The manus award is a joint initiative which the plastics specialist igus announces every two years. More than 3,000 contestants from across the globe have entered the competition in recent years, which honours the creative use of polymer plain bearings in industrial applications. This year, the manus award celebrates its tenth anniversary. A good reason to look back: what has become of the last nine winners and their projects? The Industrieanzeiger made enquiries
In 2015, Jan-Philipp Kobler received the gold manus for his promotion project. He developed a miniaturised parallel robot that supports doctors when they perform minimally invasive cochlea implant surgery for the treatment of inner-ear deafness and severe hearing difficulties. This technology requires a puncture channel from the skull surface to the basal winding of the cochlea, which can lie up to 35mm below the skull. Such a hole has a diameter of 2mm at most, and is located in direct proximity to anatomic structures that are worth protecting. Therefore, the device must work very precisely and also meet the hygienic medical requirements, such as steam sterilisation and disinfection. Jan-Philippe Kobler decided to use a drylin N glide bar with two carriages from igus to guide the surgical instruments. Furthermore, several iglidur X plain bearings are used in the rotating joint of the robot. The bearings are characterised by their freedom from lubrication, which means that they are ideal for the use in medical applications.
When I won the gold manus in 2015, I had been working as a scientific assistant for the Institute of Mechatronic Systems at the Leibniz University in Hannover for about five years, and had developed the system in the context of different research projects. The project finally became the topic of my dissertation. When I won the manus award, I was in the final stretch of my dissertation, so the win was a nice conclusion. In 2015, I left the institute after my PhD and started working for BPW Bergische Achsen KG. Here, I am responsible for our advance development in the area of mechatronics. We work for the transport, logistics and utility vehicle sectors.
The system still exists. In the context of my dissertation, I carried out several examinations with the medical device under conditions that were as realistic as possible. It was not used on a patient, however. The research project was completed in 2015. Patents have been applied for and granted for the contents that are worthy of protection. Based on these patents, the concept is now continued in Hannover by two startup companies - HörSys IP GmbH & Co. KG and OtoJig GmbH - at the medical university. The idea of creating a minimally invasive cochlear approach lives on.
As a scientist, you receive very little public attention. Usually, you work alone in a quiet room while also looking for a confirmation of your research approach. So receiving the manus award was great feedback and also set the stage just at the right time. It was nice to see that the approach we had been following was appreciated accordingly. And of course, winning the manus award was an excellent reference in the upcoming application process.
At the end of the day, my plan for the future is to remain curious, to follow scientific and technological developments and to provide mechatronic products that really add value for our customers in the transport and logistics industry. I might not be a scientist any more, but I am still allowed to lead research projects. In a current project „IdenT“ (identification of trailer conditions that are relevant for automated trucks), we are working with my former colleagues from Hannover on the topics of autonomous driving and predictive maintenance in the commercial vehicle and trailer sectors. These are really exciting projects I am dealing with. I am still the passionate scientist, after all.
Both in professional and in private life, there are always points of contact with igus and their plain bearing technology products. My colleagues and I, for example, are all passionate espresso drinkers. When we make an espresso, it is important that the coffee powder is pressed into the filter holder properly. Normally, this task is carried out by hand. However, we have developed an automatic, strength-controlled espresso tamper, which includes the drylin linear bearings on aluminium shafts from igus.
This year, too, the jury under Werner Götz's patronage will be looking for unique applications with polymer plain bearings. The winner will receive prize money of up to 5,000 euros. For the first time, the contestants have the chance to win a green manus award for the use of plain bearings in a sustainable project. You can find more information at: www.manus-award.com