: LEO Electron Microscopy.

2000 - today

Das hochauflösende Rasterelektronen Mikroskop Supra VP 55 der Carl Zeiss NTS.


Rebranding: LEO Electron Microscopy becomes Carl Zeiss Nano Technology Systems GmbH (NTS), a Carl Zeiss SMT company.

Fotograf: Jan-Peter Kasper


The Microscopy business group at Carl Zeiss becomes Carl Zeiss MicroImaging GmbH and is headquartered in Jena

Das Mikroskop ZEISS ORION® PLUS basiert auf die revolutionäre ALIS Helium-Ionen-Technologie, 2008


Acquisition of ALIS technology.


Carl Zeiss NTS GmbH and Carl Zeiss MicroImaging GmbH jointly form the new Carl Zeiss Microscopy business group.

ZEISS Microscopy Business Group
Inspiring solutions and services for your life sciences and materials research, education and clinical routine

ZEISS Unternehmensbereich Mikroskopie

Nobel Prizes
Find out more about the Nobel Prize tradition of ZEISS

History of Carl Zeiss SMT GmbH

Semiconductor Manufacturing Technology

How it all started

In 1968, progress in the area of camera lenses enable Carl Zeiss in Oberkochen to manufacture new types of optics for lithography for Telefunken. 1977 saw the launch of the S-Planar 10/0.28, the first lens to enable the manufacture of 1-µm structures with opto-lithographic procedures. This laid the foundation for the first wafer stepper.

The current partnership with Philips subsidiary Advanced Semiconductor Materials Lithography (ASML) also began in 1983 with the dispatch of the first projection and illumination optics from ZEISS. This business relationship became a strategic partnership in fiscal 1992/93. For ZEISS, the new millennium marked the dawn of a new era in the semiconductor industry – mainly with 193-nanometer technology, which had brought about the next technological breakthrough in the area of lithography optics in 1998. As a result of the increasing success of the ZEISS Group, the decision was made to pool the light, electron and ion-optical technologies in an independently operating business group.

Carl Zeiss SMT GmbH with its subsidiaries Carl Zeiss Laser Optics GmbH, Carl Zeiss SMS GmbH and Carl Zeiss NTS GmbH was founded in October 2001 (in 2010, Carl Zeiss NTS was transferred to the Microscopy business group). In the years to follow, this company introduced numerous innovations in the area of lithography optics for microchip manufacture to the market, including the Starlith 1700i, which uses both the immersion method – a procedure whereby the air between the last lens element and the surface of the wafer is replaced by a fluid – and lens and mirror systems simultaneously. A new factory in Oberkochen was officially opened in 2006. It is the most modern development and production center for lithography optics in the world. Starlith 19xxi, produced from 2007, became a major success not only in the history of the Semiconductor Manufacturing Technology business group, but also at ZEISS overall, becoming the Group's highest-earning product. 2012 heralded the transition of EUV (Extreme Ultraviolet) optics into serial production – a new era of optical lithography.

1896 - 1989

Planar® lens


Paul Rudolph designs the Planar lens, providing good anastigmatic field flattening and spherical and chromatic aberration correction at an initial aperture of f/4.

First Printer (Telefunken)


ZEISS supplies a lens for a circuit printer (precursor of the present-day wafer stepper and scanner) to AEG-Telefunken. It displays structures measuring 1.25 micrometers.


ZEISS delivers the first projection and illumination optical systems to Dutch company Philips (ASML, which is now a strategic partner of ZEISS, is later carved out of Philips).

1990 - 2002


Strategic partnership with Dutch wafer stepper and scanner producer ASM Lithography (ASML) begins.


The Semiconductor Manufacturing Technology business group of ZEISS is founded.

Carl Zeiss SMT


The Semiconductor Manufacturing Technology business group is subdivided into four independent companies: Carl Zeiss SMT (lithography optics and mirror blocks), Carl Zeiss Laser Optics (components for lithography lasers), Carl Zeiss SMS (supplier for systems for photomask quality assurance) and Carl Zeiss NTS (manufacturer of electron microscopes, today the Microscopy business group).


ASML and ZEISS jointly become world market leader in the area of wafer steppers and scanners and remain in this position until today.

2003 - today



Acquisition of NaWoTec.


Official inauguration of the new plant of Carl Zeiss SMT AG, the world's most advanced development and production center for lithography optics.


Acquisition of Pixer Technology (in Karmiel, Israel).

ZEISS Semiconductor Manufacturing Technology Business Group
Provides a broad range of products and solutions that support the global chip industry

ZEISS Unternehmensbereich Halbleitertechnik

History of Carl Zeiss Vision International GmbH

How it all started

In 1901 the collaboration with the Swedish ophthalmologist and subsequent Nobel Prize winner Allvar Gullstrand began. In 1908, Moritz von Rohr calculated a point-focal imaging eyeglass lens that minimized the blurring that occurs when looking through lens edge areas, thus laying the foundation for the renowned Punktal® eyeglass lenses. Coinciding with the launch of Punktal®, the OPTO division – the predecessor of today’s Carl Zeiss Vision – was founded on 1 April 1912. The division of Germany into East and West leads to the new founding of Carl Zeiss in Oberkochen. Ongoing innovations, such as the Gradal® eyeglass lens, and continuous advancements culminated in the 2005 emergence and subsequent international rise of Carl Zeiss Vision International GmbH. It still continues to regularly revolutionize the field of eyeglass lenses, such as with the invention of Individual® FrameFit® or the next generation of vision: i.Scription®.

1901 - 1945

Nobelpreisträger Allvar Gullstrand


Start of collaboration with Swedish ophthalmologist and later Nobel Prize winner Allvar Gullstrand.

Moritz von Rohr


Moritz von Rohr calculates a point-focal imaging eyeglass lens which minimizes the blurring that occurs when looking through edge areas, thus laying the foundation for Punktal eyeglass lenses.


Coinciding with the launch of PUNKTAL®, the OPTO department is founded on 1 April, the predecessor to the current Carl Zeiss Vision. Start of volume production of ZEISS eyeglass lenses.

Fachschule für Augenoptik Jena.


A state-run vocational school for eye care professionals is founded in Jena with ongoing financial support from the Carl Zeiss Foundation.


Jena is initially occupied by American forces who take the leading employees to the American Zone before Thuringia is handed over to the Soviet Union. These employees establish a new company in Oberkochen, which later also carries the name Carl Zeiss.

1946 - today


Relocation of eyeglass lens production from Oberkochen to Aalen.

"Z" Warenzeichen.


Introduction of the"Z" trademark on all eyeglass lenses.



Acquisition of SOLA International Inc. Merger with the Eyeglass Lens Division to create Carl Zeiss Vision International GmbH (50 percent owned by Carl Zeiss, 50 percent by the EQT private equity fund).

Carl Zeiss Vision


Carl Zeiss Vision becomes a 100 percent subsidiary of Carl Zeiss AG.

ZEISS Vision Care Business Group
As the world's leading manufacturer of precision optics we combine technical expertise and innovative ideas into exceptional visual experiences

ZEISS Unternehmensbereich Vision Care