Behind the Scenes of ACEO®‘s ProductionOct 07, 2017
Dr. Ralf Mezger has been with ACEO® from the start. Heading the production team, he gives us insights into his professional background and fascination for creating something new with a motivated team.
What did you do before you joined ACEO®?
Back in 2010, WACKER expanded their business in the food industry. They created a lab to develop solutions for the food industry using their ingredients. My background is in the food industry and I was hired to build a team that could operate the lab. This involved finding people who were not only talented food chemists or food technologists but who would also share a pioneering spirit as WACKER was entering the food solutions business.
To give you an example: If you offer an ingredient for a well-known product, you need to ensure specified sensory properties of the product with your new ingredient in the recipe. This is why we created a sensory panel, where ingredients were not only developed but their influence tested in respect to the final product was also tested.
How did you become part of the ACEO® team?
After six years, the food lab was well-established. I was looking for a new challenge and came across the position as Production Manager at ACEO®. What caught my interest is that they were looking for people who are enthusiastic about their work and who want to create something completely new. There is no professional training for 3D printing with silicone, which is why they needed to get the right people on board.
The change from food to silicone was a major step for me as it was not necessarily my area of expertise. Nevertheless I wanted to expand my horizon and add value with my operational, technical and organizational knowledge. I felt that my previous experience with the lab could be beneficial for ACEO® as a pioneering technology.
What were your main challenges in this new area?
My main challenge was to understand the material, its properties and how it can be used. Also, I learned about UV curing and other silicone specific properties I did not know from my previous work.
A second challenge was to build a new team. When we started, no one from ACEO®’s production team had any previous experience with 3D printing or silicones.
Another challenge – and main motivator – was to build something new from the very beginning again.
Talking about motivation – what do you like most about your work?
I like defining processes, finding solutions and I very much like working with people in a team. Managing processes might be less challenging than working with a people – as a team does not come with a manual. But it is extremely rewarding to experience how motivated people join forces in order to create innovative solutions.
Could you describe your daily tasks at ACEO®?
Straightforward: To ensure orders are completed in time, with the required and expected quality, complying with all regulations.
The workflow is simple and efficient: Customers place their orders in our web shop, our Product Design Engineer evaluates the data, the office work colleagues confirm the order and hand it over to us, where the orders are integrated into the production plan. Once the 3D printed parts passed our quality control, we ship them to our customers.
It is essential that the printing process runs smoothly until the end as we cannot rework the products. If you have a part consisting of e.g. 12 layers, and there is a problem during the 11th layer, you have to start again from the beginning – this is why we continuously optimize our processes with our Hardware and Software Engineers.
What is the most fascinating product area for you?
Currently it is medical engineering. I cannot see how someone you could make a realistic blood vessel replica with any other technology. Working with Hannah Riedle on her research project with ACEO® (read full story) taught me a lot about the impact of our work.
I am proud to be part of an over 100 years-old company that never stops thinking out of the box. WACKER gives their employees a chance to create something new and groundbreaking in a startup-like environment like ACEO® with the backbone of a global player.