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Sometimes it is the small details that "objectively" have a great importance. This is the case with the sturdy and popular "GoPro" action camera: The cover glass in front of the lens is firmly bonded to the housing thanks to a 1.2-millimeter-wide adhesive tape from tesa. "For this purpose, we have developed a laser process that hardens the tape under the cover glass via a chemical reaction," explains Uwe Michel, Head of the Customer Solution Center (CSC) in Suzhou, where tesa operates one of its worldwide five production plants. After a variety of stress tests, the successful product lives up to its name 'Hero' when it comes to adhesive bonding: water resistance up to 13 meters, high shock resistance in various sports and tolerances ranging from -40 to +80 degrees Celsius as well as 90% humidity over three days..
As a result, the customer feedback from "GoPro" reads like fan mail, but also outlines the broad spectrum of support from tesa. Wei Zheng, manager of the camera manufacturer, explains: "Two companies bond as well as the tesa adhesive. It's not just the product itself that impresses with its reliable performance, but also the excellent tesa service – from the first technical study to maintenance of mass production, especially for recommendations on the application setup and the surface treatment." And Wei Zheng adds: "We have been working together for six years, and we wish to continue to test more applications and new materials."
In 2008, tesa wrote the first chapter of the now global Customer Solution Center success story in the metropolis of Suzhou, China. The mission of the laboratory units is to support companies in finding the best possible adhesive tape and application solution for their specific wishes and needs. With 45 engineers and technicians for various industrial sectors, the Customer Solution Center in China is now the largest of three locations besides Europe and the USA.
86 test devices for mechanical, thermal and electrical tests, climatic chambers and robots for adhesive applications are available on about 2,000 square meters. "Here, you get paid for destroying things," says Uwe Michel jokingly about the extensive test options – On a more serious note, he then explains: "Our focus in China is on adhesive solutions for the electronics segment, since almost all smartphones, tablets and wearables are manufactured in Asia. The development cycles for new devices are very short. It is therefore important to be on site, close to our customers," says Michel, who works as an in-house plastics engineer. In 2020, almost 2,500 test orders were processed in the Customer Solution Center. Even during the three months of lockdown during the Covid-19 Pandemic in China, the team was busy around the clock. To be more accessible to customers in Japan and Korea, tesa operates 'CSC Satellites' – smaller laboratories – in these countries.
Head of the Customer Solution Center in Suzhou
Customer proximity and costumer focus: This is the best way to sum up the holistic philosophy behind the concept of our Customer Solution Centers. "Our special adhesive tapes often need further explanation. The fact that we not only sell tapes, but also offer a variety of related services, is extremely well received by our customers. That gives us an edge over the competition," highlights Caroline Sperling. The process engineer heads the European Customer Solution Center at the Headquarter in Norderstedt.
The focus here is more on industries such as construction, wind energy, transportation, printing, and household appliances. Another team at the Headquarter deals exclusively with the needs of the automotive industry. When looking for customized solutions for industrial applications, there is a range of approximately 500 single-sided and 500 double-sided adhesive tapes to choose from. Sperling: "We act as a bridge between Sales and customers, translate their wishes into adhesive tape language and find out exactly what they need."
Manager Customer Solution Center Europe
The development of adhesive applications together with the customer is considered a supreme discipline. "That is particularly important to us," explains Caroline Sperling. The North American Customer Solution Center at the plant in Sparta (Michigan) is a prime example. Development Engineer Joseph Carroll is part of the twelve-person team.
He works with automotive customers like Ford on special adhesive tapes that allow to paint car bodies in two colors – Presently, a huge trend on the US market. "Already long before new car models reach the market, we test the tapes on the prototypes in our laboratories. We also offer customer trainings on the use of adhesive tapes," says Carroll.
The CSC has branches in Detroit, Silicon Valley, and Léon (Mexico) in order to serve the broad spectrum of North American customers from the automotive, construction and electronics industries to the printing and paper industries. "Thanks to this network, we are able to react very quickly and with small teams to local customer requirements and thus develop suitable solutions," explains Dr. Andreas Meier, who has been Head of Product and Technology Development at tesa in the USA for seven years.
Training courses on how to use adhesive tapes are particularly popular with customers – and the trend is rising. "Especially during the lockdown, we swiftly developed online trainings which met with a great response," says Caroline Sperling. The "hybrid" highlight: tesa sends test adhesive rolls to customers so they can physically try out the product properties while sitting in front of their screen. To get a more precise picture of the production conditions, tesa sometimes accompanies business partners virtually as they walk through the factory halls – in a livestream via helmet camera. Alix Guyot has also registered a run for digital trainings since Covid-19. The application engineer is the contact person for customers in the printing and paper industry in Sparta, USA. "The demand has increased enormously, so we will continue to offer these online events even after the pandemic," says Guyot.
One of the enthusiastic participants was Miguel A. Jimenez from the Californian company Signature Flexibles: "The training was very professional and useful for the assembly process. I was particularly impressed by the technology and the tools used to attach the adhesive film precisely, without damaging the sleeve in any way. The virtual glasses were perfect to see how the procedure must be carried out. I appreciate everything tesa has done for us. We look forward to further cooperation." However, what the customers of the Customer Solution Center like best, as Alix Guyot and Caroline Sperling agree "intercontinentally", is a personal visit to the tesa training rooms, under the motto: bonding experience.
Thanks to the growing demand for Customer Solution Center support, tesa is on an expansion course. "We have ambitious growth plans and want to boost our staff and spaces in the coming years," announced Dr. Andreas Meier for the North American region. And the company also wants to continue expanding in China: By the end of 2021, an extension building will be completed on the plant premises, allowing the Customer Solution Center to gain a further 2,000 square meters of space.
Head of Product & Technology Development tesa North America (Sparta/Michigan)
This would then make simulations with virtual prototypes possible. "That brings even more possibilities, speed, and service," says Uwe Michel, referring to the dynamics in the growth sector of electromobility. The Head of the Customer Solution Center already looks into a bright future: "Every day, you hold something new in your hands, you discuss the best solutions with other engineers, and you already know which products will be launched the day after tomorrow."
In many industrial processes, bonded parts and assemblies, including glued joints, must be certified. The tesa Customer Solution Center (CSC) supports this in two ways: Already certified adhesive tapes are used that match the customer's requirements. Or tesa may help with the certification of a new, customized tape for a specific project.
Customer Solution Center support begins with a visit by a tesa application engineer to the customer's production facility. Many specific conditions and challenges only become evident on site, and a perfect solution can only be found if all these factors are considered. The components intended for the desired adhesive applications are taken to the Customer Solution Center, where test plans and test procedures are defined. After the completion of various 'stress tests', the test report with recommendations and prototypes are sent back to the customer. When the new process is implemented, tesa engineers fine-tune the adhesive application together with the customer and the sales team on site.