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Now we’re talking! The machines at Hof University: The Hoover washing machine (episode 2)

People are usually at the centre of everything we do. But there are also important supporters who help employees and scientists with their work or day-to-day business: The various machines at Hof University of Applied Sciences.

That’s why we’re presenting machines from the various areas and departments here in a loose series! Today we’re talking about a washing machine that has been at Hof University of Applied Sciences for a very long time. It therefore has a special relationship with many generations of students. Her mentors are Prof Dr Valentin Plenk, Vice President for Research and Development, and Wolfgang Uschold, Laboratory Engineer.

Source: Hof University of Applied Sciences;

Who are you?Please introduce yourself briefly…!

“I am a washing machine and have been at Hof University of Applied Sciences since 2000. Back then I was already a very modern Hoover machine, really a top model. So that I could and still can work as a teaching object for the students, my brain was taken out a bit Frankenstein-like, so that I now only have basic functions. But that’s fine – after all, I’m also used for teaching.”

What is your job? What are you particularly good at?

“The engineering students should learn from me how the interaction between the machine, i.e. my mechanics, and the software works. I can demonstrate all of this simply and clearly.”

How does Valentin Plenk, who is one of our Vice Presidents at the university, deal with you?

“I actually started with Professor Plenk, he had the idea of me as an internship experiment. He still comes up with new ideas that need to be implemented. For a few years now, he has also been taking me in the direction of Industry 4.0 as an example. However, he has already delegated me away a little and transferred the work to Wolfgang Uschold. But that doesn’t matter, because Mr Uschold is also much nicer. The last time I saw Mr Plenk was in December, yes mei.”

What do the students do with you? They practise programming on you. In general: in which seminar do they work on you?

“Primarily automation technology in the third semester, but sometimes first-semester students also come. And of course a lot of exchange students too…”

Has programming actually changed over the years?

“Ultimately, it’s always about water in, water out. The programming language makes the difference: sometimes highly productive, but specialised, sometimes general, but complicated and close to the machine. And, of course, the coupling with the Internet is new.”

How often have you been reorganised in terms of mechanics?

“In terms of time, it wasn’t that much: the heating rod was replaced, then the speed control and the rev counter were replaced. In this context, it is perhaps important to note that you have to be careful with my perspex cover: it makes it possible for my interior to be completely transparent and that the users are protected against high voltage, so please touch it gently and don’t press it!”

Has anyone ever pressed the emergency button?

“I don’t really have an emergency button, the Studies are generally very reasonable with me. In the past, I was often switched off when the students were unsure. The students probably wanted more time to think: switch off the button and take a break. But today, Mr Uschold makes sure that doesn’t happen any more.”

Have you ever run out? That’s always a super-GAU.

“Yes, that would be really bad. I’m standing in a laboratory with a carpeted floor and underneath is the hollow floor with the electrics. No, I really shouldn’t leak.” *groans*

What about the number of revolutions? There are supposed to be modern washing machines that spin at 5G.

“I don’t spin with 5G, but I can be reached via the internet with 5G. Just to clarify: My engine is a model series from the 1990s, a robust series that lasts a very long time. My brain, i.e. my software, is more likely to be from 2030 because it is kept young: My PLC, i.e. my programmable logic controller, is continuously being expanded and adapted by my supervisors so that I can also be controlled with a mobile phone, for example. I’ve already said that my brain has been expanded, it’s right next to me, so we’re close together.”

It would be better if …..

“…. I would be used in even more courses, e.g. with Rasberry Pi and Arduino, i.e. more in the field of computer science. I have so much to offer….”

What was it like when you first worked here in Hof? That was a really long time ago. What do you remember?

“Mr Uschold wasn’t on board yet, but I remember the young Professor Plenk – he was probably in his mid-thirties – being quite nervous on his first course. Everything was just-in-time and he was really worried about the didactics. After that, everything became much more systematic: at the beginning we didn’t know what mistakes the students were making, but we learnt that over the years and at some point systematically evaluated them. We also realised, for example, that it didn’t make sense for us to heat me up, because the students learn the individual programming steps without heating the water – that simply takes too much time in the seminar.”

Are you happy where you work? Have you been here for a long time? Or would you rather be somewhere else?

“I’m on familiar ground here, I know everything, I’ve never moved. That’s not possible, because the only water connection here in the laboratories was installed in the room especially for me, so this is “my personal” connection. Where else would I go? I would also find the scrap yard interesting, maybe I’ll meet colleagues from my series there?”

How often are you on the job?

“My working rhythm is adapted to the semester: There are always students coming to programme me. I’m actively involved for a good 12 weeks out of the 15 semester weeks.”

Is your model series still in service?

“No, that’s why I’m speculating on the scrapyard.”

Have you ever been allowed to wash anything?

“Yes, and that was nice too. It was only a lab coat, but I was finally able to fulfil this task: The students had programmed properly and I was really nice and clean afterwards and the lab coat was also visible. But that hardly ever happens any more. And the students certainly don’t want to wash their own clothes – even the Vice President is reluctant to do so. But well, strictly speaking I’m a training model for programming, it’s not so much about washing.”

There are a few machines next to you, which means ..

“… competition stimulates business! The students can choose which appliance they want to use: There is also a cylinder controller and a Fischer technology high-bay warehouse. The three of us will then help them acquire their programming skills. And guess which device is chosen the most! That’s right: me! Former students also visit me and enjoy it when my software has been further developed. Others take selfie videos with me. You could say I’m very popular.” *sounds proud*

You may not have eyes, but …..

… I have a super sensor system that replaces my eyes. I can tell the difference between wet and dry, hot and cold and fast and slow.

How much longer do you expect to be on duty?

“As I’m part of one of Professor Plenk’s courses, I expect to be in service for at least another ten years.”

Thank you very much for the interview!

Tech profile of the machine

  • Name of the machine: A2178
  • Manufacturer: Hoover
  • Appliance: SPS washing machine
  • What the machine can do: Wash laundry
  • Price: approx. 1000,- DM in 2000
  • User group: Students from WING and ET
  • What is it currently being used for? Testing the PLCSIM-Advanced coupling with a real controller
  • How can users use it? Write a programme for a washing cycle and wire the machine correctly to the controller
  • What does the user need to know? Basics of PLC programming (sequence controls)
  • Contact details Contact person: Wolfgang.Uschold@hof-university.de

Anne-Christine Habbel

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