It was the middle of December — rainy, dark, late, cold. My job with a roller coaster company was the wrong choice. I had a job interview with KISSsoft AG and didn’t know what to expect; never heard of them before. I had been playing with their software to check some axle strength and called Dr. Stefan Beermann to discuss a possible flaw in their software (which turned out to be a flaw in my Excel sheet). I asked whether they might have a job opening. They did. Not specifically, but they were growing. Their office was in an old farmhouse — the parking wet and muddy, entrance dimly lit. Me wearing tie, black shoes, suit. Nervously, I started my interview.
Had I only known better; now I am hooked on gearing and know that I won’t do anything else until I retire and beyond.
I studied mechanical engineering, majoring in biomedical engineering, using FEM (which was still quite a thing then). My internship was with Mercedes Germany doing FEM of car bodies, and I had spent a year at the National University of Singapore. My first job also was not “gear stuff” — i.e., doing FEM analysis of welded structures and pressure vessels with a Swiss consultancy firm.
At KISSsoft AG, I felt like an idiot. I couldn’t get my head around the gear and bearing stuff; it was too much. Too many circles, Greek symbols, factors and standard numbers to remember. And what was the fuss about all the tolerances? Every day, numerous questions had to be answered and, obviously, I didn’t have the answers. This made me read, ask, and search the web. I was sent to give trainings all over Europe; facing a crowd of gear engineers — again I was grilled. But customers were tolerant; they know themselves that gearing is not easy to pick up. Engineers entering the field have three choices: 1) work hard and master it; 2) give up and go to another field; or 3) hang around and pretend you know. The latter option is a bad choice, while the first one garners respect, and the second choice is acceptable. I don’t say I “mastered it” — but I did work hard. Eventually, KISSsoft AG promoted me head of sales and I built up their international gear software sales. Our approach to sales was to show that we possessed the knowledge to earn the customers’ trust. They would then buy “automatically.”
Switzerland hasn’t all that much of a gear industry. After friendly discussion with KISSsoft AG management, I started as a consultant, although never having worked in a gearbox company. This is unusual. We agreed I would keep the software business in Asia, working with the local partners in India, Korea, China and Japan. Fast-forward eleven years and some 80 projects — from 400 EUR to 400,000 EUR. What will be next? Areas of interest for the future are dynamics analysis, and planetary and bevel gearing.
Working in gearing is a privilege for two reasons: the challenges are endless, and the people I meet are helpful, interesting, good-humored and down-to-earth characters. Whatever I learned, I learned from somebody or through a project somebody gave me. For this, I am most thankful.
Hanspeter Dinner studied mechanical engineering at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH), where during his studies he spent time with Mercedes Benz working on FEM of car bodies; with Buhler in South Africa for training; and with the National University of Singapore for writing his thesis on FEM analysis of medical devices. He began as an FEM engineer, working with the leading consultant in Switzerland on welded structures, pressure vessels and satellite structures. Dinner later joined a leading roller coaster design company, being responsible for all strength verifications. He then moved on to KISSsoft AG, supporting customers in the use of their gear software, working on gear optimization projects, and ultimately transitioning to sales of KISSsoft products, with a focus on the Asian market. In 2008 he started his own consultancy firm, EES KISSsoft GmbH, sharing his time between KISSsoft support and sales in Asia and project work. Key projects included design and testing of SCD3MW and SCD6MW wind gearboxes, and large-bearing calculations for cranes and wind turbines as well as gear optimizations for sugar mills, vertical roller mills and tractors. Dinner’s main interests are planetary gearboxes, tooth contact analysis and testing.