The new AO workshop

The story behind the new "ARI Prototype Workshop" at the AO Center which was inaugurated at the end of October, 2014.

11 December 2014


The workshop seen alongside the AO Center.

In the middle of 2013 the AO decided that it should construct a dedicated building on the grounds of the AO Center to house the AO Research Institute Davos Prototype Workshop—which up until this point had been housed in nearby rented accommodation. So on October 29, 2014 the ribbon was cut on a new purpose-built workshop at the AO Foundation headquarters in Davos.

Set up in 1992 the workshop produced prototypes of new implants, surgical instruments and innovative high-quality tools for the AO Research Institute Davos (AO Research Institute Davos) in close collaboration with the network of AO surgeons and AO's industrial partners. The workshop also worked on projects with AO spin-off companies (Synbone AG, Malans and RISystem AG, Davos).

Before the building project began it was decided that the architecture of the workshop should reflect that of the AO's main building. Preparation work started in autumn 2013, the main phase of construction in April 2014 and the project was completed in October 2014. AO Research Institute Davos staff members Erich Zweifel (Workshop Manager) and Rolf Keller (Financial Controller of AO Research Institute Davos) managed the building construction and relocation work. The new workshop was operational, as planned, on November 1, 2014 and on completion Keller remarked that the most satisfying part of working on this project was "to come in on time despite numerous incidents of Murphy's Law (ie, anything that can go wrong will go wrong)".

So how does this purpose-built space compare to the previous workshop? According to Zweifel, "although it is a smaller than the old rented building, the new building is much more convenient and spacious to work in because it has been specifically designed for our needs. It is much brighter and, thanks to the double height of the building, the atmosphere is much more comfortable for the team". This team currently comprises Zweifel, Jan Caspar, Deputy Workshop Leader and polymechanic, and two local apprentice polymechanics, Nando Adank and Kevin Frey. Keller also described how even though the ground area of the new workshop is reduced, "the different important working areas are now on the same level and the machinery has been reduced to only what is required".

The motivation to move the workshop was to improve communication between the workshop team and AO Research Institute Davos's researchers. Director of AO Research Institute Davos, Prof R Geoff Richards elaborated that he has wanted "our own prototype workshop for a long time now knowing that this would save long-term running costs and that by having our own purpose built facility at the AO Center itself, shows real commitment from the AO Foundation to AO Research Institute Davos's development strategy and to the location of Davos as our headquarters".

Although the main activities of the workshop are focused primarily on prototype development within AO Research Institute Davos, the workshop also has a role to play in Davos. The workshop is an important partner for local institutions such as the World Radiation Center in Davos (PMOD/WRC). According to Boyko Gueorguiev, Program Leader Biomedical Services (of which the workshop is an integral part) the reason this workshop is quite important locally is that due to the "specific production know-how and expertise of the workshop's team as well as its many years of experience in development and production of medical devices, orders can be quickly addressed". Alongside its high-quality prototype building work, twelve local apprentices have so far been educated as polymechanics in the workshop. In addition to his role as workshop manager Zweifel is a certified apprenticeship-teacher. This sort of collaborative effort by the AO is highly appreciated among the community in Davos and Graubünden.


Cutting the ribbon on the new AO Research Institute Davos workshop on October 29.


AO staff inside the workshop on the opening day.

Erich Zweifel working in the new workshop.

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