20 years of Fraunhofer Cleaning - active for industrial parts cleaning

In the 2000s, the question of cleaning processes and associated competencies arose among the Fraunhofer institutes. This was soon followed by the birth of the Fraunhofer Cleaning Technology Alliance. This alliance is now celebrating its 20th anniversary under the name Fraunhofer Cleaning.

This year, the Fraunhofer Cleaning Business Unit looks back on 20 years of successful research and development in the field of industrial parts cleaning - an occasion for a review of highlights and achievements to date. But also to take a look at many current developments and research results and to venture into the future. None of the now 77 institutes and facilities of the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft has dedicated itself exclusively to the industrial cleaning of surfaces, but there are many institutes which, due to their technological orientation, inevitably have to deal with cleaning processes in order to be technologically successful.

However, this technological competence hardly has any external impact. This situation already existed in 2001, which is why Dr. Konrad Wissenbach from the Fraunhofer ILT started an internal Fraunhofer survey to find out who was actually involved in cleaning processes and who was interested in working together. This initial contact ultimately led to the founding of the Fraunhofer Cleaning Technology Alliance on December 5, 2002. The founding members were the Fraunhofer Institutes FEP, ICT, IGB, ILT, IPA, IPK, IST and IWS. The establishment of an office at the Fraunhofer IPK as a central address for interested partners and customers of the member institutes and the creation of a dedicated website for the visibility of competences, laboratory capabilities and business areas were the basis for a successful start of this long-term cooperation.

Parts2clean and specialist forum with bundled Fraunhofer expertise from the start

A major activity of the newly founded alliance in its very first year was the joint planning and successful launch of Parts2clean in Friedrichshafen, which was newly established in 2003. From the very beginning, today's Fraunhofer Cleaning Business Unit (FRei) has been involved in the technical orientation of Parts2clean, which has been able to successfully assert itself in the market and can thus also celebrate its 20th anniversary this year together with the current organizer - Deutsche Messe AG.

In particular, the accompanying Parts2clean specialist forum has been the trade fair's visitor magnet from the very beginning. The expert forum is currently organized and moderated by the Fraunhofer Cleaning FRei business unit together with the Fachverband industrielle Teilereinigung e.V. (FiT). With three days of events and 58 presentations, it continues to form a stable backbone of Parts2clean as the now largest specialist event in this field.

Innovations and standard design with applied research

Through the member institutes of the Fraunhofer Cleaning FRei business unit, innovative trends and developments in this cross-industry technology have been and are being implemented, often making it possible to master new industrial challenges in the first place. Some examples are uniform standards through the VDA19 series, high-resolution imaging detection of residual soiling, blasting processes with CO2 and lasers, AI-supported cleaning processes, and even environmentally friendly cleaning media. Currently, a DIN standardization committee is also working on issues of standardization and assistance for the targeted processing of cleaning tasks.

Whereas around 2000 no one could have imagined that automotive production would also require work in cleanrooms, such assembly and cleaning processes are now required on a large scale to ensure the reliable functionality of many assemblies. Even sheet metal fabricators are increasingly supplying end customers who demand cleanroom quality for the parts they supply. Although the term "parts washing" still persists, today's cleaning processes increasingly have the character of precision surface machining.

In order to make the right decisions for development strategies in the field of industrial parts cleaning, detailed market knowledge is an essential basis. For this reason, FRei conducts regular market surveys and publishes the results in the form of a study. After 2007 and 2012, the last survey was conducted in 2020 in the middle of the market situation shaken by Corona. This made it possible to collect additional information on the resilience of the parts cleaning industry, which is valuable for strategic decisions.

Underestimated knowledge - Industrial parts cleaning

The development of the Fraunhofer Business Unit Cleaning FRei is seamlessly linked to the struggle for knowledge transfer in the field of industrial parts cleaning, which was still thinly covered 20 years ago. In addition to several special seminars on sub-topics of industrial parts cleaning at the member institutes, a joint annual basic seminar has been held in Dresden since 2009. Frank-Holm Rögner, the current spokesman for the Cleaning business unit and one of the pioneers, explains: "This three- or four-day series of events is an important building block for knowledge transfer and has already received an enormous amount of positive feedback. We have also been able to maintain the seminar as an online format over the Corona period. However, it can only convey the basics of cleaning processes in a very condensed form. There was a need among us and many interested partners for more comprehensive training, because unfortunately professional training does not yet exist in this field." Intensive efforts by Fraunhofer FEP in this direction resulted after about eight years, on February 1, 2021, in the approval of the "CLOU" project, which was funded as part of the InnoVET competition. "In this, among other things, the concept of an in-service training course to become a "Certified Professional Specialist (m/f/d) for Industrial Parts Cleaning" is now being developed and currently being tested together with the Sächsische Bildungsgesellschaft für Umweltschutz und Chemieberufe Dresden mbH (SGB). This is a milestone for this industry!" continues Frank-Holm Rögner enthusiastically.

Currently the Fraunhofer Institutes FEP, IGB, IGCV, IPA, IPK, IPM, IST, IVV and IWS are members of the Fraunhofer Business Unit Cleaning FRei. The office has been located at Fraunhofer FEP since 2019 and continuously takes care of the further development of the expert forum at Parts2clean and other seminars and events for all partners who have a need and interest in knowledge and developments as well as technologies in the field of industrial parts cleaning. For individual challenges that require the development of a specific cleaning solution, the office arranges the right contact person within the Fraunhofer institutes and is available for companies and partners from consulting and feasibility studies to the development of customer-specific solutions. (OM-09/23)


Fraunhofer Cleaning Business Unit
c/o Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP
Winterbergstr. 28
01277 Dresden (Germany)
Phone +49 351 2586 593

About Fraunhofer Cleaning

The Fraunhofer Cleaning Business Unit combines the expertise of all Fraunhofer Institutes in the field of industrial cleaning with a focus on cleaning and pretreatment in surface technology. As a result, the Cleaning Business Unit offers consulting as well as research and development support for all issues along the process chain.