On Monday June 20, 1977, Kurt Ellensohn started out on his career as a young designer at Richard Hirschmann GesmbH, right after finishing his schooling and completing military service. After 43 years and 42 days, the next big phase of life for the always jovial brains behind many of our innovations is imminent, because Kurt is starting his well-deserved retirement.
Around 40 years ago, the company began to focus on automotive connector technology – still terra incognita in those days – in addition to receptor and transmission technology. This was a perfect match for Kurt, because he was always a visionary, inventor, hobbyist, and doer. From that moment on, he was able to pursue his great passion and – just as importantly – make the most of his talents.
Compared to today, the conditions and methods of working were considerably less advanced. There were no modern tools or software for support, no smartphones, CAD data, 3D printers, or even regulated corporate processes. The designers worked on a drawing board, sent their drawings to customers in cardboard tubes, created their sample parts and prototypes from any material that was on hand, and drove across the country to the OEMs to present their ideas and designs in person and land some orders.
And back in those days, there were no standard 7 am to 5 pm working days. Work continued at home, contemplating concepts, and in the morning our fingers were already itching to try out the ideas that came up overnight.
A brief excerpt of highlights from 43 years
It’s incredibly hard to narrow down the most significant product developments that have originated in Kurt’s mind. This is due to the fact that the entirety of the product range for entry into the automotive industry was significantly developed by Kurt.
His first product will certainly be remembered: a loudspeaker connector (plug and socket) for the Becker car radio, which was standardized across the series for a well-known OEM.
Another special highlight was the 1 mm contact (socket and pin) with a CuBe2 blade as contact part, which served as the initial basis for countless further product developments for a number of well-known OEMs.
The first exceptionally large project was a rear-axle plug distribution for the Roadster. This required some big thinking in order to achieve the customer’s requirements, because all sensors on the rear axle (ABS, ASR, BBVA etc.) needed to be combined at a central separation point and plugged-in externally, contacted electrically, and locked mechanically. The complexity, size, and interaction of all parts were immense challenges that the entire project team had to deal with, but ultimately this was successfully implemented. After an extremely rapid development period of six months, the contact was installed for the first time, subsequently being adapted for further vehicle models.
Further fundamental developments included – to name but a few – an adjustable and heatable 5-pin exterior mirror connector with fork-and-knife contact, an 8-pin (1 mm) interior mirror connector for memory controls and also for the first infrared remote controls, an 8 -pin angled plug connection, a 3-pin door latch query, and countless other plug connections.
Before becoming engaged with product development for automotive contacts, Kurt was also instrumental in the transfer of the newly developed Slany design, which was integrated into the test lead and laboratory program, and also worked with industrial connectors. The design gave the Hirschmann Automotive connector range a striking appearance for its time (three recessed lines) and made it instantly distinguishable from competitors’ products. The Slany design is still in use today.
The IC tester is another pinnacle among Kurt’s wealth of ideas. This was developed at the end of the 1970s for the testing of integrated circuits within the laboratory program.
In recent years, the focus of Kurt’s work has been on fundamental issues, patents and trademarks, processing research allowances and special projects, such as that of the Hirschmann Automotive Pedelec (e-bike), which was developed in 2012. In addition, he continued to work as an internal trainer at the Hirschmann Automotive Academy for basic topics such as materials, processes, products etc., continuing to pass on his extensive knowledge to employees right up until his retirement.
„A great deal has changed during my four decades at Hirschmann Automotive. At the management level, the product portfolio, the branches of industry in which it is involved, and even the name of the company itself. I am very proud to have been a witness to these exciting changes and, above all, to have helped to shape them. I’m also extremely grateful that the company has always given me the freedom, the necessary resources, and the trust to implement my ideas. I have been able to experience a fantastic professional life, and I can only wish that everyone else would have an experience like mine.“ Kurt Ellensohn
With the departure of Kurt Ellensohn, a real luminary – one who has had a major impact on the history of Hirschmann Automotive – leaves the room. We thank you for your tireless efforts, your achievements, and your helpful and always-friendly dealings with your colleagues. You have had an impressive career and have always enriched us with your presence; both intellectually and as a person. All the best for your future!