A startup mentality in a traditional, medium-sized company? No, I couldn’t picture it myself at first either. That was until I joined MANN+HUMMEL as a student trainee around six months ago, as part of my mechatronics studies at Pforzheim University of Applied Sciences. To be precise, I was part of the ‘Fine Dust Eater’ team. The Fine Dust Eater is a MANN+HUMMEL technology platform, which aims to develop filtration solutions for keeping the air clean in urban areas. The main focus is currently on reducing traffic emissions using mobile filters and improving air quality at particulate hotspots, such as railway stations, bus stops and junctions, through the use of stationary filter columns (Filter Cubes).
The Neckartor Project
On my first day at work, I was greeted by a young and dynamic team that works together in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere. Once installed in the team, I was lucky enough to be able to start work immediately on an exciting live project – the plan was to install 17 Filter Cubes at Neckartor in Stuttgart, one of Germany’s worst affected locations in terms of particulates. The filters have now been operational since the end of 2018 and are not only capable of filtering particulates but will soon also be able to filter nitrogen oxide (NO2) from the air. Today, I would like to take a quick look behind the scenes and show just how much work goes into a project of this scale.
The Electronics/IoT team was made up by me and two other colleagues and we were responsible for measurement, electronics and development. Specifically, this meant that we were responsible for setting up the control box and developing the software, as well as installing the columns’ electronics and cabling. We were also tasked with commissioning the columns in test mode, in order to check their functionality, and with resolving any initial errors that arose. This in particular led to some overtime here or there. The filter columns themselves were initially built at MANN+HUMMEL and were then delivered to Neckartor. After that, it was just a question of setting them up at Neckartor and connecting them to the power grid. I was involved at every stage of the implementation process, from development to testing, right through to on-site commissioning. As a result, my working day was always extremely varied as we made preparations and carried out programming in the office, but there was also plenty of technical work to be done on the columns themselves.
Not without ist challenges
Of course, I was also faced with plenty of challenges, some of which turned out to be downright stressful on occasion. One pertinent example of this was having to carry out on-site commissioning in all kinds of adverse weather. For me, this meant wrapping up warm and driving to Neckartor with my laptop on more than one occasion, to ensure that commissioning ran smoothly. The time pressure was another stress factor which had a real impact on some days. However, when I look back on the promising results of the initial measurements, I must say that the hard work was all worth it and that simply having the chance to work on programming and controlling the Filter Cubes was always a lot of fun.
One thing that struck me as being particularly positive was the large amount of responsibility you are given as a student trainee at MANN+HUMMEL. This meant I was able to complete certain tasks and get involved in the organisation on my own. For example, I took on various independent software tasks and built a couple of the filter columns together with other MANN+HUMMEL employees, as well as checking the cabling.
And so it continues
Although my work on the Neckartor project is now complete, I’m happy to say that my time with the Fine Dust Eater team is far from over: I’ll be remaining with the team and will shortly start work on my bachelor’s thesis looking at the development of a mobile IoT analyser unit. Even though this means I’ll be able to stay on at MANN+HUMMEL for another six months, I’ve already learnt so much from my time here. There is a real emphasis on teamwork in the Fine Dust Eater team, and you develop a kind of startup mentality, which gives you a lot of freedom. I can’t wait to get started on the rest of my time here!