What the – bleep – is class A surfacing? And why should I sign up to a lecture on this single topic? The answer to this is very simple if you ask our two class A surface experts, Alex Junghans and Tobias Ruhland, who also have a sideline as lecturers: "Because it's a total blast and class A surface experts have brilliant prospects for cool projects and jobs.”
Alex, you have been a lecturer in the "Master Mechanical Engineering - Virtual Product Development” department at Heilbronn University since 2012. Is your full-time job as the Class A Surface Team Leader at csi too boring? Or why do you do it?
Alex: On the contrary. I am a "class A surface enthusiast" through and through and want to share some of my enthusiasm for this fundamentally important and yet widely unknown process with others. Class A surfacing presents what we ultimately submit to the TÜV Test Centre. We reveal what is technically and realistically feasible and, at the same time, fulfil the highest design requirements. Anyone who has touched a surface that they have “class A” surfaced themselves, that is, that they have moulded into shape, knows what I am talking about. Any cool design would really just be an idea without class A surfacers like us, who unequivocally define the surfaces and give them their final finish. And that's what I want to communicate to students.
And you, Tobias, started lecturing at the Technical University in Ingolstadt two years ago, initially standing in for a lecturer who left at short notice. It looks like you haven't regretted the move as you are still there.
Tobias: Yes, I am still there. Since then I have been presenting the “Surface Modelling and Reverse Engineering” lecture in the Technical Design course for the Bachelor's degree course. I like working with young people and sharing some of my knowledge and experience with them. At csi, I regularly supervised interns and final dissertations and so had the opportunity to practice my mentoring skills on a small scale. The attraction of working with students is that you are constantly confronted with new questions and, even if you have been doing the job for some years, you can still learn something yourself.
Who are your lectures aimed at?
Let's start with you Tobias. After all, you have the Bachelor degree students.
Tobias: I tend to be a rather practical person and that is also evident in my lectures. It is particularly important to me that the students quickly get involved in implementing something and trying it out. After all, that is what gives rise to specific questions and situations that we can then discuss and solve together. And that has the most long-lasting learning effect and is also the most fun. Anyone who is into being “hands-on” will enjoy my lectures .
Alex: That’s the same for my lectures. What is striking is that the majority of students, mostly Master’s graduates at my lectures, tend to have real inhibitions when it comes to being hands-on or even being creative. During the time they have spent at the university up to then – on average 5 to 6 semesters – the focus has been totally on theory. But it’s great to experience how unsure theorists can become creative designers in such a short time. I regularly get goosebumps when I see the cool projects that are produced in the students’ final dissertations. It’s worth doing the lecture for that alone.
You’ve both said that your lectures are actually a bit too late on the course syllabus. Why do you think that students should be looking at class A surfaces earlier? And how could you do that?
Alex: Many of the students in my lecture already have a pretty good idea about their future career path. And as they are often meeting class A surfaces for the first time with me, only very few of them change direction to become part of our small and rather exotic class A surface family. That’s a pity, because there would be very little that is totally stylish in vehicle interiors and exteriors today without us.
Tobias: Precisely. If the students met class A surfaces earlier, they would realise that they don’t have to choose between construction or design. They can do both. Class A surfacing combines both. I think that a lot more students would choose an internship semester at a company that deals with class A surfacing. For instance, I have an additional qualification in Industrial Design alongside my degree in Automotive Engineering. And even during my internship semester at csi, I got involved in class A surface construction. And I’ve been there ever since. Of course, we still offer work placements for school-leavers or internship semesters for students. Get in touch with us if we have piqued your interest. We are happy to welcome anyone who would like to have a look around the plant. It’ll be worth it – that’s a promise!
Alex has essentially been at csi entwicklungstechnik GmbH since the start. He joined as a Catia and ICEM designer, has been Project Manager since 2009 and, as class A Surface Team Leader since 2015, has been responsible for numerous class A surface designs for major automotive manufacturers. He has also been teaching at Heilbronn University since 2011, passing on his knowledge and, above all, his passion for class A surfacing.
Tobias has been part of the csi family since 2013. As a class A surface engineer, he has specialised in ICEM Surf class A surfaces in vehicle interiors and works on projects for various German and international vehicle manufacturers. After several years of supervising interns and dissertations at csi, he has been working as a lecturer at the Technical University in Ingolstadt since the summer semester of 2020.