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Product development

Micro – Smart – Light

Electronic printing and plastronics

Sirris has been developing activities with regard to electronic printing for a few years now. The collective centre offers a full arsenal of technologies to print electronic circuits, sensors, resistive surfaces, etc. on flat substrates but also in 3D.

 

A few of the available technologies: 

  • Screen printing, which is extremely suitable for fast printing on 2D substrates with a resolution in the order of 150 µm;
  • Ink jet printing, for a resolution in the order of 75 µm on flat substrates;
  • Aerosol jet printing, for printing details with a minimum width of 10 µm and a few µm thick. On 3D substrates if required!

 

These technologies can be used to deposit conductive, resistive, dielectric and even biological materials on all types of substrates (rigid, flexible and even stretch substrates). At Sirris these are mainly deployed for plastronics applications. This new technology area means that advanced electronic functions and circuits are directly integrated on to polymer substrates. 

 

In 2017, different projects were completed in this area such as the integration of sensors and light sources or functionalising microchannels on or in polymer substrates directly.

 

IoT platform for connected products

The challenges of the IoT are related to the data generated by connected objects and the option to add, save, analyse and connect the data to other data in the cloud. This data stream must either be processed in real time or afterwards to retrieve value from it.

 

IoT platforms such as Amazon, IBM or Proximus ensure that information can be managed and uploaded to the cloud and that the maximum valuable information is extracted by using various analysis tools.


Within the framework of a European Cornet project, Sirris decided, in the first instance, to test the PTC Thingworx platform. This tool has the significant advantage that CAD applications (CREO) and real objects are linked providing a full design diagram.


For this project, the platform is used as a tool to optimise the connected objects allowing the structured support of companies when taking decisions on whether to make products smarter.

Optimised thermoplastic composites

The project (Tailcomp) is being implemented in partnership with the German centres, that is, the IPF in Dresden and the Fraunhofer IWU in Chemnitz, to combine the advantages of thermoplastic composites with those of innovative production technologies.  


The first practical example to validate the concepts was the saddle of a racing bike. Since Sirris has already been involved in bicycle tests for the UCI, the centre could provide information om ways in which the product could be loaded.


The activities clearly show the interactions between all phases of the chain for the production of a thermoplastic composite. Some of these are already known in the industry of thermosets, but when the technologies are more 'physical' (temperature, etc.) rather than 'chemical' (cross-linking), other effects play a role that must be controlled. 

 

Autoclave processes are well-known for the production of complex 3D parts but this solution is expensive. The second phase of the project consists in bringing about the same preforms by using a 'vacuum bag' procedure, which increases the economic performance while retaining the mechanical properties of the end product. 

Optimised system for current storage

MéryGrid is a pilot project where a microgrid is built in the Monceau industrial estate in Méry in the Ourthe valley. A microgrid is a network of entities that produce and consume power linked to an energy-storage system. The grid can improve its interaction with the electricity system to which it is connected by optimising the existing degrees of freedom with regard to the consumption, production and storage profile. 

 

The objectives of the project are designing the microgrid, designing a modified storage system, development of all required software tools, acquisition of competences with regard to management and maintenance and the analysis of the economic profitability and operation of the microgrid. 


The project is being managed by a consortium of companies including CE+T that specialises in systems for setting up and storing electrical energy and the companies that use the electricity at the Méry site. RESA, the distributor and operator of the electricity grid also takes part in the project. The Montefiore Institute of the University of Liège is taking responsibility for the research and current computer science management part. Sirris Product Development Hub is in charge of the design of the container and the thermal management thereof.

Thermal management of the products

Thermal management has been a Sirris activity for more than ten years, which operates smoothly.

 

Three key aspects can be distinguished:

  • Measurements both on a system level (infrared thermography, speed measurement and thermistors) and a material level (thermal conductivity and specific heat);
  • Technology watch that focuses on solutions and innovations mainly in the area of electronics but also of light, conductive or insulating materials;
  • Modelling through digital CFD (Computational Fluid Dynamics) tools. This part is by far the most important one of this activity.  

 

The digital tools make virtual prototyping of complex systems possible; they allow connected thermal phenomena to occur such as conductivity, convection and radiation. Multiscale modelling is possible with powerful tools for which components of limited size such as, for example, a printed circuit board in an overall system such as a cabinet or even a room are taken into account. Quite some industrial players have already successfully engaged the services of the Product Development Hub such as Jabil, Tyco, CE+T, Arcelor, Schreder, Valeo, etc. 

Development of miniaturised equipment

Two projects were completed in 2017. The objective of the WBHealth Biobactil project was creating a lab-on-chip to track Neisseria meningitidis (meningococcal) quickly by using immunological methods such as labelling. The Monalisa project focused on the development of a technology for human medicine in the area of curative treatments and the fight against the resistance of bacteria against antibiotics. The goal was to develop and validate a technology for the dosing of an antibiotic (colistine) in biological samples such as blood through a simple ex-vivo measurement that meets specific criteria. 


Sirris developed and realised various functional prototypes in both programmes: one ensures that it is possible to integrate a two-step filtering of biological material in a volume of less than 1 cm3 in preparation for the analysis in a minichip and the other one concerns an original microliquid chip of which the channels have been functionalised selectively through microprinting. 


Both projects have ensured that Sirris can consolidate its procedures for microprocessing and microreplication of microliquid devices. At the same time, the Centre could increase its expertise with regard to new methods for conditioning and functionalising chips (sealing, microprinting and implementation of adjusted interfaces).  


This type of domain-crossing projects where doctors, biologists and engineers from the academic, industrial and hospital world meet each other always lead to interesting experiences and innovations.

Sirris Product Development Hub