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Portrait of Dr. Jens König The laser-tamer of Schwieberdingen

  • A physicist with a classical education
  • Section manager with a staff of 24
  • His children love him reading to them
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  • December 04, 2013
  • Research
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Stuttgart - During the day, Dr. Jens König tames the concentrated power of laser light to drill tiny structures into the hardest metal. In the evening, the physicist tames his two children - aged four and six - by the light of a bedside lamp. His son and daughter each choose a new story for him to read to them each evening. König takes both jobs incredibly seriously - meaning he doesn't have much time for anything else. The 37-year-old scientist is a section manager at Bosch, with a staff of 24. This keeps him so busy that he is now only rarely to be found at the lasers in the laboratory in his role as research and development manager.

Yet that is precisely where his career at Bosch began, and sometimes he wishes he could spend more time with the precision machinery. A huge table made of extremely heavy granite slabs forms the base for the powerful, low-vibration construction. Everything here serves a single purpose - an extremely fine, extremely fast pulsing laser beam is so skillfully directed by special lenses and mirrors that its energy bombards metal hundreds of thousands of times a second. The laser causes the metal to evaporate, thus creating minuscule holes or any other structure desired. In Schwieberdingen, Bosch is developing new production processes that can be used to manufacture products such as improved gasoline direct injection systems. Together with his colleagues, König has now won the German Federal President's Future Prize.

Lasers have been his companions since he studied physics in Würzburg. Before this, he had attended a classical high school, and done his civilian service with the Bayerischer Blindenbund. A particularly good seminar on photonics given by a lively professor in Würzburg piqued his curiosity about the possibilities of this concentrated, powerful light. Many company visits at this time showed that there was great demand for experts in this field. After a position at the Lübeck University Hospital, where König examined the potential of lasers to counter age-related blindness, he moved to Bosch in 2002. He initially completed an industrial doctorate, before receiving a permanent position in 2005. Since then, he has been working on taming the power of lasers for use in industrial production. By the end of 2013, Bosch will have delivered more than 30 million parts manufactured using this technology. The company develops the processes and machinery required itself.

König's rather unassuming desk stands in an open-plan office in the Bosch location in Schwieberdingen near Stuttgart. It is almost reminiscent of a university institute, as is the tone at times. Many of his staff are much younger than him. All the same, he was good enough to win second place in the departmental beach volleyball tournament, though König doesn't usually have enough time to devote to this hobby.

In 2002, the first function sample of an ultrashort pulsed laser from Trumpf arrived in the laboratory. Dubbed "FM1," it took a long time to adjust and improve this model and its successors until the light energy removed material at the speed and level of precision required. This sometimes involved working late. When König was still a doctorate student, the plant security dog would sometimes come running up to him if he spent too long at his microscope in the evening. If he gets home late now, he is greeted by admonishing looks from his wife.

The first project for series production was stopped in 2006, after which König concentrated on one of the core areas of business at Bosch today - gasoline direct injection. The task here is to drill five to seven holes of diameters between 0.1 and 0.3 millimeters into one and the same injector. This kind of flexibility was not possible before lasers came onto the scene. Now it is standard at Bosch. König still vividly remembers the "wedding day" - that is what engineers call it when two complicated components are put together for the first time - in 2008. In König's case, this involved marrying the laser unit, including optics, to the production line. The marriage was successful even at the prototype stage.

However, not everything always went so smoothly. König remembers times when they made no progress for weeks on end. In these situations, all they could do was adjust the mirror construction, re-program the facility, and start new test runs. "And more than once I had to ask myself, 'What am I doing here?'" says König. He also very clearly recalls a certain management level meeting when he was still project manager. "It was make or break time. We had to decide whether to introduce the new technology or not. In the end, we decided we would."

König knows that this success cannot solely be attributed to his understanding of laser pulses, the optical constructions or his calculations and formulas. "Some of it was just luck. I was in the right place at the right time. What's more, we were and are a good team - across various departments and locations." The changes he initiated were also given a warm welcome by his colleagues, adds the 37-year-old.

His colleagues praise the fact that, though König was always vehement in supporting his opinion with arguments, he also listened to others at the same time: "He knows when it is time to stop flogging a dead horse and move on." His rapid rise from joining Bosch in 2002 to section manager in 2009 and his position as the company's laser strategist today has not changed that. His journey to work is also unchanged - he still uses his 15-year-old bicycle. This means he sees a lot of his colleagues pass him on the way to work in the mornings. That doesn't bother him at all, because: "Luck and success are already very 'focused' for me."

The Bosch Group is a leading global supplier of technology and services. It employs roughly 375,000 associates worldwide (as of December 31, 2015). The company generated sales of 70.6 billion euros in 2015. Its operations are divided into four business sectors: Mobility Solutions, Industrial Technology, Consumer Goods, and Energy and Building Technology. The Bosch Group comprises Robert Bosch GmbH and its roughly 440 subsidiaries and regional companies in some 60 countries. Including sales and service partners, Bosch’s global manufacturing and sales network covers some 150 countries. The basis for the company’s future growth is its innovative strength. Bosch employs 55,800 associates in research and development at 118 locations across the globe. The Bosch Group’s strategic objective is to deliver innovations for a connected life. Bosch improves quality of life worldwide with products and services that are innovative and spark enthusiasm. In short, Bosch creates technology that is “Invented for life.”

The company was set up in Stuttgart in 1886 by Robert Bosch (1861-1942) as “Workshop for Precision Mechanics and Electrical Engineering.” The special ownership structure of Robert Bosch GmbH guarantees the entrepreneurial freedom of the Bosch Group, making it possible for the company to plan over the long term and to undertake significant up-front investments in the safeguarding of its future. Ninety-two percent of the share capital of Robert Bosch GmbH is held by Robert Bosch Stiftung GmbH, a charitable foundation. The majority of voting rights are held by Robert Bosch Industrietreuhand KG, an industrial trust. The entrepreneurial ownership functions are carried out by the trust. The remaining shares are held by the Bosch family and by Robert Bosch GmbH.

Additional information is available online at www.bosch.com and www.bosch-press.com, http://twitter.com/BoschPresse.

PI8325 - December 04, 2013

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