The material had already fascinated him during his training years as a precision mechanic when he was first confronted by polytetrafluorethylene (PTFE) for research projects which, at that time, was only known in expert circles. But he would never have imagined that this unique material would accompany him throughout his working life: Frank Meissner, Head of Mechanical Production at our subsidiary Berghof Fluoroplastic Technology GmbH, has been working for Berghof for more than 40 years. The Berghof veteran explains in an interview why he still finds this material and its manifold possibilities exciting and why, for him, it is a growing, living plastic.
1. You and your team are solving difficult technical problems every day based on different PTFE materials. What makes PTFE so special in your opinion?
No other plastic comes even close to PTFE. In addition to the many positive properties such as the high temperature and chemical resistance and the fact that practically nothing can stick to this material, the most exciting thing for me are the sheer infinite processing possibilities: This material is so versatile and easy to process; in fact, it is one of the most versatile materials at all. That's why I tell every new employee: PTFE is a growing, living plastic which we are constantly re-inventing with our products - you can forget all about boredom. And no-one has ever told me in all these years that I was kidding them.
2. If you say that the material is so easy and flexible to handle - what is the biggest challenge?
Like all high-tech materials, PTFE is also valuable as a raw material and naturally has a higher price than many other plastics which are no match for its great performance. When we get a new project, we therefore always have to consider the three factors of time, costs and effort - and of course also give intensive thought to how a new component can be series-produced economically later. It feels all the more rewarding when a new component makes it into series production with our ideas because we have once more developed a technically and economically convincing production concept - or one of our developments has made an important contribution to the success of a research project.
3. Speaking of economical production: Berghof Fluoroplastic Technology GmbH recently completed a new company Building. How has this step affected your area of responsibility?
Very positively. The building is completely new so we were able to plan it optimally because we didn't have to make allowances for things that already existed. This has made the production process much easier. Also, we had already invested in new machines and plants beforehand so that we now have a very modern production for PTFE products at Berghof. Our decades of experience with PTFE and this highly modern production are good reasons why more and more customers are coming to us. The course is set for an even more positive development in the future.
4. Speaking of the future: Have you already thought about who will continue your life's work when you go into your well-earned retirement in a few years?
40 years is a long time. We were always well-known for finding convincing solutions to tricky problems. In other words: I really do have a lot of experience in how to turn this fascinating material into equally fascinating products. Passing on this knowledge means a lot to me - so I have always involved my team closely in important topics. No need to worry: Berghof Fluoroplastics will definitely carry on business as usual when the "old hands" like me make way for younger ones to assume command. Our team is like the material that we work with: dynamic and growing.
5. What has also grown, surely, is the demands of the customers. Are there any developments here which you, with your many years of experience, view sceptically?
Especially over the last few years, the demands for surface precision have become increasingly higher. From a purely technical point of view, there are practically no limits to this development with our modern production methods. But this demand is not really always technically necessary. We often have cases where we advise our customers to back down from their maximum demands in this issue - and therefore make the manufacture of a product much more economical. This is also a very good example, by the way, of how firmly the idea of the "Innovation Hub", that is the close and collaborative cooperation with our partners and customers, is anchored in our company.
6. A good cue: Since the new building was completed, the mill at Berghof Fluoroplastics has literally been buzzing more than ever - and you are under pressure day in day out. Where can you best drop anchor, that is: relax?
For me, my family is the most important haven to rest and recharge my batteries, especially my wife. She also carries a lot of responsibility in her job and therefore always has a sympathetic ear and understanding for me - even when I am pondering on a solution for a new challenge which still keeps my brain ticking long after I get home from work.
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