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Graduate Profile:Swiss know-how for perfect tablets

Tobias Frech studied Systems Engineering at the ZHAW School of Engineering. Today, he develops innovative tablet production machinery for the pharmaceutical industry. He operates in an international environment.

Tablets are generally made of a pressed powder and either directly packaged or coated first. Before packaging, tablets need to be deburred and dedusted and it is estimated that half of tablets worldwide are processed on a machine produced by Bassersdorf-based Krämer AG. ZHAW graduate Tobias Frech has joined the ranks of those responsible for this success. “Through vibration, the tablets are transported upwards on sieve rings in a spiral conveyor,” he explains. “Among other things, the technical challenge lies in ensuring our machines only vibrate on the inside. We achieve this by applying a counter-weight principle. The housing and electronic components are virtually vibration-free and thus protected from wear.”

Developments for Industry 4.0

As a project leader, Tobias Frech deals with customers from around the globe. Depending on tablet size and production machinery, the equipment needs to be adapted according to the customer's individual requirements. “This is our daily business,” says the systems engineer, “though I also have a great passion for development.” With copycats competing for their share of the market, continuous optimisation and new developments are key. “In addition to our flawless mechanics, it is mainly our software that distinguishes us from our competition,” Tobias Frech explains. “Our next step will be to make all our machines ready for an Industry 4.0 production chain, teaching our deduster to communicate with the tablet press.”

“As a systems engineer, I assemble the individual pieces of a puzzle to form an application,”

Tobias Frech

Multiple opportunities

The trained automation specialist has always had a keen interest in medicine. In fact, before starting his degree programme, he considered becoming an ambulance officer, but the broad scope of possible future activities convinced him to enrol for the BSc course. “Systems Engineering combines Mechanical and Electrical Engineering and even Information Technology. This variety is and always has been very important to me,” says the graduate. In hindsight, he considers the assessment year to have been the greatest challenge. “It was quite theory-heavy. I was lucky in that I really like Maths, which is important.” The programme has fostered his self-discipline and ability to work in a team - after all, many assignments are group projects. He greatly benefits from both things in his everyday work, which includes closely coordinating developments with engineers from other disciplines. “As a systems engineer, I assemble the individual pieces of a puzzle to form an application,” says Tobias Frech.

Responsibility as an incentive

The graduate enjoys working for a typical Swiss SME:  “In a major corporation you tend to be a tiny cog in a system, but here I can see my own work reflected directly in the product, which makes me a proud.” The fact that this places more responsibility on his shoulders acts as another incentive: “I aspire to be team leader eventually. Systems Engineering helps me understand the many correlations between Electrical Engineering, Mechanics and Information Technology.” By studying for a Master’s degree in Business Information Technology, Tobias Frech is taking another step towards his goal.