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Sustainable materials management will be one of the keystones of the new, sustainable society to which cleantech as a whole participates. Within sustainable materials management several routes lie open i.e. maximal recycling and re-use but also minimal materials use to start with. In this newsletter we like to call your attention to the latter with topics such as additive manufacturing and the realizations of companies like Materialise, Layerwise and Melotte.
Sustainable materials management is also one of the main topics of i-SUP2012 to be held in Bruges from 7 till 9 May for the third time and FCA is organizing a special evening on 7 May where we like to meet all of you in person.Dirk Fransaer Interim Manager Flanders Cleantech Association
ADDITIVE MANUFACTURING: THE MANUFACTURING INDUSTRY IN REVOLUTION
Additive manufacturing, also known as 3D-printing, can soon bring about a revolution in the manufacturing industry. The essence: components are no longer given shape by eliminating material, but are built up by adding material layer by layer. What does this innovation have to contribute to the manufacturing industry of the twenty-first century?
What is additive manufacturing and what makes this technology so interesting?Chris Tuck of the research group Additive Manufacturing at Loughborough University (UK): “Additive construction, or 3D-printing, makes it possible to build up products from a digital file layer by layer. That can be done by means of laser cladding or other techniques. With laser cladding, additive material in powder form is melted in a substrate with a laser. That process is by definition economical and sustainable, because it uses up less material. So you don't have to grind off any excess material, for example. You add material, instead of removing it. Such technologies are not really new. The first research into additive manufacturing was done 25 years ago in the United States, but great strides have been made since then and the donkey-work is mainly being done in Europe. We also want to make a contribution with our research group.”
Jan Meneve, research manager of VITO’s Material Technology: “3D-printing offers enormous freedom to design all kinds of products. After all, it is a digital technology, which makes it possible to build any possible form. The applications are almost limitless. The worlds of art and fashion use it, but there are also biomedical applications – patient-specific prostheses, to name but one. The products are also stronger, lighter and perform better than products made with traditional techniques.”
Why will additive manufacuring be a feature of tomorrow’s economy?Jan Meneve: “The productivity of the technology, which is still low at the moment, does not lend itself to mass production. So we are mainly looking at niche markets. But it will become economically interesting by breaking into a range of niche markets - and 3D-printing can indeed become a feature of the business models of the future: product-service combinations, for example. The supplier of the product not only delivers the product, but also the services that go with it. A component or an installation is supplied, maintained, repaired and replaced by one and the same firm. Laser cladding offers many possibilities for such customised repairs, for example.”“ ‘Cloud manufacturing & crowd sourcing’ is also an applicable business model for 3D-printing. Because additive manufacturing is a digital technique, it is possible to manufacture products close to the location where they will be used (‘cloud manufacturing’). This reduces the transportation mileage and thus the CO2 emissions and fuel consumption. Large storage areas will be redundant, because all the details are digital. Then again, crowd sourcing makes it possible to involve customers, suppliers and the general public in the development of new products and services via the Internet - and again, that's possible thanks to the digitisation of the process."
Is additive manufacturing ready for Flemish industry? Benjamin Denayer of Sirris, the research centre for the technology industry: “Flanders and Belgium are among the leaders in research into additive manufacturing. But the technology is ready to be applied now, too. With the network project RapLab we are publicising 3D-printing in Flemish industry as an ecological and sustainable technology. Sirris is coordinating this EFRO project; the other project partners are VITO, KUL-MRC, Layerwise, Materialise and Melotte. The cases that we worked on over the past few years prove that the possibilities in industry are legion. For example, the Brussels firm 2-Ingis produces surgical guides to enable dental implants to be inserted safely and precisely. For this purpose the firm developed special software together with a number of partners, which was used to make the design of each guide. Thus, 2-Ingis was able to shorten production time by 70 percent, reduce product stocks by 80 percent and even reduce the quantity of waste by 90 percent. Even though the project is now officially completed, we would like to continue working in the future with more partners on disseminating this extremely promising technique.”
Companies in the spotlightMATERIALISE
Materialise, based in Leuven, was set up in 1990 as a spin-off from the Catholic University of Leuven. It very quickly developed three core specialisations:
- making products by means of additive manufacturing (AM)- design automation using digital CAD;- engineering and production based on medical images.
In the meantime, Materialise has grown to become a world player with branches in fourteen countries and more than eight hundred employees. It has developed activities in widely-differing market segments in the industrial and medical domains, as well as in direct contact with consumers.
As additive manufacturing matures as a production technology, it is becoming clear that it can make a major contribution to cleantech. In this context, Materialise has been investing over the last few years in a great deal of research and development. Today, this is resulting in different products that provide important added value in the field of more ecologically responsible production.
Now, Materialise offers a series of powerful software tools for designing lightweight structures, which can then be produced using additive manufacturing. Lightweight structures of this kind are attracting a lot of attention today in the aircraft and motor vehicle industries.
With its RapidFit+ system Materialise is also making a contribution to cleantech. RapidFit+ is a modular system for producing measurement fixtures. The system’s structure is comprised of modular elements that can be (re-)used according to the cradle-to-cradle principle. The connection units between the workpiece and the structure are produced with AM, which enables it to be constructed in an energy-efficient manner.
In the consumer market too, Materialise provides a platform via its i.materialise.com website with which consumers can print out the products they have designed. Consumers who are less involved in designing their own products can use this same platform to personalise existing products according to their own taste or can choose from a large catalogue of virtual products that are only produced when the consumer orders them.
Wilfried Vancraen, founder and CEO of Materialise:“By getting the consumer to take part in the product-design process on our i.materialise.com platform, he or she will value this product more. We believe that this will promote more sustainable consumption and that in this way we can make a contribution to a healthier world.”
LAYERWISELayerWise is a production innovator and technology user that stretches the limits of metal part performance and manufacturing economics. LayerWise, based in Leuven, is the first production center in Belgium that exclusively focuses on Metal Additive Manufacturing (AM).
The AM technology shapes any desired metal part geometry by laser melting metal powder layer by layer. This direct digital process challenges traditional metalworking practices by producing the optimum shape of complex prototypes in a single manufacturing step, including recess, ribs, cavities and internal features. AM parts exhibit better performance, functionality and reliability than its predecessor part or assembly, using less material and no scrap. The AM production process has been optimized for a variety of metals and alloys
LayerWise is expanding on a European scale, with sales agents in Belgium, The Netherlands, Germany and Spain. Typical markets include precision mechanics, process industry and aerospace/marine as well as medical and dental industry segments. Industrial applications cover complex circulation parts as well as tool inserts with conformal cooling.
Dr. ing. Jonas Van Vaerenbergh, Managing Director at LayerWise: “By bringing together technological expertise, production capacity and customer support, LayerWise occupies a unique position on European level. Our engineers control the AM process to such an extent that they are able to perfect the technology and realize the most challenging specifications. As AM redefines design and production, customers can create more added value and produce more cost effectively.”
Click here for the complete company profile of LayerWise in the FCA cleantech guide.Website: www.layerwise.com
MELOTTEIn 2004, Melotte began active exploration of Near-to-Net-Shape Manufacturing (NTNM) technologies in an incubation environment and since 2010 Direct Digital Manufacturing (DDM) has been a component of strategic diversification.
Both the strategy and policy of Melotte – with the emphasis on innovation – are inspired by clean technologies. The InnoCrowd business plan is a response to a combination of economic added value in balance with environmental benefits. In short, it is a matter of creating value with minimal impact on the ecosystem by creating with limited consumption of energy and raw materials and a driving-force for locally-established production ecosystems.
Melotte puts the emphasis on the production of high-value Additive Manufacturing (AM) components using an entirely digital process: from 3D file to final 3D physical object with a positive impact on freedom of form, accuracy, micro-dimensions, speed and environment. Melotte uses this technology today for such things as DDM solutions in industrial (prototype) applications, objets d’art and jewels, as well as optimised products for the welfare sector with a substantial impact by this production system on the environment. In the production of dental prostheses alone, Melotte is making a total environment improvement by a factor of eight compared with the analogue production process. This improvement was made by optimising manufacturing to the maximum, direct manufacturing and shortening the supply chain. Moreover, the proportion of toxic elements in the production chain was reduced to zero and the impact on transportation reduced by a factor of eighteen.
Mario Fleurinck, CEO of Melotte: “In the near future we want to develop a completely new business model by means of digital production technology with ecological motives. Here we are thinking of reducing the ecological footprint, careful and controlled water consumption and waste management, low consumption of raw materials and energy, and analysis of the lifecycle of products as the spearpoint. The plan is part of the philosophy of the ‘Blue Economy’. It must enable users via centralised data-processing to produce things from remotely-designed geometry (CT-based implants, for example) to unique AM cut-outs (with such things as CoCr and titanium parts) as closely as possible to the end-user. Ensuring the future for the next generation will not be done by investing in the production of green energy, but by reducing energy-consumption through production efficiency. This is also Melotte's response to climate-change.”
Click here for the complete company profile of Melotte in the FCA cleantech guideWebsite: www.melotte.be
Together with a local partner, VITO set up a joint venture in China last year. This joint venture focuses principally on improving urban air quality. One of the first projects was just recently successfully completed and the central Ministry of the Environment is encouraging other cities to make use of VITO’s technology as well. In addition, VITO will now be initiating its first deep-geothermy project in China.
Urban air qualityIt is well-known that air pollution is a very serious problem in China, especially in the densely-populated cities of millions on the east coast. After carrying out several research projects already in China with co-financing from the European Commission or the Flemish Government, VITO launched a joint venture last year (Libovito Inc.) with a local partner. With this joint venture, VITO aims to provide its services on a commercial basis to local authorities. Those services derive from the advanced knowledge in the field of air-quality modelling (AURORA model) that VITO has gained over the last decade. Its expertise is helping local authorities to devise a sound policy for improving the air quality in their cities. It gives them the opportunity to make scenario calculations and thus to know the costs and benefits of possible measures in advance. Moreover, they can keep the costs of investing in measurement networks down through a combination of measuring and modelling.
At the end of March, Libovito successfully completed a project in the city of Yangzhou and presented it to the general public in a workshop. The project received the active support of the central Ministry of the Environment and the provincial environmental authority of the Province of Jiangsu. They are encouraging more than 100 other Chinese cities with populations of more than a million to apply VITO’s technology in their policies as well.
Finally, the knowledge gained from VITO’s modelling makes it possible to predict the air quality over a period of several days and to inform the public about it (public awareness). A major demonstration project with co-financing from Europe (Europe-Aid) and China was recently approved and will commence in the second half of this year.
Deep geothermy Using heat from the earth, or geothermy, is a renewable and CO2-neutral source of energy available everywhere. Since 1998, VITO has been actively involved in the development of geothermy in Flanders. Initially, the focus was mainly on the development of shallow energy-storage systems, whether or not in combination with heat pumps. Those activities were taken over by the spin-off Terra Energy NV in 2005. Since then, VITO re-oriented its research into deep geothermy and large-scale energy-storage systems in combination with district heating. The use of deep geothermy for the sustainable production of electricity is the next challenge. At the Balmatt site in Mol, VITO aims to construct its first geothermal electricity generating station in Flanders, based on existing ORC technology. This project will require long preparation and major investment, principally in the form of drilling down to a depth of three or four kilometres.
In China the opportunity is now being announced of undertaking an initial demonstration project with limited investment. After all, VITO can make use of existing bore-holes that were drilled earlier for oil exploration. VITO recently signed a provisional contract with Huabei Oilfield, a subsidiary of CNPC (China National Petroleum Corporation). The installation with an estimated power output of between one and five MW will be built in the city of Renqui, a hundred kilometres to the south of the capital, Beijing. Both the electricity produced and the residual heat will be used for the existing oil-extraction. The first phase of the project comprises a thorough technical-economic feasibility study based on the detailed geological data provided by the contractor. If the results are favourable, the aim is to have the installation in operation by the summer of 2013.
FCA-evening on Monday 7 May 2012 at the i-SUP2012 Convention in BrugesIf you’re wondering what Flanders Cleantech, colonists in Greenland, a famous polar explorer, and European and Chinese cleantech companies have in common, then find out by joining the FCA evening at i-SUP2012. Here we will take you on an exciting journey, starting with a few lessons in transition management, followed by some insights into the current cleantech trends, both in Europe and China. We will learn whether these trends will effectively provide an answer to the challenges ahead. We will end the first session with some revolutionary and creative cleantech initiatives.
After the break Arnold Schwarzenegger will set the scene with a recorded video message, followed by some lessons in ‘gross national happiness’. We conclude the content part with the vision of a venture capitalist and interesting testimonies of historical and actual experiences with climate change.
There will be time allocated for discussion, as well as an international networking dinner. In short an event not to be missed with exclusive speakers travelling to Bruges for this occasion to share their global insights with you.
For more information about the FCA-evening click here
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Flanders Cleantech Association14.05.2012
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