Meet the researchers: Philippe Fleischmann

Philippe has worked as the robotics technician at NCCR Digital Fabrication since 2015 and has been the backbone that has enabled multiple projects, PhDs and demonstrators to be bought to completion. Find out how he got into this line of work and how he is working remotely in the current lockdown.

What are your main responsibilities within the NCCR?

I support researchers in the field of industrial robotics and automation.

What do you enjoy most about your job? What annoys you most about your job?

I love to solve tricky tasks in the field of industrial robotics. At the same time, it is also very annoying when I end up stuck on one particular problem for a long time. But with a bit of endurance, love wins out over being annoyed and I always find a solution.

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What is your background?

In this job, I draw on over 20 years of professional experience from different fields. I started my career in automation with an apprenticeship as an automation engineer, followed by technical school in automation. I developed a skillset that included multiple aspects of automation, from the wiring of the electrical cabinets to the installation of the machines into the PLC programming to complete robot cell programming and engineering.

During my work as project manager and ABB robotics programmer, I supported Güdel AG in the realization of the portal robot for Erne Holzbau AG. This was the first time I worked together with people from the ETH Zurich. There I learned that the ETH Zurich is planning a new laboratory with an exciting ABB robot. Shortly after that, I had a first meeting and one year later, I started at NCCR Digital Fabrication as robotics technician.

All employees at ETH Zurich have been working remotely since 16th March. How does this practically work for you given that your job is so hands on? How have you managed to stay productive?

Since I started working in robotics in 2009 I have got used to working virtually. I have all our robot cells available virtually and can therefore develop and test code and processes offline. In research, new processes and tools are developed all the time, these can now be perfectly prepared virtually before we move on to implementation. I can also do my current main task, the development of a communication server between robot and clients, remotely. In addition, if it still needs to be tested in real life I have brought a small robot home from the lab.

Is it possible to remotely use software to run experiments in the lab, even though no one is there in person?

Unfortunately this is not yet possible.

Do you foresee problems when the lockdown measures are lifted?

Yes, but only limited resources, because all projects want to be fully productive again and everyone will want to use all the equipment at the same time.

Outside the lab, what do you do to relax?

My wife Amanda and the children Luca and Leonie make sure that I do not overwork myself. The rest of my time beside family and work is spent with sports. Mainly Thai boxing, mountain biking and jogging.

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