Let's talk... Interview with a member of the Cleaning Business Area at Fraunhofer

© Fraunhofer IGCV

In our interview series, we introduce you to a member of the Fraunhofer Cleaning division in each newsletter. This time, Timo Schiessl from the Fraunhofer Institute for Casting, Composite and Processing Technology IGCV answered our questions. Read more about his career and his personal views on the goals, potential and wishes for the Fraunhofer Cleaning division.


1. How did you join Fraunhofer-Business Area Cleaning?

I joined the group Quality and Technical Cleanliness at the Fraunhofer IGCV in 2016 while I was still studying and was enthusiastic about the challenges in the field of cleaning technology. Initially, I worked on the cleaning of additively manufactured components, which are difficult to clean due to their complex geometries. My main area of research is now the cleanliness of production systems for sustainable energy storage systems. In addition to the question of how and how much needs to be cleaned at different points in the process chain, we also advise our customers on the design of components, production systems and even entire plants. As a researcher the varied issues give me the opportunity to play an active role in shaping current events.


2. What goal have you set yourself for your work at Fraunhofer-Business Area Cleaning?

For me, it is important to transfer knowledge from research to industry. We have often found that technical cleanliness is a difficult issue in manufacturing companies because the necessary know-how is lacking. Through the sensible use of optimized cleaning processes, we can not only contribute to an increase in added value, but also have the opportunity to increase resource efficiency. In addition, in areas such as battery production, we have enormous leverage to extend quality and service life and can therefore contribute to a more sustainable product life cycle.


3. What would you like to pass on to the customers Fraunhofer-Business Area Cleaning?

The correct selection and design of cleaning systems is almost always a case-by-case decision. It is important to know what requirements exist for the product in order to take measures on this basis. However, the limit values for impurities should always be well thought out, as incorrect specifications can have a major impact on production. It is more effective to contact experts from the beginning in order to make targeted decisions. This can save time and resources.


4. What does the Fraunhofer IGCV offer in cleaning technology?

From laboratory to industrial scale, we have various cleaning technologies in our technical center to be able to map entire process chains and advise our customers with industry-related research. We have an aqueous cleaning system with pressure swing washing, ultrasound, spraying and flooding, which we use to remove powder residues from components in additive manufacturing, for example. In the field of battery and fuel cell production, we test cleaning processes suitable for series production, such as CO2, brush or pressure pulse cleaning with the necessary ionization and extraction, in a specially designed test bench.

We also have extensively equipped laboratories for testing smaller components and, of course, we analyze our cleaning results there.


5. What makes you a competent partner in cleaning technology?

My enthusiasm and drive to find a solution to every problem I would say. In my 6 years in the field of technical cleanliness, I have found that there are still countless unsolved problems, but so far, we have been able to find a solution to every challenge. My curiosity also means that I don't just want to operate the cleaning processes, I also want to understand them. This has enabled me to gain extensive insights into different technologies.

However, a large part of my expertise does not come from myself, but from our team. The combined expertise from different specialist areas helps us to think outside the box and sometimes pursue unconventional (but effective) approaches. We can also always rely on the expertise of other FRei members and use our network with the industry.


6. What do you wish for the industry?

What is often lacking in the industry is an understanding of the effects that impurities can have and that there are often ready-made solutions. I hope that the issue of cleaning will not just be treated as a side issue in future, but that it will be considered as early as the product development phase. In companies, we often find that employees are not aware of the issue and are therefore unable to act correctly. However, awareness could be increased through simple educational measures.


7. What is urgently needed so that the next big step can be taken in the field of cleaning technology?

In my view, cleaning technology needs to be agile to be able to react quickly to changes. It could be helpful to drive forward the digitalization and networking of systems externally. Topics such as artificial intelligence will also be an issue in the future and there are certainly many approaches that cleaning technology can learn from.

Another point is life cycle assessment. How much CO2 a component produces is a question that needs to be answered more and more often. Digitalization can also help with this.