"Baerlit" helps airbus take off
Scanning electron microscopes by Zeiss rely on highly modern base plates. Manufactured using mineral casting processes, they display their advantages in comparison to steel in their daily use by, for example, showing a 20 times higher vibration dampening. They originate from the components in Magdeburg. The IZM Polycast GmbH&Co. KG also supplies clamping devices, based on which components for the Airbus A 380 are developed in Spain.
Jürgen Bär is the business manager of the small business in the Buckau area of the city of Magdeburg. In the 19th century, the industrialisation of the city on the river Elbe guaranteed an innovation boost. Hermann Gruson perfected the chill casting. For him the then new material had become a mission in life. Intersection parts for railway tracks with improved durability brought orders and demonstrated their advantages compared to those made from steel. The quality of the Gruson railway wheels manufactured in this procedure excelled all other producers in Europe.
Jürgen Bär laughs in embarrassment when it comes to speaking about such historic relations. He is of course defensive as the mineral casting procedure is not his invention. He is merely using it to its full extent, constantly puzzling over solutions for various applications. The mechanical engineer worked for three years at the University of Magdeburg in research projects on mineral casting, which the educational institute has been focusing on for three years.
"In comparison to steel, the production costs are lower, we require a third less energy and the material is resistant to many chemicals, " says the engineer. The secret of the technology lies it its composition. Epoxy resin, for example, connects with sand or gravel. These substances must be fire-dried before use so that any trace of moisture can be removed. With casting, even complex moulds can be produced. For applications such as X-ray systems, the Magdeburg specialists also use lead balls as a filler in order to achieve radiation protection. Each component can be fully recycled at the end of its life cycle.
When Jürgen Bär speaks about the permanent ongoing research for new application possibilities his eyes light up. He is the man for research and development. His "Baerlit" procedure is protected as a utility patient. There are now almost 150 various formulas, three are continuously used. "I also have materials which the world does not - yet - need," admits the bubbly man. The specific customer requirement always determines the specific use of the component. As proof, he gets a black boulder from the desk. Small colourful occlusions only reveal its origin at a second glance. Bär called it "shredded yellow bin". In combination with epoxy resin, the raw material can experience useful applications which rely on light and elastic materials.
Two years ago he had to fight to keep his business alive. The burglary in the machine tool manufacturing department also caused him a lot of problems. Instead of 250 basic scaffolds for such systems as in 2007, in 2008 only three were cast. Banks hesitated with the pre-financing of orders. In this situation a rather random meeting with the businessman Felix von Nathusius produced successful results. Today both have a 50% share in the company, one deals with the sales and the other with research and production. The pair work well together. IZM Polycast has explored all possibilities.
Components for fields such as biogas systems and tiles for solar systems arrived as new orders into the company. "Our aims are small production batches and one-off production," reports Jürgen Bär. In this respect, the products range from small sample parts for Airbags through to parts for drilling machine racks up to 21 tons. 50 percent of the production is for export, for example to China, Great Britain, Hungary and Spain. The total of eight employees want to reach a turnover of 1,2 million Euros in 2010 which is set to grow by 20 percent in the coming year. Bär is expecting new employees and the transition to double shift work.
Author: Klaus-Peter Voigt
IZM Polycast GmbH?Co. KG