Clemens Dransfeld

08 MARCH 2019

Clemens Dransfeld

Professor and Chair of Aerospace Manufacturing Technologies (AMT).

Private Life?
‘I was born in Munich and lived in Germany, the United States, France, Italy and Switzerland throughout my early years. I’m married to Julia and have two teenagers: Sophie and Leon. We brought them up in Switzerland where we lived for many years close to Lake Constance. I now live at the beautiful historic harbour town of Schiedam and enjoy cycling to work almost every day.’

What is your favourite hobby?
‘Sailing is my big passion. I did all kinds of sailing in dinghies, catamarans, classic yachts, and performance boats on the Swiss lakes. I also built a couple of boats with friends and my wife, all, of course, in advanced composites, which was lots of fun. During my years in industry, my hobby sometimes became work as I was also regularly involved in professional sailing competitions such as the America’s Cup or the Olympic campaigns.’

Your career in a nutshell
‘I studied materials science at ETH Zürich and later completed a second master’s degree in Industrial Design at Domus Academy in Milan. In my 15 years of industrial experience, I designed and engineered composites structures, first for Dow Chemical serving the automotive industry. Afterwards I founded DYNE, a design consultancy which became well-known for its award-winning product innovations using composites. In 2006, I was appointed Professor and Head of the Institute of Polymer Engineering at FHNW, the University of Applied Sciences and Arts Northwestern Switzerland. Here, with a team of 25 engineers and scientists collaborating with the industrial sector, we developed novel manufacturing processes for composites. Since 2018, I have held the position of Professor of Aerospace Manufacturing Technologies at the Delft University of Technology.’

Career high point
‘I could actually think of many that occurred during my industrial career or in academia. But I most enjoyed those achievements which were the results of an interdisciplinary team effort.’

Your greatest challenge at the moment?
‘My ambition is to set up a research group including both experienced professionals and new talent that will deliver excellent scientific output while being able to transfer technologies and intellectual property to industry’.

Most enjoyable aspect of work
‘Interacting with people of various backgrounds to achieve outstanding results is highly rewarding. Working with people from different cultures, backgrounds and education inspires my creativity. I also love making things myself, so I really enjoy the moments when I’m in the lab doing experimental work and guiding young people.’

Why Delft?
‘During a previous research sabbatical at the Structural Integrity & Composites Group in which I was associated with Prof. Rinze Benedictus and Dr. Irene Fernandez Villegas, I was intrigued by the setup of complementary research groups working in a joint infrastructure towards taking on overarching challenges in Aerospace Structures and Materials. In spite of coming from Switzerland, I felt at ease with the pragmatic Dutch way of working. And if you’ve already read about my hobby, you can see that it was easy to get attracted to the Netherlands and this top-class institution. It was not an easy decision, of course, to leave the research group that I had helped to build up in Switzerland for twelve years, but the group had become a well-established and was running really well. What attracted me to Delft was the great opportunity to start something right from scratch.’

Best character trait?
‘It’s difficult to analyse yourself, but I can say that I like to interact with people and that I’m creative. I also get easily excited about new ideas and concepts.’

Worst character trait?
‘I’m not so good at scrutinising topics in detail. When I’ve reached the 80 percent level, I’m satisfied and tend to get interested in other things. I also wish that I were more structured in my approach to my work.’

Key issues on the political agenda?
‘Democracy in many European countries is currently facing challenges that call for the attention and involvement of our society. And, for the sustainability of our society, we should also be modifying our life styles. This will not only require changes in our behaviour but also tremendous efforts from science and technology.’

Source of inspiration?
‘Next to my academic upbringing, I had the chance to work with specialised craftsmen to learn several skills such as woodworking or making complex prototypes in advanced composites. The ‘shop floor creativity’ I experienced working with such experts was fantastic and still influences my scientific work. Furthermore, I’m ever more intrigued by the beauty of mathematics and physics and how the complexity of nature can be reduced into simple expressions.’