Out of the Ruhr region and into the world

Boehringer Ingelheim manufactures millions of inhalers for patients with respiratory diseases each year at its location in Dortmund, Germany. Matthias Hausmann is one of the people who developed the RESPIMAT®, which ranks among the most important elements in the Boehringer Ingelheim product portfolio.

Matthias Hausmann holds his hand out towards his visitors. He points to parts so small they almost disappear in the palm of his hand and names each of them: the support ring, the valve body – and the uniblock. These are three of the 26 individual parts that make up the RESPIMAT®, an inhaler for treating specific respiratory diseases.

The inhaler is manufactured at Boehringer Ingelheim microParts GmbH in Dortmund, under Hausmann’s watchful eye. Hausmann is an engineer born in Berlin. 24 years ago, a colleague directed him from the nation’s capital to the Ruhr region, where microParts has developed and produced micro-nozzles since 1990. Eleven years later, Boehringer Ingelheim picked up the technology and started preparing the RESPIMAT® for series production. Hausmann plays a decisive role in this endeavor, organizing, fine-tuning, and creating the necessary processes for high-volume series production of the inhaler and cartridges.

83444D40-1F3A-45F9-981C-87234C6E25BB Created with sketchtool.

He looks down at his hand. The smallest component, the valve body, is as small as the head of a pin and weighs less than a snowflake. “Six of such delicate components are so special that they are only produced by us here on-site,” he explains. In 2019, more than 36 million inhalers were delivered worldwide.

“Expertise and years of process experience are the decisive factors for success,” says Hausmann. The core component of the inhaler is the uniblock, which releases the active substance as a fine mist. It does the same in the reusable version, which has been available in a number of European countries since April 2019. Thanks to its reusability for up to six cartridges – depending on the approval status in the respective country – the inhaler is now more environmentally friendly. Not just physician experience but patient feedback was especially considered in the course of developing new-generation products.

As the product manager, Hausmann continuously advances the development of the medical device and oversees the entire lifecycle of the product. Thanks to the varied nature of his work, Hausmann remains dedicated to microParts and the Ruhr region.

There’s a solution for every problem, as long as it doesn’t violate the laws of physics.

Matthias Hausmann

In recent years, a sum in the high double-digit million euro range has been invested in developing the Dortmund location, where a new building wing was constructed and new machinery purchased.

The road has not always been smooth, however, and there have been setbacks over the years. In 1998, just before the RESPIMAT® entry into the global market, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) changed its requirements for inhalers. After several tests, it quickly became clear that the inhaler did not meet the new criteria. “From then on, it was either find a solution, or the project has failed,” Hausmann recalls. Persistence and drive paid off, and the team successfully modified the inhaler so that the market launch could take place as planned. Improving patients’ quality of life is the ultimate goal for Hausmann and his pioneering team. “This is a goal worth fighting for every day.”

Two factors were decisive in the successful development of the RESPIMAT®, says Hausmann: expertise in nozzle manufacturing and collaboration with an experienced team. As his personal motto states: “There’s a solution for every problem, as long as it doesn’t violate the laws of physics.”

Six functional components are manufactured in Dortmund. With these components the inhaler is already sprayable.

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