They are indispensable on the campus: the cleaners, caretakers, caterers, gardeners, assistants – the list is long. Resource seeks out these key people. This time, meet Hans de Rooij (58), a development technician at the Technical Development Studio, Innovatron.
‘If I were to tell people at a party some of the things I make, no one would believe me. We have made a machine for measuring the sweat of a cow, and a harpoon to catch a crocodile with. I make machines and apparatus for researchers and I’m there to trouble-shoot when someone needs a bolt, or a machine breaks down. That way the research doesn’t come to halt: we really are the grease that keeps the wheels turning.
The more complex an assignment is, the more I like it – working at the limit of what’s possible. To give an example, I had to make a nozzle that was shaped like a 12-point star on the inside, and had a diameter of 1 millimetre. That was a challenge, but I managed and that’s satisfying. In the 30 years I’ve been working here, I don’t think we’ve ever yet failed to make something. It helps that I’ve got a positive attitude and I’m creative. Very occasionally I just can’t come up with an idea. That really annoys me, but then I consult my colleagues and you start to get somewhere together. And sometimes I suddenly think of something in the shower or at night.
We’ve never yet failed to make something’
You have to keep track of everything, because I do everything myself: contact with clients, sketching, designing, building, the finances, the orders, the outsourcing. I like the freedom and the responsibility. About half of my job is on the drawing side, and half of it is actually making the product. Before this, I worked for a production company, with a lot of repetitive work. I’d had enough there after 10 years.
I was practically born fiddling with technology. As a child I would get old radios and clocks for my birthday, which I could take apart and use to make something new. That made me happy. Technology is progressing, and it’s nice if you can follow it and make use of it. We went from a drawing board to a computer. Then came the switch to 3D drawing. Twenty years ago, there was no such thing as a 3D printer, and now I use this technique in my designs.
For 25 years I’ve been working on a machine that makes fake meat with the fibrous structure of real meat. It would be nice if this technique is in use in the production process before I retire. Then I’ll have done a good job.’