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Regional youth research competition ‘Jugend forscht’: Young practitioners from Ziehl-Abegg in the forefront

Company in general

Apprentices on the winners’ podium with a tool innovation

Using a newly developed tool which makes it easier to fit retaining rings, Andreas Hillenbrand and Maximilian Walz have achieved an impressive result in the regional youth research competition ‘Jugend forscht’: The two trainees from Ziehl-Abegg gained an excellent third place in the area of the world of work. “Although we have doubled our number of trainees within just a few years, the quality remains outstanding”, said Chairman of the Board of Directors Peter Fenkl, pleased with the success on the regional level. “The young innovators of today will be our specialists of tomorrow.”

Baden-Württemberg’s 50th regional youth research competition “Jugend forscht” was held in Stuttgart’s Haus der Wirtschaft, attended by Peter Friedrich, Baden-Württemberg Minister for International Affairs. 123 young talents working on 60 projects had participated in the regional competition. From these, a jury comprising representatives from schools, universities and industrial companies selected the winners in a number of disciplines. 

The two trainees from the Künzelsau-based industrial company Ziehl-Abegg scored with the development of a tool for use in practice: "We prevent retaining rings from being overstretched and consequently losing their grip", says Andreas Hillenbrand. The 18-year-old, together with Maximilian Walz (17), developed and actually manufactured a tool for fitting retaining rings. The development has a direct practical relevance as the concept was derived from production. Instructor Dieter Schweizer, who is in close contact with the production managers in the global manufacturing network, heard about problems with fitting retaining rings. “During manual production using manually using retaining ring pliers, untrained personnel overstretch the retaining rings – surely there had to be a solution to that". Schweizer passed this task over to the two trainees in the October. It is also difficult using a pair of pliers in constricted installation conditions. "This strong practical-relevance reflects the concept of our training," said Director of Training Jenny Wacker, pleased with the success achieved.

For the two trainees from Schöntal-Marlach (Walz) and Mulfingen-Ailringen (Hillenbrand), the development and manufacture of the tool set were a bonus. "It was a lot of work," says Walz; and Hillenbrand adds: "but it was worth it!" It goes without saying that this was all done during working hours. "We are obviously happy to support young people who show this much commitment; either in the form of materials or machinery", emphasises the instructor Mr. Schweizer. He  especially praises the fact that both worked very much on their own initiative.

The two youngsters began their training with the largest industrial company in Künzelsau last autumn. Maximilian Walz as an industrial mechanic and Andreas Hillenbrand as a toolmaker. "Initially of course we approached the task from the theoretic viewpoint", says Hillenbrand. The two then worked step by step on the idea for the new tool. "As both of us had previously attended the two-year vocational college training course, we were also very capable of carrying out the metalworking on lathes and milling machines ourselves", explains Walz.

The newly developed tool consists of an attachment and a sleeve which ensures a custom-fit assembly. Anyone using the tool knows that the retaining ring is properly fitted and has not been damaged by being overstretched. Together with a practical toolbox, the result is a tool which could be just as easily placed on a shelf in a DIY store. It includes attachments and sleeves for 8, 12 and 15 millimetre retaining rings.

Non-technical people often see retaining rings as a strange kind of washer. Retaining rings are also commonly known as Seeger rings (the name of a well-known manufacturer). These rings are placed in a groove over a shaft or axle for positional stability. In industry this applies for example in electric motors; in domestic households the wheels on the home lawn mower are often secured using these retaining rings.