FLM : one day in the factory
by Thierry Rebours
Galerie-photo : Anne and Werner Bürklin, you’re the founding
manager of FLM, which is not well known yet in France (La Boutique
de Galerie-Photo retails them for one year). What means FLM and
could you browse his history ?
In the beginning, the idea was to build ball heads, which met the
requirements of professional photography (F).
In order to obtain optimal image quality, additional light (L),
which must be exactly adjusted, is needed in many situations.
Ball joints are also used for metrology (M) to hold sensors, light
beam instruments, deflection mirrors and measurement optical systems
so that they do not shake and cannot be displaced.
How did you learn this job ?
1993 I bought a company called Sedelmayer in Bavaria Bad
Wörishofen. Sedelmayer was a manufacturer from ball heads only the
industrial elliptical types. Until this time I was at the head of
department from a CNC manufacturer for precision mechanical work and
I saw a ball head for the first time.
1994 I studied the market from the photographers and the
competitors. Then I started to develop a new ball head range. I
looked for a wholesaler and as the ball heads were on the market,
the important thing for me was the customer feedback.
Between 1995 and 1997 I tried to make every day something better.
I looked for a way to produce very high quality to a reasonable
price. I stick to one principle : all parts are produced by myself,
and not simply bought in Far East, which would have been easier.
Instead of Made in Germany I could label “Made by Werner Bürklin”.
1998 I applied the first patent and get more and more success in
Germany. Until now I have 13 patents and sell my products in 15
countries world wide.
the Photokina in 2006
Your balls have a really fine quality and feel strong,
what are your "secrets" ?
This demanding and variable range of use places high requirements
on the products and requires multifarious knowledge of precision
FLM was founded in 1993 and initially a ball joint family was
developed for the photography branch. Through very close contact
with photographers as the users, these products were continually
improved to achieve the perfect holding and guiding of the camera.
When the photographer is concentrating on his best picture, his
accessories must function reliably.
What is your manufacturing process ?
True to this guiding principle, we attempt to manufacture
products of the highest quality. Our basic material, aluminum, is
lead-free and is carefully machined with CNC technology.
Every part is produced in a fixing device and thus sequence
errors can be prevented and the required precision of each part in
the series is assured. We produce all parts in one clamping this is
the reason that we can eliminate mistakes.
If we clamp the parts more times then it’s possible to make
clamping mistakes. For example: The housing from the ball head has
lots of boreholes, slot and threads and all process operations are
made in one clamping. This is our guaranty for a high quality in our
continuous production. The ball, the heart of a tripod head, is
turned precisely to one one-hundredth of a millimeter and then
In the plastic guides, which are produced the same way, the ball
then runs as smooth-as-silk and without any jerky motions. Ranging
from the set screw to the twist handle, over 95 percent of all parts
are produced at our company, FLM.
This assures precision where this is important and this is also
done without additional costs from suppliers.
After the assembly, which is performed by specialists with many
years of experience, each product goes through a final inspection,
which assures the customer proper functioning and a long service
How many work to produce a ball head ?
The CB-58FT with QRB has 68 parts. It takes 1hour and.40min to
produce the parts and 45min. to assemble the ball head.
Why choose a FLM ball head ?
When making a decision to buy a new ball joint, the user should
be able to choose the mounting system he wants to use. FLM tripod
heads in the 0 version make it possible to continue to use your own
The fast change system from FLM is compatible with ARCA and
What are your projects in the future ?
For the new developments, measures were taken to offer the
photographer greater ease of use without having to buy several
products to achieve this. For this purpose, a pan graduated movement
system was integrated in the ball joint and a new slide rest for the
panorama photography is being worked on.
Using the conventional camera plates from FLM, this is to allow
the adjustment of the camera in the focal point of the objective
lens. A leveling unit for compensation up to 15 degrees in any
direction is also available without panorama rotation, which is
already contained in the ball joint.
In just a few days FLM will take care of your needs be this a
general overhaul of your tripod head or simply spare parts, which
are available from us for up to 10 years.
You are currently making other stuff for aeronautical,
can you explain ?
FLM has succeeded in developing a ball joint with prestressing of
the ball and cable inlet, which is used in the most modern airplanes
in first class for positioning reading lights.
How can you manage to produce in Germany and having
concurrential selling prices ?
The willingness to make something better every day with love for
detail and high dedication of our 3 employees have allowed FLM to
establish itself in Germany and the company is on its way to selling
its products, "Made in Germany," around the globe with success.