Florian gack carefully strokes the soft surface with a damp sponge. It should be completely smooth and even. He must not press too hard, otherwise the lamellas that the lathe has cut out of the soft clay will be bent. Under his hands, a ceramic insulator is made that will later be used in a power plant or transformer station.
"For me, it was clear that I wanted to do something manual", says florian gack. "I had already taken the craft course in high school." A friend of his family, who works as an industrial ceramist, told him at that time about his profession. "I found that exciting. The material is not something that is used on a daily basis, and that is what attracted me to it." Gack also knew the lapp insulators company in redwitz, where his friend works, as it is only a few kilometers from his home in wolfsloch. He applied for an apprenticeship and was accepted. He has now completed his training and is employed by the company in redwitz as an industrial ceramist.
Learn all production steps
"The apprenticeship lasts three years", explains wolfgang reuter, site manager at lapp insulators. An industrial ceramist can work in porcelain factories or brickworks, or in the production of sanitary ceramics or construction ceramics. "At lapp insulators, a trainee goes through all the production steps in the manufacture of a ceramic insulator", says reuter. "It starts with the raw materials. The trainees learn about the raw materials and how they are tested for quality and purity in the laboratory."
Once the raw materials have passed the quality test, they are ground and mixed into ceramic slurry, which is filtered, dewatered and pressed into bars, explains reuter. "An industrial ceramist must of course be familiar with these processes and be able to operate all the machines." That's why the trainees learn the basics of the machines' mechanics and electronics in additional courses that last six to eight weeks. "They are also supposed to be able to repair small disturbances, set up the machines and read the measuring instruments."
On a lathe, the bar-shaped ceramic blank receives its typical lamellar shape, after which it is glazed and fired in a coarse kiln at 1230 degrees. "Then the protruding ends are cut off and ground down and the flange is cemented on to which the insulator is later attached."
Florian gack can be employed at all these stations, he knows all the processes and can operate all the machines. However, he prefers to work at the lathe. "That's what I like the most." Xaver stark, head of rough production at lapp insulators can understand this well. "That's where the workpiece is given its shape, where a ceramic sausage becomes an insulator." The core task area of an industrial ceramist is thus. "Handling soft ceramics requires experience and fingertip feeling", strongly. "Just the right ceramic feeling. It's like topfern."
He now guides apprentices himself
Only the workpieces are a bit rougher. The insulators that florian gack produces on the lathe are up to two meters long. In the meantime, he has gained so much experience that he now trains apprentices himself. But he still remembers his own training time well. "The trickiest part for me was the work in the laboratory. You have to work very precisely. When you're new, you're afraid of doing something wrong or breaking something." Even if he told about his apprenticeship outside the company, he usually had to explain first what an industrial ceramist actually does. "Many people didn't know what the term meant and couldn't imagine what we were producing", he recalls. "But most of them did know what high-voltage insulators are."
"Interest in the profession has increased in recent years," he recalls, says reuter. "We now also present ourselves at training fairs and offer one-week taster internships." Further training options for industrial ceramists include attending technical school or further training to become an industrial foreman or materials and production technician. "This is for all those who are particularly fond of laboratory work", explains reuter. "But vocational baccalaureate and university studies are also possible." You should have at least one qualification to start the training, good grades in math, physics and chemistry, explains xaver stark. "But german and spelling are also important, because a lot has to be documented." An applicant should also have computer skills. "And since we work in groups, a candidate should be a team player. We also want employees who think and act independently." And who have that certain ceramic feeling naturally – just like florian gack.