On September 1, 1976, Gerald Ortlepp began his Vocational training as a skilled worker in chemical production at the former Schwarza Chemical Fibers Combine. After two years, the skilled worker's certificate was achieved, and the native of Rudolstadt was prepared for study abroad at the Workers' and Farmers' Faculty in Halle. Within twelve months he had to learn the Czech language and pass his school-leaving exams. Then it was off to the Technical University in Liberec for four years. In 1983, Gerald Ortlepp returned to Schwarza as a newly qualified engineer for textiles and clothing and started his professional career in the central research department of the chemical fibre combine. With his specialization in spinning, he already had every opportunity here at that time.
As a scientific associate, he was mainly concerned with the textile processing of modal fibres into yarns, developing the raw materials for new products with his colleagues or looking for new fields of application. At the time of reunification, the combine was broken up. But thanks to the reestablishment of the Thuringian Institute for Textile and Plastics Research, the research staff managed an almost seamless transition exactly 30 years ago. "The focus of my work gradually shifted to textile semi-finished products used as fibre composites," Ortlepp recalls. Initially, his department researched the processing of natural fibers, then high-performance fibers such as aramid or carbon. Today, more than ever, the focus is on the sustainable use of all materials, which is why new areas of application for flax, hemp or wool are coming back into focus. "And of course, recycling and reuse play an important role in all research work," says Ortlepp.
At the age of 62, the textile engineer, who has lived in Uhlstädt for many years, can now slowly look forward to his well-deserved retirement - or so one would think. Far from it: "It still has to go on for a few more years," Ortlepp smiles. There is one thing he has learned in all his years in the business and is happy to pass this on to younger people as instructor: "The most important thing is to constantly acquire new knowledge. That's the most important asset you can have."