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EcoNation optimises smart LightCatcher domes

In 2010, Ghent-based company EcoNation started working with Ghent University engineers on a crystal-clear concept. The idea was to enhance the daylight coming in from outside, using it as interior lighting for buildings. It wasn't long afterwards that the high-tech LightCatcher dome, using an automated, rotating mirror system with sensors to efficiently bring daylight into buildings, saw the light of day. The company turned to Sirris to optimise the robustness and the autonomy of the smart dome's mechatronical system.
  • Sirris used a design review to work out areas for improvement and solutions to enhance the LightCatcher's robustness and autonomy.
  • In cooperation with Sirris and Flanders Make, EcoNation launched a Mechatronics 4.0 case study. The aim of this project was to investigate the feasibility of an enhanced control algorithm and a more energy-efficient drive system for the positioning of the mirror.
  • In 2017, EcoNation is going to optimise the LightCatcher based on the results of the feasibility study.

EcoNation develops, manufactures and installs smart daylight domes for buildings for companies and public institutions. This Ghent-based company's best-known innovation is the LightCatcher, a smart light dome fitted with a mirror that automatically directs itself to the best light source and uses an elaborate system to convert the light from outside into interior lighting.

In 2017, EcoNation is going to use the findings of the feasibility study to optimise the LightCatcher's autonomy.

Robust and completely autonomous

EcoNation's LightCatcher has an ingenious design. A rotating mirror is integrated into the light dome. This mirror is driven by a compact motor equipped with sensor technology and solar cells. The mirror is programmed to direct itself to the best possible light source (whether the sun or otherwise). This means it captures the maximum possible light and then reflects, enhances, and spreads it through the building. As a result the artificial light sources in a room can be switched off for an average of 10 hours per day. But there was still room for improvement, with the whole drive system needing further optimization to improve its autonomy and ease of installation.

Feasibility study

Sirris's mechatronics experts performed a design analysis and assessed potential improvements. A feasibility study was launched in collaboration with Flanders Make, the strategic research center for the manufacturing industry, to look at the control algorithm and the energy efficiency of the electric driveline. This case study was part of Mechatronics 4.0, a project which aims to make machinery connected and autonomous by integrating ICT, electronics, and sensors. The study looked into two questions:

  • How can the control algorithm be improved to position the smart dome's mirror more accurately?
  • How can the drive system be made more energy-efficient?

Ready for the next step

With support from Sirris, EcoNation acquired the insights it needed to enhance the LightCatcher and launch a feasibility study. In 2017, this Ghent-based company is going to put the findings of the feasibility study into practice.