In our new interview series, each newsletter introduces a member of Fraunhofer Cleaning in more detail. To start with, we spoke with the longtime member and new spokesperson of Fraunhofer Cleaning Frank-Holm Rögner. Read more about his views on the objectives, possibilities and ideas of cleaning technology at Fraunhofer and some personal notes.
How did you join Fraunhofer Cleaning?
I had just completed a difficult and lengthy planning and acquisition of a very special cleaning system for metallic strips and components for the newly built PVD coating system MAXI at the FEP, which meant an enormous learning process in the field of cleaning processes for me when an internal Fraunhofer survey came from Dr. Wissenbach (Fraunhofer ILT) about who is involved in cleaning processes and who is interested in working together. After a few meetings with varying participants, this led to the foundation of the Fraunhofer Cleaning Technology Alliance – the predecessor of Fraunhofer Cleaning - in October 2002, where I have been working ever since.
What goal have you set yourself as the new spokesperson of Fraunhofer Cleaning?
The cleaning of surfaces in industrial production is currently in a challenging situation regarding the increasing automation of industrial production in general and the tension between increasing cleanliness requirements and enormous cost pressure. In this phase it is both task and challenge to expand the excellent possibilities of Fraunhofer Cleaning in order to strengthen its leading role as a competence center for cleaning technology and to remain an attractive research partner for our customers. The use of artificial intelligence, innovative process sensor technology and environmentally friendly cleaning processes are just a few examples of current development directions. All this requires excellent training of personnel who have to deal with cleaning processes in production. For this reason, a major focus will also be on expanding activities in the area of education and training. Last but not least, Fraunhofer Cleaning is on the threshold of expanding its activities. This will be another focal point.
What would you like to pass on to the customers of Fraunhofer Cleaning?
Imagine driving at high speed on the left lane of the highway to the next meeting. At an average speed of 200 km/h you could just about make it, as usual. Suddenly a dustcloud blocks your view completely. Emergency braking! The car lurches, you’ re pressed into the seat belt, all assistance systems engage. After nearly endless seconds without orientation, your vision clears up and you see that you have barely escaped a frontal crash while the car is rolling out. What do you do now?
1) You step on the gas pedal, shear left and try to get back into the tight schedule at 210 km/h?
2) You stop on the hard shoulder, inform your family, take a deep breath, are grateful that all the assistance systems were there to protect you from major damage and drive carefully to the nearest garage to have everything checked. Everything else is unimportant for this moment.
We find ourselves in a similar situation because of the Covid-19 Pandemic and hoping to come to a halt before the frontal crash. How will you start again afterwards? It's up to you!
Think about what the quality-safe cleaning of your components is worth to you and take into account that with every insufficiently cleaned part the entire previous added value is destroyed and it becomes worthless. Rescuing "assistance systems" in this case are always well-trained specialists for your cleaning processes, whose value is usually only appreciated when they have been able to prevent a crash. We support you in this, also with our further training offer!
What does the Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP offer in cleaning technology?
The Fraunhofer FEP as one of 10 member institutes of Fraunhofer Cleaning is at first sight a research institute for surface technologies. Every surface treatment whether it be coating or structuring, for example, requires a suitable pre-treatment or cleaning of the respective substrate surface in order to achieve the desired coating adhesion and functionality of the surface. Thus, the Fraunhofer FEP has many years of experience in various cleaning technologies and corresponding surface analysis, starting with classical aqueous cleaning methods up to low-pressure plasma ultra-fine cleaning before PVD coating. Both the extreme requirements of microelectronics production and robust processes for cleaning fast-moving steel strips play a role at the Fraunhofer FEP. Especially in the fields of medical, bio- and pharmaceutical technology, our institute works at the interface of cleaning and sterilization.
What makes you a competent partner in cleaning technology?
If you want to be successful in industrial cleaning technology, an interdisciplinary understanding in combination with a criminalistics flair is of great advantage. I have acquired both in the past almost 20 years in industrial component cleaning through cooperation with many competent partners and customers. Being a physicist is helpful, too.
What do you wish for the industry?
The recognition that this important step in the production process deserves.
What is urgently needed so that the next big step can be taken in the field of cleaning technology?
If cleaning in production can be successfully integrated into a closed production chain, not only in terms of logistics and process, but also by making consistent use of the possibilities offered by digitalization and automation, this will represent a major step for cleaning technology towards an effective production process.