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Infraserv Höchst makes and repairs mouth-blown glass products of the utmost precision and quality in an in-house shop located in the heart of Industriepark Höchst. Competitors are far and few between. That’s why customers come from all over Germany.
“Welcome, welcome, come on in. How about a cup of coffee while I give you some background before we start the tour?” Master craftsman Mike Lasser – colorful work shoes, white pants, white lab coat – is immediately on a first-name basis. Sure, why not. Anyone expecting mouth-blown thermo cups and a complicated glass flask apparatus will be disappointed. The coffee comes out of a standard coffee maker and is served in the usual hodgepodge of coffee mugs.
“Actually, before I natter on, let me show you my cooling store first ...” The coffee stays behind, getting cold, and we get to see the first room behind the shop proper where the final process step of glassware manufacturing actually takes place. Four metal cylinders two to three meters long are mounted horizontally at head height. Below them is a shelf where all sorts of glassware has been put on a sand-like bed. “These ovens store freshly built glassware overnight at about 600 °C,” explains Lasser. “This helps to relieve the strains that arise when the glass cools down too quickly. It also burns off impurities on the surface without leaving any residue. After all, the items have to be absolutely sterile.” The room also serves as storage for items that customers have sent in for repair.
Repairs are one line of business in glassware fabrication; one-off production of customer-specific test setups the other. Most of the products are used in research and product development. Once the chemical process is mature, the equipment is scaled up to industrial scale – usually using metal. One notable exception is the production of OLEDs. Because of the extreme purity requirements, this material can only be produced in glass reactors.
Meanwhile, we are back in the actual shop. Nothing here is as delicate as the layperson might expect from a glassblowing shop. No wonder – it is not like pipettes or Christmas tree balls are blown here. Some of these items are so large and heavy that they can only be lifted by two people. There is a lot of lifting to be done here: The room, which easily measures 10 by 12 meters, is crammed full of large machines about three meters long – lathes, as the master craftsman explains. The workpieces are clamped in these lathes and then heated specifically with gas flames for processing. Simple raw materials such as glass tubes or normal pistons are bought from mass manufacturers – no special shop is required for that.
“This one, for example, is a reactor,” Lasser explains. Not a reactor for generating energy, of course, but one that allows certain chemical reactions to take place under controlled conditions. This isn’t something you can get off the shelf. Rather, the customer provides a rough sketch and a description of what the apparatus should “be able to do”. In order to implement these specifications correctly, you need more than just glassworking skills. You also have to be able to understand what is supposed to happen inside the apparatus. After almost 30 years in the chemical and pharmaceutical industry, Lasser has the understanding required to advise the scientists who need glassware as a peer.
If customers say they need the item back the next day, then I’ll have to finish it by tomorrow if at all possible.
Mike Lasser, FAS – Pharmaceuticals & Chemicals Facility Team: glassware shop
Even if it takes all night: Lasser does most of the work on his own. He is assisted by three part-time employees, all of them retirees who share Lasser’s love for the job and whose experience he would not want to go without. Infraserv Höchst’s glass shop works exclusively with a logistics company that specializes in picking up and delivering the items to customers safely and on time. That, too, is part of the winning formula.
Customers come not only from Industriepark Höchst but from all over Hesse and even further afield in some cases. That’s no surprise – after all, this expertise is increasingly rare. The master glassblower and glassware maker began his apprenticeship at what used to be Hoechst AG in 1996. Listening to Lasser talk about his job, it’s easy to understand why he wouldn’t want to do anything else. But how does a young person get the idea to take up this rather exotic profession in the first place? “Oh, it runs in my family. My dad was a glassblower and so were my grandpa and great-grandpa.”
Although Hesse has a number of glassware fabrication companies, Infraserv Höchst’s glass workshop stands apart for its repair service. That’s why price is only a secondary factor in this market. What matters most are reliability and quality. Obviously, that also applies to custom-made products. Multiple customers have tried to buy glassware at lower prices in China and India, only to return full of remorse after only a short time.
Lasser shows us the last room of his workshop, the cold working area. The impressive arrangement of band saws and grinding machines shows that the mechanical working of the workpieces also requires extreme craftsmanship. This is because the special glasses have entirely different material properties than standard window or bottle glass. “If you touch a beer bottle with it, it will immediately shatter into a thousand pieces.”
He hands the visitors a small souvenir as a farewell gift – a hand-blown rose, also made of borosilicate glass. It’s a unique gift for someone special – and won’t break in two the first time it’s dusted.
Do you need highly competent and individual glass service from design to individual production and repair? Don’t wait – contact us today!
Individual and custom-fitted – laboratory glassware and more made to your specifications
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