in Vol. 17 - March Issue - Year 2016
Extending The Global Reach
Christoph Nitsche, Global Business Manager Technical Ceramics, 3M Technical Ceramics
3M Technical Ceramics, Kempten
3M Boron Carbide Blasting Nozzles
Interview with Christoph Nitsche, Global Business Manager Technical Ceramics, 3M Technical Ceramics (formerly ESK), Kempten.
(?) MFN: Mr. Nitsche, thank you for taking the time to do this interview. Could you first please give a brief introduction about 3M Technical Ceramics and your position within this company?
(!) C. N.: 3M Technical Ceramics in Kempten, formerly known as Elektroschmelzwerk Kempten (ESK), was founded in 1922 in Kempten. After being acquired by the Wacker Chemie GmbH in 1932 and sold to Ceradyne in 2004, the company was acquired by 3M in 2012.
3M Technical Ceramics is known for its claim to always aim for the best performing solution in order to provide solutions that perfectly fit its customers' needs and hence make them successful. This resulted in various products at the leading edge of innovation and quality. Notable examples are our 3M ceramic blasting nozzles with outstanding wear and tear resistance. In the field of Armor, our products meet a wide range of threat levels at very low weights. They are highly appreciated by customers. Last, but not least, ESKs cooling fillers are valued in the market for their extremely good thermal conductivity.
Innovation is in the DNA of 3M. The company is inventing excellent performing products that helped hundreds of millions of people all over the world over the years. Improving every customer's life with innovative technology and superior quality, value and services is what 3M stands for. Thereby defined innovation processes guarantee continuously improved solutions. Talk together, 46 technology platforms represent the diversity of 3M and allow the company to think outside the box to find the optimal solution for each requirement.
3M Technical Ceramics, as the result of the takeover of ESK by 3M, represents one of the 46 technology platforms and already benefits from the cross fertilization with neighboring technologies.
I have been with the company for 18 years. After I started as a business line manager, I built up new business development, and am now in charge of the Technical Ceramics as Global Business Manager.
(?) MFN: It's been one year now since the 3M Group completely took over at formerly ESK Ceramics in Kempten. How did the changeover work and what were the major challenges?
(!) C. N.: Since 3M Technical Ceramics had already been integrated into 3M in 2012, there were no major challenges to overcome, although we adjusted the brands of the products, where our Marketing and Communications team did (and is still doing) a great job in promoting those in the market place. The products qualities remained at their steadily high level. Hence, the feedback we get from our customers so far is consistently positive.
(?) MFN: What role does 3M Technical Ceramics play in the overall 3M strategy and in how far do its products fit into the 3M Company?
(!) C. N.: In this context, Kempten has become a 3M Corporate Global Center of Technical Excellence for Ceramics. This represents an exclusive club of four Global Centers in Europe, including Gendorf, Germany (fluoropolymers); Seefeld, Germany (dental materials); and 3M Sweden (hearing protection). The first place to start, when working to solve customers' challenges, is at these Centers of Technical Excellence for innovation and collaboration. The strategies to incorporate technologies into existing and future products have been very effective right from the start and are expected to continue.
3M works to solve customer problems through the contribution of its technologies. 3M Technical Ceramics offers additional technologies in transformational and production processes, which will lead to new product offerings in several market segments.
3M Technical Ceramics represent a perfect addition to 3M's highly diversified range of products in the field of metal processing. Blast nozzles, manufactured for the most demanding applications, make 3M Technical Ceramics one of the leading producers from Boron Carbide and fit excellently into the overall 3M strategy, helping to reduce costs and increase productivity for specialized companies.
The core competencies of a specialized manufacturer and a worldwide operating diversified technology company became united and strengths were consolidated. From this, we expect new opportunities to arise in order to drive technologies into innovative ways.
(?) MFN: Wherein do you see the advantages of 3M Technical Ceramics and its customers of now being incorporated into the 3M Company?
(!) C. N.: As indicated above, one can easily see that the core competencies of both formerly ESK and 3M perfectly complement each other. Continuous innovative improvement, which 3M is known for, helps 3M Technical Ceramics to further develop and invent superior products by using state-of-the-art resources like technology and know-how on a broad knowledgebase. Additionally, the new structure allows 3M Technical Ceramics to refer to the organizational power 3M provides. Hence, 3M is represented with operations in 72 countries that give 3M Technical Ceramics not only easy access to all customers around the world, but also to about 8,500 researchers worldwide and laboratories in 36 countries. Besides that, the new organization helps 3M Technical Ceramics to even better exploit its full potential in various markets and regions around the world.
Customers on the other hand benefit from a broad technology base 3M is characterized by. 3M's 46 technology platforms enable repeatedly fresh and innovative combinations that result in new solutions for customers. A prominent success story are 3M™ Cubitron™ II top class abrasives. 3M engineers developed a precision-shaped ceramic abrasive grain that maximizes cutting potential. With decades of experience in ceramic technologies, 3M has reinvented abrasives with 3M Cubitron II products. From now on, customers of 3M Technical Ceramics will also benefit from 3Ms experience and technologies.
(?) MFN: Let's focus on the blasting nozzles: Could you please explain to our readers the advantages of blasting nozzles from 3M Technical Ceramics and what differentiates them from others?
(!) C. N.: Pressure-less sintered manufacturing processes ensure series production at low cost and consistently high quality for each delivery. In addition to that, various and even complicated geometries and flexible threads are possible. This constantly outstanding price performance ratio has been valued by our customers for many years. Blast nozzles from 3M are further ideal for use with extremely hard blast media. Since they are made of Boron Carbide, they guarantee the least wear, longest lifecycle and an extremely high abrasion resistance. Comparing costs per time unit, 3M™ Boron Carbide Blasting Nozzles have a much better price/performance ratio than nozzles made of silicon carbide, alumina or hard metal. Such properties make blast nozzles from 3M Technical Ceramics appear with absolutely no alternative.
But that is not new for our customers at all. Boron carbide blasting nozzles of 3M are identical to the well-known TETRABOR blasting nozzles (of formerly ESK Ceramics GmbH & Co. KG). These have been known for six decades for their high and consistent quality, especially in terms of a constant operating system and being characterized by their uniform blasting performance.
What is new indeed, is that blasting nozzle customers now additionally benefit from the wide distribution network of 3M. From now on, nozzles - as well as any other product of former ESK - can be ordered in many countries, which makes life a lot easier for customers. They can order in their local national language and without any time delay on-site. In addition, 3M works on continuous improvements for all of their products including blasting nozzles in order to make sure that 3M's customers are at all times equipped with surpassing products.
There are also advantages for the product itself, which benefits from proofed quality caused by new materials and improved manufacturing processes like new geometries. Furthermore, continuous improvements will be achieved by combining platform technologies. At the same time, fair prices can be assured for outperforming products - just as what 3M is known for by its customers.
(?) MFN: Looking ahead: What are the next steps of 3M Technical Ceramics and where do you emphasize the features within the coming months?
(!) C. N.: By further utilization of our newly gained distribution channels, we want to increase accessibility for our customers around the world. In addition to that, strengthening important divisions has always been a defined aim of 3M. 3M has already invested a double-digit million USD amount in R&D in Kempten, which can be seen as a clear commitment to the Kempten facility. Consequently, further development of current products as well as the innovation of new solutions for different market segments can be expected. The collaboration has just begun.
MFN would like to thank Christoph Nitsche for this interview!
3M Technical Ceramics, Zweigniederlassung der 3M Deutschland GmbH
87437 Kempten, Germany
Tel. +49.831.5618 494
Fax +49.831.5618 8494