Humans and robots are working closely more than ever. Our engineers at SICK are developing sensors that shape industry 4.0. In this interview, Christoph Hofmann talks about science, how he contributes to a safer future and the research of Human Robot Collaboration.
SICK Careers: Why did you pursue a career in science?
Christoph Hofmann: I was already interested in science at school and particularly in physics. Studying science makes you look behind the obvious. On the one hand, it trains you to zoom in on small details and on the other hand, it requires zooming out and making connections to explain the big picture on an abstract level. Since centuries, scientists made important contributions to the progress and wealth of our societies and of mankind. It is important, that also our generation continues with this contribution. Furthermore, I think studying and doing science makes you cross borders. These borders can be either scientific or intercultural. Nowadays science is not done by single persons anymore but in teams. In these teams it doesn’t matter where people come from, since each team member is just dedicated to the scientific contribution. That makes you focusing on what people have in common and it generates the best ideas. The mentioned aspects inspire me a lot and that is why I decided to do science.
SICK Careers: Your work focuses on “Robotics Engineering” – what led you to this position?
Christoph Hofmann: Well, that is easy: Robotics is a hot topic and has a big impact on our daily life. Personally, I think the toolbox you have as a scientist is ideal to develop new solutions and to make progress in complex fields, such as robotics. As a scientist, you are perfectly equipped with the skill of logical thinking and the skill of decomposing a big system into small and tangible subsystems to explain the whole picture.
SICK Careers: What projects are you working on right now? What do you hope they will lead to?
Christoph Hofmann: I work at the intersection of robotics engineering and safety development, a field called Human Robot Collaboration. To make Human Robot Collaboration successful, Safety needs to be guaranteed at all times. Unfortunately, as we at SICK observe it, in academic research this aspect of Human Robot Collaboration is often neglected. Secondly, in my opinion the challenges we face in safe Human Robot Collaboration are presently defining the forefront of modern safety in flexible environments. In the end, I think with my daily work I make an important contribution to better working conditions around the world.
SICK Careers: Do you have any advice for students interested in science and engineering careers?
Christoph Hofmann: The best and most interesting time to study science is NOW! I think having chosen to pursue a degree in science, you have already made a perfect decision for your future career. Industry needs people like you –people that help us to stay competitive in a rapidly changing world. During your studies, it is crucial to question things, to explore new things, to collaborate with different disciplines and different people around the world. And most importantly never aim for the easiest, but for the most intriguing way. Stay curious and strive for solutions to create a better, healthier and safer future.
SICK Careers: If you could try another job for a day, what would it be?
Christoph Hofmann: I would love to work with a star architect, since I am also interested in architecture.
SICK Careers: What do you like most working for SICK?
Christoph Hofmann: By now, you might have realized that I really like what I do. At SICK, I am lucky to find perfect conditions. You need to know that SICK is spending more than ten percent of its turnover into R&D. This makes SICK a very innovative and independent company and market leader in several industrial fields. It is not surprising that this attracts smart people from around the world and with many different academic backgrounds. SICK really is a melting pot where innovations can emerge. We have a distinctive spirit to share ideas and developments and in the combination with agile teams, this helps us to move forward.
SICK also really cares a lot about its employees. To mention a few benefits, we have our own training academy for competence development. Thanks to many sports clubs, people do sports together. And SICK offers flexible conditions when needs along your life span change.
SICK Careers: Are you still vacuuming at home or are you letting the robot do that?
Christoph Hofmann: I am still vacuuming myself but at least I started with a smart home. But you can be sure that a cleaning robot is on my wish list.
SICK Careers: Thank you for your time, Christoph!
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