Organised at Knokke Out, this “Present Yourself” meeting was opened by Guy Larnac, Technical Domain Coordinator for Materials, structures and industrialisation at ArianeGroup, the company specialised in the development and integration of Ariane rockets.
Like any other company operating in a highly competitive market, ArianeGroup has to anticipate the evolution of technologies and needs and imagine today what the space launchers of tomorrow will be like. This, at a time when we are talking more and more about returning to the Moon, colonising Mars or exploring even further into space..
“This includes an incremental approach to technological innovation, which allows us to both reduce costs and increase performance,” explained Mr. Larnac, who obviously refers to the possibilities of reusing launcher components, as the American company SpaceX is already doing. He recalled that “the space sector, like artificial intelligence or renewable energies, is becoming one of the largest markets and the one that will undergo the most transformations in the next 30 years.”
In order to reduce costs by at least half and make developments twice as fast, ArianeGroup has several levers at its disposal, working on propulsion systems, the structure of the various rocket stages, design, structural control or equipment integration.
The extensive use of technologies such as additive manufacturing or surface treatments brings spectacular results. For example, concerning the Prometheus propeller, which is scheduled to be used in a few years’ time on Ariane rockets, the use of more than 50% of 3D printing to produce its components reduces its weight by 40% and its manufacturing cost by 60%, compared to the Vulcain2 propeller used in Ariane5 rockets.
“We also work extensively with composite materials coupled with biomimicry approaches for surface treatments, in terms of strength, impermeability, adhesion and even colour.”
Moreover, ArianeGroup recently announced the signing of a collaboration agreement with the University of Luxembourg to promote research into propulsion systems.
The Materials & Manufacturing members introduce themselves….
The University of Luxembourg was one of the companies/institutions that, during this edition of “Present Yourself”, had the opportunity to discuss a part of its activity. In this case, Prof. Dr. Dr. -Ing. Bernhard Peters, who heads the LuXDEM research team at the Faculty of Science, Technology and Communication (FSTC), presented the XDEM advanced simulation platform for accelerated product and design analysis.
Professor Bernhard Peters’ teams are specialised in Computational material science, Abrasion and surface wear; Additive manufacturing and Thermal material processing. “Our research suggests a significant reduction in production times through a reduction in the complexity of mathematical modelling and through the very good capacity of our supercomputers.”
Three other members of the Luxembourg Materials & Manufaturing Cluster also introduced themselves. The first was Agilis Engineering, which is specialised in products and solutions made out of graphite and composite materials in order to reduce the cost of an industrial process by rethinking the entire life cycle of these products. One of its founders, Isabelle Saint Antoine, highlighted the need to “think differently”: “We are a small team of 7 people competing with much larger industrial groups. This innovative approach is the key to our success and ensures that we are still here, 10 years after our creation.”
At the beginning of the year, the company even moved to its own premises in the Western Region Business Park in Grass.
Andrea Mirandola, Manager Rubber Testing Equipment of the engineering company Hitec, then focused on one of the company’s activities (also known for its expertise in satellite communication systems): products and services around rubber material. The company has designed and implemented test equipment for product development and quality control: hardness measurement of carbon black granules; structure evaluation of carbon blacks, silicas and other components of rubber production; determination of physical characteristics of carbon blacks, and potentially other materials (granules or powders).
Finally, Mark Notschaele, the founder of the management, organisation and management consulting firm Traxxion, highlighted the experience of its structure, which only uses senior profiles, confirmed in their field of expertise, covering a wide spectrum of sectors: automotive, electronic components, logistics, plastics, etc.
Traxxion is involved in all phases of an analysis, from the audit of the situation to the implementation of the defined development strategy, including in terms of governance. “We advocate ‘no-nonsense’, with a focused and pragmatic approach that allows for effective strategy formulation and implementation,” he explained.
… and those of EcoInnovation too!
Four members of the Luxembourg EcoInnovation Cluster, co-organiser of this “Present Yourself” event, also presented their fields of activity and know-how. Frank Diederich, founder of Aeronovis, presented his vertical urban wind turbines. “We started in 2016 and are working on a concept of wind turbines that are operational even in high winds, economically viable and fully recyclable. Our vertical rotors operate on the same principle as the wings of an aircraft, using the pressure difference between the inside and outside of the blade system.”
The company, based in Belval, is currently in the process of manufacturing and certifying its first model. It plans to launch its commercial activities in Luxembourg and Europe in the near future and is currently working on a fundraising campaign.
Vincent Popoff, CEO of Ama Mundu Technologies, then discussed the sorting and recovery of various livestock effluents (liquid and non-liquid manure) or methanisation digestate, while extracting pure water. “The action of filtering is not, in itself, new. However, the processes remain expensive and require a lot of energy. Our membrane technology is based solely on clean and recyclable materials, with no chemical or biological water treatment.”
In recent years, the company has been awarded several innovation and environmental prizes (notably the Fedil Prize and the Luxembourg Sustainability Forum Prize), but has also been able to benefit from co-financing from the Ministry of the Economy for its first R&D project, with the support of Luxinnovation.
Marcin Kulik, CEO of Eiravato, then intervened to present his start-up, which he created in Ireland before deciding to establish it in Luxembourg, to “rethink” the industrial recycling of waste. The company, which was part of the Fit 4 Start #7 program, uses artificial intelligence and big data to develop software that allows companies to map and track the types of waste they produce and, from there, be able to search for potential buyers for that waste, without the need to go through landfill.
Some concrete examples: “A company that had its plastic waste incinerated before, was able to recover it for up to 450 euros per ton. Another has been able to save 50% of storage space, eliminate the cost of transporting this waste and increase the value of its materials by 70%. Wooden pallets, the disposal of which represents a cost of 90 euros per tonne, can be recovered at 120 euros per tonne by being transformed into wood pellets for the agro-industry”.
Finally, François Ghigny, General Manager of NCR Biochemical Luxembourg, explained how biotechnology can reduce the operating costs of wastewater treatment systems with activated sludge, reduce the impact of toxic elements on biomass and, more generally, make wastewater treatment more efficient and more valuable.
“We have cutting-edge technical expertise in this field, thanks to our chemical research laboratories. We are working on treatments dedicated to optimising nitrification/denitrification; on biodegradation of fats in sanitation networks, in order to reduce cleaning costs and flow problems, or on biological treatments to prevent the development of algae in fish farming, lagoons, etc.”
Objective achieved, at the end of this event, for Caroline Muller, the manager of the Materials & Manufacturing cluster. “The feedback from this first cross-sectoral ‘Present Yourself’ event is positive: companies were relatively reserved during the presentations, where only a few questions were asked, but groups were quickly formed during the networking. There is a real appetite to meet and exchange ideas on both technological and everyday issues.”
These events organised by the Luxinnovation clusters are also open to partners from the Greater Region. Thus, Materalia, the competitiveness cluster dedicated to materials and processes in the Grand Est region of France, was present at this event. “The EcoInnovation and Manufacturing sectors have a lot of synergies that need to be highlighted and we must continue these cross-sector meetings in order to encourage exchanges between the different actors. Growth and innovation often come from sharing ideas and information,” says Ms Muller.
The observation is similar for Charles-Albert Florentin, the manager of the EcoInnovation Cluster. “This ‘Present Yourself’ event concept, proposed by the various Luxinnovation clusters, has demonstrated, over the years, its attractiveness and efficiency. This first cross-sectoral ‘Present Yourself’ allowed the industrialists present and innovative actors in the treatment of water, waste and renewable energies to come into direct contact and do business together. A beneficial exchange for all, an event to be repeated regularly with our members.”