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Enhanced functionality in minimal space

The objective of Sirris’s SMALL-Lab is to develop miniature solutions that reduce the size and weight of products while enhancing their functionality. Plastronics, for example, incorporates plastics and electronics into ever smaller and lighter parts.

Miniaturisation and plastronics enable new functionality to be added to objects without increasing their size or weight. This is a major advantage in developing products that are smarter, more reliable (e.g. by incorporating redundant parts that can take over from each other), use less energy and generate less waste. In the life sciences sector, miniaturisation also enables more effective reactions.

“Miniaturisation and the integration of multiple functionalities are no longer the preserve of high-tech products. Many everyday consumer products would benefit from being smaller and incorporating secondary functions. This is possible thanks to new technologies.”

Projects in 2015

  • A number of microfluidic applications moved from the research to the industrialisation stage, and are likely to result in several new innovations in Belgium.
  • Closer links are being forged between health and engineering. In 2015, among other things Sirris helped to develop new types of miniature instruments for surgeons.
  • Sirris also expanded its partner network in order to develop increasingly cross-functional  solutions combining electronics, optics, mechanics, etc.

Which projects are we working on now?

  • Approaching new sectors: Sirris is working with ‘traditional’ sectors that supply everyday products to examine how miniaturisation could help them to develop more specific and competitive solutions. In this connection, the SMALL-Lab will continue to strengthen its ties with Sirris’s Mechatronics Unit (development of sensors and on-board systems).
  • Making available new technological capabilities developed by Sirris in recent years, which are now reaching maturity. For example, a number of industrial sectors could benefit from new microprinting techniques, which allow minisensors or circuits to be printed on 3D surfaces.
  • Microreplication of polymers: Thanks to new equipment acquired with money from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), Sirris is helping industry to introduce new technologies capable of reproducing very small and complex parts.
  • Additive micromanufacturing: Sirris is exploring additive manufacturing techniques capable of producing parts and tools measuring a few mm³, with details at micrometre scale. This project is also co-funded by the ERDF.

Moments of inspiration

  • ‘Innovation through polymer microtechnology’ (Heverlee, November 2015): Sirris co-organised this seminar marking the end of the ‘Change2Micro’ project. Coordinated by Flanders’ PlasticVision, the project aimed to promote plastics microfabrication activities in Flanders.
  • Eurofinish (Leuven, June 2015): This annual trade fair brings together surface treatment professionals from the Benelux countries. Sirris gave a talk on functionality in surface microtexturing.
  • BioLiège evening (Seraing, 1 October 2015): Sirris hosted the members of BioLiège, a Liège-based group of companies and academics, at its facilities in Seraing. The goal was to strengthen ties between life sciences and engineering.