"Metal casting is like looking into a fire"

Projects, Study, Research |

Julika Hoyer studied mechanical engineering at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) for both her bachelor's and master's degrees. She is currently working as a research associate at the Chair of Metal Forming and Casting. There she conducts research on continuous and compound casting. In the interview, she tells us about her work as a scientist and metal caster, her mechanical engineering studies and her future plans as an engineer.

Portrait Julia Hoyer
Image: Tassilo Letzel
Julika Hoyer with cast
Image: Tassilo Letzel

Photos: Tassilo Letzel / Interview: Susanne Hoecht

You studied mechanical engineering in both your bachelor's and master's degrees. What fascinates you about mechanical engineering?
What I find most exciting about mechanical engineering, and especially about my chosen specialization of production engineering, is that things have to be manufactured somehow. There are a large number of usable objects. But only relatively few natural materials to which everything can be traced back. It's not just a question of how two things can be screwed together, but how the components come about in the first place. So I was also interested in the production of materials. Overall, I wanted to know more about the variety of individual possible production steps.

How did you come to your choice of studies?
Actually, after graduating from high school, I didn't really know what I should do. German studies or history are also interesting subjects, but unfortunately not very solid. A few technicians in my circle ultimately influenced my choice. So the decision came that it should be something technical and logical.

What advice would you give to students who are interested in studying mechanical engineering, especially at TUM?
In general: Have the confidence to do something and believe you can do more than you think you can. Don't let it get you down. Your fellow students are in the same boat and you will help each other during your studies. In addition, use the time of your studies to develop yourself personally. You do not have to complete your studies in the standard duration of study. Therefore, use the opportunity to engage in activities and hobbies on the side. This will help you develop personally and broaden your horizons. So do what you are passionate about!

You have been working as a research associate at the Chair of Metal Forming and Casting for a year now. Please tell us what your day-to-day work looks like. What topics do you deal with?
There really is no such thing as a daily routine. It depends on what is going on at the moment. There are conferences for which publications have to be written and prepared. Then I also organize events at the chair, such as Girl's Day or internal chair events. But basically I prepare current research projects, work on them and then prepare the follow-up. I also prepare preliminary tests and applications for new research ideas. In the same way, plants also have to be set up, converted, repaired and put into operation. Then there is the simulation. All in all, research involves a lot of organization and administration.

My current research topic is the continuous and compound casting of aluminum and copper. In principle, the hot melt is poured into a mold at the top, then continuously cooled, and at the end the finished metal strand gradually comes out at the bottom. This includes many mechanical engineering topics such as fluid mechanics, materials science, process technology and thermodynamics. Specifically, I'm dealing with a wide variety of questions in this research project: How is the heat dissipated in the casting system, which has a significant influence on process stability? How do I obtain a useful metal composite from the two metals aluminum and copper? What tools do I need to design for this purpose? What temperature range do I need for the melt and how can I keep this constant in the plant?
In addition, the plant must run stably so that I don't have strand breaks. To do this, I set the appropriate control and plant parameters. Finally, I examine the cast metal samples to determine what hardness and properties the composite of aluminum and copper has.

What do you enjoy most about your work and the metal casting?
Metal casting is like looking into a fire. What I find most fascinating is the molten metal itself. It's just exciting to see how the metal parts turn into something liquid. In the next step, something completely new is created by casting it into the mold.

What do you want to do after your time at the chair? What are your further plans for your career?
At the moment I am still very open. I would like to maintain the freedom I currently have in my work in the future. I could also imagine going abroad for a while as a scientist. It is also an option for me to work in a research and development department in industry.

Profile of Julika Hoyer: https://www.mec.ed.tum.de/en/utg/institute/team/julika-hoyer-msc/