Engineer, manager, director – most of the job titles at KUKA are English and rather abstract at first glance. This makes it all the more difficult to imagine what lies behind them. We would like to shed some light on the jungle and explain the activities behind the job title.
Sven Göckes has already answered our questions about how we bring robots to life at KUKA. He is an application engineer for robot programming and usually spends his working week directly at the customer’s site. However, Marco Patzelt knows that this is only one side of the job description. He is also an application engineer, or more precisely, an application engineer for simulation and offline programming. This means that Patzelt plans and programs systems offline, i.e. before they go into operation at the customer’s site.
Ideally, he is provided with the CAD (Computer-Aided Design) files of the plant, in which the cells are completely planned virtually. Patzelt can then work with this data and add robots, set them in motion and test whether everything is achievable for the machines and what cycle time is realistic.
But even if there are no CAD files yet, but only a request to implement an automation concept, Patzelt and his six teammates work with customers and the sales teams to develop individual solution proposals.
Where does the passion for simulation and programming come from?
Patzelt has been with KUKA since 2018 and previously worked in a medium-sized engineering firm in Augsburg. “I was already programming there and had to deal with KUKA robots, but also with other brands such as ABB and Fanuc,” he explained. However, he liked the orange machines best, even back then. “They were more flexible to use and, in my opinion, they always had a more appealing design compared to other manufacturers. The robots then naturally made me curious about KUKA as a company.”
However, Patzelt began his professional career as a chassis and vehicle construction mechanic. Through further training and his professional experience, he eventually became an application engineer. From 2016 to 2020, Patzelt also pursued part-time industrial engineering studies with a focus on production mechatronics, which kept him busy many evenings and weekends. “The prospect of solving a technical problem independently and ensuring a happy customer motivates me.”
While at his previous employer he tended to program large systems in the automotive environment with 30 to 60 robots in simulation cells, in his current position he is mainly responsible for cells in general industry with up to five robots. How long such a project takes is highly individual and can be as little as a day or even years – although that is the rare exception. “Of course, you also have to remember that not every job is the same. Sometimes everything goes perfectly smooth and sometimes it’s a bit more nerve-wracking.”
Planner, programmer, consultant and teacher
Offline programming, however, takes up only part of Patzelt’s working time. Because programming is done with KUKA.Sim, KUKA’s own simulation software. And because the Simulation and Offline Programming team knows it best, they also take care of worldwide support for the software, among other things. At the same time, they are also always the first customers for new KUKA.Sim versions, which they test in order to subsequently provide input for improvements to R&D.
The close exchange is important for both sides. On the one hand, the developers get valuable input for optimizing and implementing new functions; on the other hand, Patzelt and his teammates not only work with the software, they also give trainings and workshops for system integrators or end customers who use KUKA.Sim and thus benefit from good software.
And which part of the daily work is the best for Patzelt? “I would say the mix of everything. Simulating, programming, helping out as a contact person in support, advising customers or even giving a training course sometimes – the variety appeals to me.”