Joint innovation research

How do companies work together with Flanders Make? What are the results of this cooperation and how does it offer companies a competitive edge? Testimonies from four partners. 

Decision & Control
Design & Optimisation
Flexible Assembly
Motion Products

Decision & Control - Bekaert

“Our roadmaps show more and more interfaces.” 

“For people who are not familiar with our business, steel will most probably be anything but sexy. And yet, we discover new opportunities every day.” We are talking with Filip De Coninck, senior engineering manager for exploration projects at steel wire manufacturer Bekaert. “However, new opportunities come with numerous challenges. Flanders Make supports us in a number of these challenges”, confirms Filip.

“Our products are becoming ever more complex, which means that also the complexity of our production process and the requirements set to its accuracy and quality increase. This in turn increases the need for control. Powerful, fast and cheap sensors play a very important part in this.”

“For one particular application, we needed to make a high-quality sensor more robust. Flanders Make helps us with this. This is only one of the research projects in which we participate. We are working intensively together for quite some time now. The best proof of our pleasant cooperation? The fact that we are always eager to join new projects, not only in connection with sensors but also for instance for projects exploring control skills.”

“Our roadmaps show more and more interfaces. We discuss ideas, questions and challenges with our colleagues of Flanders Make. They, in turn, will try to set up relevant synergies with other industrial players and academic partners. By the time that an idea has been developed into a full-fledged research project, it is also on our roadmap.”

“This whole process is getting an increasingly synchronous course. The mutual dialogue and interaction get better. Every 6 months, colleagues from Bekaert and Flanders Make come together for intensive consultations, not only to discuss ongoing projects but also to keep our finger on the pulse. Could there be other interesting research projects that have a link with our challenges?"

 

Design & Optimisation - Dana

Methodology for simplifying the application of functional safety standards at Dana 

Vehicles and machines must meet ever more and increasingly strict safety requirements. They are becoming increasingly complex and contain more software. When this software fails, functional safety makes sure that safety remains warranted. Such functional safety requirements are not limited to countries in which the vehicle or machine builder is active. Also the European legislation concerning product liability is applicable, to name but one. Standards also differ from industry to industry: the mining industry, for instance, imposes other requirements than the logistics sector. 

This is confirmed by machine builder Dana Belgium, an important strategic supplier in the automotive industry with a production unit and engineering department in West Flanders: 

“Thanks to FLAME, Dana Belgium has developed into thefunctional safety competence centre of the global Dana Group”, says Bjorn Aelvoet, Team Leader Embedded Systems & Functional Safety. "FLAME ensures that our variety of products realises a high safety and quality level for the variety of markets that we serve. Dana and its functional safety team have fully embraced FLAME and translated it into company-specific processes (dFLAME). At this moment, these processes are being introduced into all other Dana business units under the title ‘One Dana Mechatronic Standard’.”

Flanders Make is working for a considerable time already on setting up a functional safety reference process for various applications such as passenger cars, machine building and agriculture. In this way, companies can, for instance, map differences between their current processes and the relevant ISO-standards and take an important step forward in defining and rolling out their processes according to these standards. This development method, FLAME, can be applied independently of the type of vehicle or machine.  

“Thanks to the online platform FLAME, we are not only certain that we meet the prevailing standards. We can also rest assured that, when we carry through changes to a design, we immediately know whether or not this will have an impact on functional safety matters.” 

How does this work in the day-to-day practice? We depart from functional requirements and examine how, with which architecture we will be able to meet them. FLAME can be applied both to a traditional Powershift drivetrain for off-highway vehicles and to an on-road vehicle with a complete electric Dana drivetrain. FLAME will then tell us which safety requirements we must meet to limit the risks. 

The application of this design methodology for safety-critical systems will support Flemish vehicle and machine manufacturers to meet in an efficient way the requirements set by functional safety standards. Besides, the methodology can also be applied to product families. In this way, companies can considerably lower their overall development costs and efforts.

As this methodology covers a wide range of different international standards, its use will enable companies to assess in a much easier way whether they meet the standards and corresponding certification requirements for other markets."

Flexible Assembly - Achilles Design

"Achilles Design puts man at the centre when designing tomorrow's products and systems"

"For more than 20 years already, Achilles Design helps companies to develop innovative and smart products and systems. Because digital technology is omnipresent, the bulk of the products and systems that they are currently designing has a digital dimension. 

Lukas Van Campenhout, project manager with Achilles Design, explains how they take the user experience to the next level: “The interface with new products and systems that we develop, the way in which we deal with it, has both physical and digital dimensions. The design discipline focusing on hybrid interfaces is calledDesign for Interaction and Achilles Design wants to develop unique expertise in this area. Thanks to our cooperation with Flanders Make, we can realise this ambition.”

How will men and robots work together in future? 

Together with Flanders Make, Kuka and Audi, Achilles Design studied the interaction between operators and cobots (collaborative robots) in a production environment. New, digital technologies such as Augmented and Virtual Reality were used to design this interface 

We developed a demonstrator in which a cobot performs quality control measurements on an object. The results of these measurements are visualised in real time and projected on the object itself, which makes the task for operators much more intuitive and easier.

The software that was developed for this project is now being optimised to increase the flexibility of robot technology. As a result, it will become easier and take less time to re-programme robots and cobots, which will facilitate their implementation in Flemish companies.

Results

In addition to a fruitful collaboration with the consortium partners, this project delivered for Achilles Design two very concrete results. They set up a new competence centre for digital design – with a specific focus on hybrid products and growing rapidly – and also started with an in-house research group, Ground Eight. Within Ground Eight, professional designers perform exploratory research into interactions with hybrid products and systems."

Motion Products - Lab Motion Systems

Flanders Make and Lab Motion Systems join forces for machining composites

"Machining parts in composite material requires special attention. The material is not only very specific, being composed of layers and fibres, it often concerns large and flexible surfaces intended for, among others, the aviation industry. As a result, machines must be adapted time and again for machining one single part or a small series, making the machining of composite parts both difficult and expensive. Furthermore, these composite parts all too often become delaminated or defragmented when being drilled or ground if the cutting conditions are not optimal. 

For LAB Motion Systems, a high-tech company from Leuven set up as a spin-off of KULeuven, this was an interesting challenge. They are specialised in developing high-precision air bearings. To develop special centrepieces for machining parts in composites using vibration technology, they set up a partnership with Flanders Make. 

“Delamination of composites is a problem”, says Wim Van de Vijver, CEO of LAB Motion Systems. “Because the layers composing the material become separated, the strength of the component is affected. Impact from drilling or grinding operations can already result in minuscule internal flaws. For critical applications as used in aviation with its very strict quality requirements, this is unacceptable.” 

Vibrations on the right frequency 

The research partners realised a process development for vibration-supported machining because vibrations on the right frequency can keep the composite material smoother and machining neat. This is not only better for the material, it also accelerates the machining process and considerably extends the life span of the cutting tool. In this way, machining costs can be lowered. 

The developed test platform is able to optimise the frequency and amplitude of the applied vibrations. It creates optimal conditions for machining different materials, such as drilling composites on titanium. 

Flanders Make can boast comprehensive experience in control engineering. Its researchers played an important part in the development of controller software for the modules of LAB Motion Systems.  For LAB Motion Systems, this technology opens doors towards machining centres: 

“We combined Flanders Make’s knowledge of vibration patterns with our own expertise in high-precision machining. The developed prototype may prove to be a promising solution for application in existing CNC machines. It would then be possible to mount the centrepiece as an additional module. This could generate significant added value for our customers.”