A technology company must constantly reinvent itself. For the employees of the Dürr Group, developing pioneering ideas is therefore part of their daily work. The company encourages them in this – for example through the Heinz Dürr Award (HDA), which has been presented every year since 2001.
The award is given in five categories, each receiving a cash prize of 7,500 euros, and recognizes outstanding achievements throughout the Group. While the focus is on technical innovations, it also extends to ideas for work organization and sustainability.
The award is traditionally presented by the patron and Honorary Chairman of the Supervisory Board, Dr.-Ing. E. h. Heinz Dürr. For him, the award is an important part of the Group’s culture of innovation. Here is a selection of the most interesting projects that have recently received the sought-after award.
The award-winning ideas of the Heinz Dürr Award testify to the spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship at the Group’s worldwide sites. The importance given to the award within the company reflects a culture deeply rootedin a passion for efficient and technologically outstanding solutions.
Furniture factories use a number of different machines. This means: If production is interrupted, it is not immediately obvious where the cause lies. This issue has now been addressed in a project implemented by a team from the HOMAG Group. → Every machine is equipped with sensors that collect production data. This information is used to screen – and easily optimize – all processes, from the delivery of raw materials through to dispatch.
Everyone is familiar with this effect: Not all paint from a spray can necessarily lands on the desired area; some of it misses the spot. This is inconvenient and wastes paint. A team at Dürr has therefore developed the → EcoPaintJet painting robot system. Its applicator, with an intricately machined nozzle plate, works so precisely that even the smallest paint droplets land in exactly the right place. This saves material and enables, for example, contrast strips to be applied without prior masking of the remaining car body parts.
Greenhouse gases are the main cause of climate change – they include methane and carbon dioxide. Both substances are also generated on landfill sites. In Sweden, landfill sites are responsible for 2 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions nationwide. This is why site operators burn the exhaust gases in purification systems, thereby feeding district heating networks. However, this process is reaching its limits since the proportion of organic waste is declining. As a result, the methane content is no longer sufficient to ignite a flame and trigger combustion. This means the operators must add fossil fuels – and this is both inefficient and harmful to the environment.
For the Swedish customer Gotland Energy (GEAB), Dürr Megtec has therefore developed a plant that is based on the principle of regenerative thermal oxidation (RTO). Here, ignition is triggered by an electrically powered heating coil. This means the plant requires less methane but can still achieve ignition and incinerate exhaust gases. Lisa Larsson, Waste Engineer at GEAB, explains that the heat generated through this process is enough to heat 100 single-family homes for a whole year. “The income from this even covers the operating costs of the plant.” Apart from Sweden, many other countries are looking for ways to use landfill gas sustainably. For them, Dürr’s innovation could be the solution.
Quality is key for automakers – especially when it comes to paint. However, monitoring the quality of the paint coat takes time. Therefore, a Dürr team has developed the → EcoReflect light tunnel. It helps to identify even the smallest defects in surfaces more easily and quickly. An additional advantage is that the LED technology employed requires less than half the energy consumed by conventional fluorescent tubes.
Drying ovens for paint shops are as big as several garages in a row, and their weight is huge. Producing them individually used to involve a great deal of manual work and was therefore very time-consuming. The members of an international Dürr team have now solved this problem: They have reworked the process to enable semi-automatic flow production of compact and standardized modules. This simplifies production and lowers costs substantially.
Spin test systems are used by technicians to test the load limit of rotors – at up to 240,000 revolutions per minute. This naturally leads to deformations, which must stay within defined limits. Schenck RoTec developers have enhanced the spin test systems even further: A measuring system now also records the expansion of the rotor surface during spinning. The information thus gained helps to improve the design of drives, for example, for electric vehicles.
Mr. Dürr, what does innovation mean for you?
The job of a company is to create products that society needs. This is what innovation must focus on. Many things are technically possible, but not everything is relevant. A good product developer therefore begins by studying the customer’s requirements. At Dürr, practice-oriented innovation has always been a priority. This cements our position as a market leader. Seminal innovations in our markets, namely the automotive industry and furniture production, must come from us and not from our competitors.
20 years ago, you launched the Heinz Dürr Award. Why?
Innovation does not happen at the touch of a button, and it cannot be demanded. You need employees with good ideas. And you must encourage and support such employees. The award is designed to help us do so.
To this day, you present the awards personally. What characterizes the employees who receive them?
In your professional life, you always have to keep that curiosity alive and occasionally explore something unusual. I can sense this mindset in the award-winners I speak to. They are people who don’t stop thinking when they clock out at the end of the day, but who want to keep improving their products.