The Flettner rotor was developed by engineer and inventor Anton Flettner in the 1920s. The rotor’s design utilises the Magnus effect as a means of propulsion that is still used by some ships today. The most spectacular example of this was the Flettner Rotor Ship, so called because it was propelled by two 65 foot high rotors which resembled giant funnels. On reaching New York in 1926 after crossing the Atlantic at speeds of up to 17 knots, it earned the praise of Albert Einstein.
The designs were purchased by Walter Stern in 1931 who founded British Flettner Ventilator Ltd, who then started manufacturing and selling ventilators in London, England. Flettner Ventilator Ltd has been a family-run business since 1931 and now has over 80 years of expertise in delivering wind-driven ventilation.
British Flettner Ventilator produced a variety of types and sizes of ventilators and they were originally made of metal. The smaller Flettner 417 design, about the size of current Flettner ventilators, became the most popular.
Flettner 417’s were fitted to transport vehicles of all kinds over Europe, Australia and South Africa. Throughout the post war years Flettner Ventilators were routinely fitted to many types of transportation vehicles including:-
The company continued to thrive and in the late 1970’s driven by improvements in polymer technology, the company switched from steel to plastic for the manufacture of new ventilators and shutters.
In the early 1980’s, the patented Flettner 2000 was produced, an updated design of the 417. With its plastic, more slim-line design, the F2000 could extract air with much less wind-power, making it a cost-effective, efficient and versatile extraction system for Commercial Vans, Trucks, Glider trailers, Trains, Caravans, RVs, Boats and Buildings. The Flettner 2000 has been fitted onto other platforms including fishing vessels – even making it to Antarctica as part of an Antarctic expedition.
In 2006, the patented Flettner TCX-2 was launched. Similar in look to the 417, but manufactured in high grade plastic, this version was designed with a number of modifications including a powerful extraction system and strengthened spindle design with both a standard and narrow-base to fit on ribbed roofs for similar applications.
Further growth followed which led to Flettner relocating its headquarters to Milton Keynes in 2015 to take advantage of the city’s excellent communication and logistics infrastructure.
Today, Flettner Ventilator Ltd is regarded as the world leader in the design and manufacture of wind powered ventilation products and the company continues to manufacture its products in the UK, selling to over 20 countries. Flettner maintains the same principles it started out with over 80 years ago, to deliver a simple, yet durable air extraction product which can be used for a broad range of applications – truly, a great British manufacturing success story.