Inside the 4th Generation Startup

Image showing Sebastian Wimmer at ACEO®'s production site

ACEO®’s hardware engineer, Sebastian Wimmer, built the infrastructure from scratch (Photo: ACEO®; Wacker Chemie AG).

Hardware engineer Sebastian Wimmer is one of ACEO®’s original pioneers. In our interview we learn more about his tasks and discover a century of corporate heritage.

Sebastian, what is your professional background?

After my graduation from school in Burghausen I joined WACKER and underwent an integrated degree program in chemical and process engineering from 2009-2012. Dual study allows you to combine both practical and theoretical knowledge. A great basis to start working in this field and obtain your bachelor’s degree. Later I added an extra-occupational master’s degree in mechanical engineering from the Cooperative State University of Stuttgart.

How did you get to WACKER right after school?

I was born in Burghausen and my family shares quite some history with WACKER: My great-grandfather helped build the original plant. My grandfather laid the cornerstone for the first silicone laboratory, and my father is working in Technical Marketing. It was kind of natural for me to follow their footsteps for the 4th generation at WACKER.

My Bachelor thesis involved working with silicones, which is why I first worked in the silicones division as project engineer. The range of tasks went from machine construction to design or evaluation. My focus was on the technology used for medical silicones in the clean operations team.

Can you describe the way from medical silicones to ACEO®?

I got involved with ACEO® in 2015 when they decided to turn their research project into a business. They were looking for a hardware engineer, someone to build the technical and operational infrastructure from scratch.

This was a major difference to my previous job where approximately 90% of the equipment was already existing and first and foremost needed maintenance. So I was very curious to join ACEO®, take a step back in the process chain and focus on creating something new.

What were the first steps or challenges you were facing at ACEO®?

Literally everything was new and needed to be built from scratch. It started with the reconstruction of the building itself. The next step was to evaluate the existing prototypes of the 3D printers and turn them into serial 3D printers. You can only imagine how challenging it was to implement a production process with a technology that did not exist until then. When we officially launched ACEO® in August 2016 we had planned and built the whole infrastructure.

My job was however not done with setting up the technology: everything needs maintenance and on top, the 3D printers had to go through a legal process for approval. Today I can say I was able to explore all facets of engineering in this phase.

How is your typical day at ACEO® now?

My main operational interface with the 3D printers is our software engineer Christian, followed by materials engineer Florian (read story). The ACEO® technology consists of material, hardware and software. Every change of parameters on one end will affect the other.

What makes ACEO®’s technology stand out in this field?

As I said – ACEO® is a system solution and comes in a full package consisting of hardware, software and material. The secret weapon in my opinion is the Wacker silicone knowhow adapted to our machine technology. The material is developed inhouse for our printers and the customer’s needs. I cannot think of another 3D printing startup in this field which provides this combination. If you have to buy your material from an external supplier you have much less control over your product and its applications.

Was it a natural step for you to continue your family tradition at WACKER resp. ACEO®?

Of course I knew the company much better than my peers before I joined because of my family. The fact that I started in the silicones division was definitely affected by the knowledge that I had through my father. I knew a lot about the material and it fascinated me.

The main reason to join ACEO® however was purely intrinsic. I was impressed by WACKER’s courage and commitment to create a startup that had the freedom and corporate backbone to explore a new market without knowing where the journey would end. I could not resist this pioneering spirit combined with the opportunity to have overall responsibility for the technology.

What do like best about your job?

As mentioned I can contribute throughout the whole process chain. As we are working very closely with our customers, we also get a lot of feedback. This direct exchange between customer and developer / engineer extremely facilitates and accelerates progress. Since we are a small team I also get to see the sales side when we are on shows or exhibitions.

In a nutshell I would say nobody at ACEO® is in charge of only one thing. We are all committed to a greater and common cause. My focus is to take ACEO® to the next level with an optimized industrial process without interference. That said it makes me proud to walk the path that my great-grandfather once paved.