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Future materials causing a furore

Sirris has bolstered its national and international networks in composites. As a result, our Composites Lab was able to help a record number of companies with composite development.

Composites are on the rise in a wide variety of sectors. Aviation, automotive, construction, energy and the sports industry: all derive numerous benefits from these fibre-reinforced plastics. They make products lighter, more energy-efficient and better performing and give manufacturers greater design freedom. In Belgium, these remarkable innovations are assisted by the Sirris Leuven-Gent Composites Application Lab (SLC Lab) among others.

“Composites really took off in 2015 – hardly surprising given their many advantages. And Sirris is working to make innovative composite-based products even more accessible.”

Projects in 2015

  • CFK Valley Belgium: CFK Valley, Europe’s main composites industry network, joined forces with Sirris and Agoria to launch CFK Valley Belgium. This move gives Belgian companies access to a European network of composites companies and researchers. The partnership was unveiled at the JEC Europe international composites fair in Paris.
  • CompositeBoost: Launched in 2015, this research project focuses on the use of composites by Belgian SMEs. Sirris developed masterclasses to help companies analyse the feasibility of composites, the choice of materials and technologies. Specific cases also show how composites can easily be incorporated into small-batch production. This CompositeBoost enabled Sirris to expand its partnerships with universities KU Leuven and UGent, meaning that academics are now also actively involved in a series of consultancy projects.
  • SLC-Lab: The Sirris Leuven-Gent Composites Application Lab helped a record number of companies to develop composite materials and applications in 2015. This was thanks to its strengthened international network, Sirris’s growing reputation as a leading composites accelerator and the general growth trend in composites.
  • Materials development: Sirris ondersteunde een aantal bedrijven bij de ontwikkeling van een nieuw generatie composietmaterialen met nieuwe functionaliteit. Denk hierbij aan brandvaste composieten, bio-gebaseerde composieten en schuimen met vormgeheugen.

Which projects are we working on now?

  • Automation: Sirris is working hard on projects to help SMEs take their first steps towards automating composite processes. To make these innovations more accessible, we are investigating how lightweight robots can facilitate the work of operators.

  • Macobio: In this new ERDF project (2015-20), Sirris is continuing work on the technologies developed in the CILAB project, among others (more information on the plastics page. Macobio will also focus primarily on studying thermoplastic composites made of bio-based materials such as natural flax, hemp or coconut fibres. The main challenge with these natural reinforcement fibres is that they deteriorate faster in heat: forming processes will therefore need to be adapted so as not to weaken them.

  • Tailcomp: This Cornet (Collective Research Networking) project is a collaboration between Sirris and the German institutes IPF and Fraunhofer IWU. The IPF has developed a means of producing thermosetting composite elements whose reinforcements (fibres) are in a complex geometry that can be optimised according to the needs of the application. This is different from traditional semi-finished products, which have parallel or perpendicularly woven reinforcements. The partners in the Tailcomp project will adapt this innovation to thermoplastic composites, with Sirris focusing mainly on the forming process.

Moments of inspiration

  • JEC Europe: Composites Show in Paris
  • CFK Valley Convention: Partner country Belgium was well-represented among the 300 participants from 20 countries: the CFK Valley Belgium stand was manned by 11 personnel.