Research projects, results & infrastructure

Discover our work

Enabled by our expertise, we are a working in an industry 4.0 setting enabled by digitalisation and digital twin technology on

  • Smart Motion Products - dirive train and actuator systems for industrial & production machines, energy systems and vehicles 
  • Smart Production Systems - flexible assembly and discrete part of batch processes

 

On this page we give an overview of our

  1. Proprietary tools and IP
  2. Test infrastructure available for services
  3. Reference projects

 

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Proprietary tools and IP

Handling system uncertainty/variability

System uncertainty

In all systems the output is partly defined by variability:  unmeasurable inputs or system variability. This brings two challenges:

  • During the design of motion products, it is key to understand and quantify the impact of variability on key system outputs [=forward calculation]
  • During test/validation of motion products one whishes to be able to link variability in measured outputs to the modelled behaviour either the variability [=inverse estimation]

While state-of-the-art techniques use Monte Carlo simulations, we adopted the Polynomial Chaos Expansion (PCE) technique. This ensures not only a fast forward calcultion, combined with the max log likelihood methods it also allows to perform the inverse calculation effectively.  Our tools have been applied to real industrial applications. Within the Flanders Make project EVIT they have been used to test in a more efficient manner new controllers. 

More information on the Flanders Make project EVIT

To Kit or not To Kit (Assembly Line Feeding)

KitOrNot.pngWe developed a decision model to choose between kitting and line stocking at the level of single parts, while taking into account the variable operator walking distances. Different ways of feeding assembly lines, such as kitting and line stocking not only have an impact on in-plant logistics flows but also determine the amount of stock that is available at the line. This, in turn, has an impact on operator walking distances during assembly. We used data from a truck manufacturing company along with artificial data sets. We are currently looking to set up joint research projects to apply the models in the decision process of company cases. 

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Free Piston Variable Volume Ratio Device 

PEXP.pngOur patentend free piston expander/compressor technology is available for transfer/licenses. (WO/2016/198554) Key features are:

  • variable volume ratio control to maximise system level efficiency at partial load
  • only one moving part yields a hermetically sealed robust device incorporating the electric motor/generator
  • on the fly reversible operation expander to compressor and vice versa

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More in this movie 

Axial Flux Machine Technology 

axialFM.pngAxial-flux permanent magnet machines inherently combine a good energy-efficiency with a high torque density. Axial-flux permanent magnet machines have a large diameter to axial length ratio and allow the construction of light-weight direct-drive machines for e-mobility and renewable energy conversion. Multiphysical analysis, including electromagnetic, thermal and mechanical aspects, has been carried out at EELAB. This extensive research has resulted in an integrated design which combines an excellent energy-efficiency and torque density with an optimal usage of materials.  Magnax now commercialises our software and the joint technology built up.

More information

More on Magnax 

Movie by Magnax

Amocad - system design tool

amocadMotion systems are typically described using CAD tools. Recent developments allow to use these tools in the design phase of the motion systems, i.e. for motion simulations. We developed a design methodology for virtual engineering and optimisation of electromechanical drive lines which is easy and useful for complex motion challenges. To this end we extract key parameters such as mass, inertia, .... to optimise the motion behaviour. We applied this method already to an mechatronic application in the pharma sector as well as to a to optimise the trajectory of a production machine: a high speed pick and place (200ms),  with complex kinematic system (combined crankshaft and 4 bar system), with variable system load (load torque and system inertia).

More information (Dutch)

 

Toolchain and prototyping for FPGA implementation

morformField Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGAs) are more and more being integrated in industrial drives. They realise a hardware implementation of complex algorithms that require computationally time consuming resources for dynamic applications. Examples are Kalman filtering, approximate optimal control with online optimization, machine learning based control, … Our toolchain transforms these algorithms from high level descriptions into a physical implementation. The existing DSPACE-FPGA-platform allows you to create a proof-of-concept and to evaluate the value of such an FPGA implementation for your application.  

 

 

 

Proprietary tools for industrial fluid systems incl. access to supercomputer 

cfdfsiWe provide services w.r.t. the use of computational fluid dynamics (CFD) and fluid structure interaction (FSI). Our calculations help you to understand fluid dynamics of liquids (e.g. hydraulic oil, lubrication fluids, water) and gasses (e.g. air) in industrial applications (e.g. expanders/compressors, pumps, fans, valves, cooling, hydraulic circuits, lubricated structures … ). The CFD simulations might include thermal aspects; be linked to lower order 1D models (e.g. for basic structures setting boundary conditions); and ‘flexible’/’movable’ structures. We are experienced users of the well-known tools and developed specific add-ons to increase performance; and have access to the High Performance Computing power (HPC). 

Test infrastructure available for services

Platform to evaluate the application feasibility of an EVT

EVT.jpegCan you imagine the range of applications for a transmission without gliding or sliding contact surfaces, a transmission which is moreover continuously variable in an electrical manner? We have been studying such an Electrical Variable Transmission (EVT) a.o. using a unique set-up including an EVT from EVT BV. Our activities resulted in a profound understanding of the device, the power flows, the losses, ... . Our toolset includes (i) static and dynamic models; (ii) methods to optimise the operating points; (iii): scaling laws; and (iv) a design methodology. The test infrastructure has HIL capabilities allowing you to evaluate the feasibility of the EVT for your application. 

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Test Infrastructure up to 150kW drive train

150kWtestbench.gifThis test infrastructure allows to test electrical machines up to 150kW, from stand-still to 6000 rpm with torques up to 45kNm. A regulated and programmable power source creates reproducable circumstances. Soon temperature control incl. a calorimeter (150x80x100cm³) will be added. Traditional load profile test and accurate efficiency maps can be generated. The test infrastructure has been used by a.o. Magnax (BE) to test their 100kW direct drive axial flux generator for wind energy. 

More information (Dutch)

 

 

Test infrastructure for electromechanical components

belttestWe provide services and access to our test infrastructure for electromechanical components like drives and transmissions. If needed a test setup is designed to your needs (compare Mazaro). The high power ITHACA test bench is temperature controlled (calorimeter) and goes up to 150kW and very low speed (used by Magnax). For lower powers, we can test even down to 1Nm (e.g. stepper motors). We test on efficiency, machine level control, condition monitoring/control and dynamics of drives (DOL or with freq. regulator), belt transmissions and gearboxes (straight and in-line); and (in-situ) magnetic material characterisation. Hardware-in-the-loop (HIL) allows to emulate your application (already available is wind, wave, ICE). 

 

 

Test infrastructure for thermal systems 

orctestbenchWe provide services and access to our infrastructure for thermal systems and their components. We have a fully instrumented ORC system drivetrain including a generator, expander and pump; as well as a heat sink and variable heat source; also a heat pump system is available. To evaluate the heat transfer of heat exchangers, cooling plates and heat pipes, we have dedicated setups, a.o. (i) wind tunnel for heat transfer and pressure drop measurements; (ii) water tunnel for flow visualization experiments; and a setup for the determination and visualisation of flow regime and void fraction in tubes. Finally, we are able to perform thermal conductivity measurements and we have a climate chamber.

 

 

Test infrastructure for tribological characterization

soeteWe provide services and test infrastructure to characterise the tribological aspects in motion products such as bearing elements, gears, cam rollers, and mooring chains. In addition to its standard laboratory-scale tribological test equipment, Soete Laboratory, is well-known for its large-scale mechanical testing. We designed and constructed dedicated experimental tribological set-ups for dry and lubricated contact conditions, with contact loads from kilo-Newton to Mega-Newton force range (max 6500 kN). The infrastructure allows to investigate the friction and wear behaviour of different bearing types. In gears, bearings and cams, a combination of rolling and sliding is a common phenomenon and a dedicated twin-disc is used to this end. Recent monitoring solutions allow to include vision in the loop.

Infrastructure for Flexible assembly

flexibleassemblyOur existing infrastructure on flexible assembly in Kortrijk already includes test infrastructure to demonstrate and validate flexible assembly concepts incl. pick-to-light, work cells with operator support (e.g. HIM) and collaborative workspaces. Soon, our infrastructure will be extended with a 100m² controlled, realistic environment for the validation and demonstration of smart and flexible assembly of large products with high variability. We will be able to look at e.g. operator mobility in the framework of real, complex tasks and evaluate concepts incl. those using mobile & connected resources. The impact of operator support tools including an interactive work floor can be analysed using a multi-criteria performance analysis.

 

 

XiaK - Industrial automation

ISyE.jpgXiaK groups the knowledge and expertis within the field of industrial automation. In collaboration with industry and other research groups our expertise is continuously expanded. The focus is on applied research, with results that can be directly used in the industry. As such,, XiaK provides the necessary support to turn technological evolutions into real life within companies.

More information (Dutch)

 

 

Industrial application centre for intelligent sensors

sensorsThe industrial application centre for intelligent sensors offers infrastructure and services to determine the feasibility of sensors (based on RFID, RTLS, 2D/3D vision) for tracking & tracing and quality control applications in industrial environments. Al components are built around a circular conveyor system which allows experiments to determine the accuracy of sensor systems influenced by parameters such as product speed, product geometry, product frequency, presence of metal , light variation, humidity, temperature, etc. Additional equipment such as robots and load cells are available to set up realistic use cases. The setup is flexible enough to add company-specific components such as construction elements or product manipulators. 

Test centre for industrial security 

industry4securityThe test centre for industrial security is equipped with a number of typical configurations of automation networks where demonstrations and tests can be performed in a safe and controlled environment. Because these security vulnerability experiments cannot be done in a real manufacturing environment, a number of (mobile) demonstration units (in flight cases) were created. In this simulated environment, specific attacks can be executed on a broad range of automation components, network configurations and industrial control systems. Vulnerabilities of old and new technologies can be exposed. Component suppliers find an ideal environment to test out new components, features and patches.

 

 

Blue collar training based on AR/VR

DAE.pngUsing the Virtual Reality training application made by howest DAE-Research, Flemish Minister Crevits learned how to manually assemble a machine part step by step. Embedding the graduation work of student Giuliano De Luca made it possible to blend the virtual and real world by using the greenkey studio inside the Level, thus creating a mixed reality experience. The tools are being developed a.o. within the VLAIO-TETRA project 'Sector Innovating Virtual & Augmented Reality'. In this project Flemish organisations are guided into defining the added value of Virtual & Augmented Reality technology in their current workflow. One part of the project focusses on developing proof-of-concept applications for Flemish industrial settings (e.g. remote support, virtual reality training,...) with the aid of Howest, application and game developers.

More information

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Reference projects  

Innovative Cooling Electrical Machines

hipercool.JPGIn the Flanders Make project HIPERCOOL we investigate novel cooling of Switched Reluctance Machines. Cooling techniques with high cooling capacity and low thermal resistance allow to increase the power density of electromechanical drivetrain components. Furthermore, this enables further integration of compact drivetrains with lower cabling, assembly and material cost.

More information on the project 

 

Sensor Fusion & Dynamic Dashboards

DynamicDashboard.jpgBy designing multi-modal and multi-sensor architectures we provide collaboration among sensors (classical, video-based, time-series, mobile sensing and virtual/data mining sensors) in order to feed back the available information and intelligence of all sensors to optimize their functionality and enhance the detection and interpretation of advanced events. A wide range of applications can benefit from these multi-modal and multi-sensor architectures that fuse amongst other visual, audio, thermal, vibration and/or data mining information. Examples are industrial process control or condition monitoring. 

The heterogeneity and vast amount of sensors, as well as the difficulty of creating interesting sensor data combinations, also hinder the deployment of fixed structure dashboards as they are unable to cope with the accordingly vast amount of required mappings. Therefore, we additionally develop dynamic dashboards that precisely visualize the interesting data for the end-user produced by sensors in multi-sensor environments by dynamically generating meaningful service compositions, allowing the detection of complex events that used to remain undetected.

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Convex Mapping 4 Optimal Power Split

codesign.pngA model-based strategy to design the drivetrain of all electric vehicles using a nested optimization approach wherein parameter exploration is attained using an evolutionary algorithm and the optimal power flows are determined by abstracting the high-fidelity behavioral models into appropriate convex loss mappings. This allows for an accelerated design procedure based on convex optimization without compromising accuracy. As an example we sized an electric drivetrain for maximal range extension. A tractable convex formulation is obtained and optimization time is reduced by 99.3% compared to the traditional approach. Optimal control of the incorporated power split increases the operational range by 0.7% compared to the isolated operation of a singlemotor. The proposed methodology thus paves the way for extensive designs of drivetrains and complex mechatronic systems in a general context

EUFORIA - Optimisation with Uncertainty

euforia_logo.pngEUFORIA is funded by IWT within their strategic basic research (SBO) programme. The SBO programme supports high-quality level basic research with a pronounced focus on high-risk, inventive and original research and with a high and strategic valorization potential of the results in Flanders. The objective of EUFORIA is to develop an efficient methodology for the robust optimization of industrial processes under uncertainty.

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COMPOHEX - Composite heat exchangers

compohex.pngThe Flemish funding agency VLAIO (formerly IWT) is funding the strategic basic research project (SBO) COMPOHEX. Over the four year project period it will explore the potential of improving both low pressure (LP), low temperature (LT) heat exchangers as well as higher pressure (HP) and higher temperature (HT) heat exchangers made from polymer/composite materials. Both shell & tube, plate, tube-fin heat exchangers as well as new designs will be researched. Through innovative research this project intends to open up a number of applications for composite heat exchanger that cannot be tackled today a.o. in the industry.

Augmented workers in a manufacturing cell 

operatorinfo.pngThe objective of this project is to develop in-depth understanding w.r.t. methodologies and tools that allow an effective transition from human to human-robot collaborative (HRC) assembly. Our tasks relate to the task distribution and workplace configuratoin. To this end an ontology based on the ISA95 standard has been developed. This ontology allows to collect and provide context aware information to the worker in a manufacturing cell. E.g. information captured from an experienced worker will be stored automatically in this ontology as task instructions. These task instructions will then be provided to the worker, the level of detail will depend on the context e.g. the skill level, the experience, the lot size, .... 

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Stepper motor soft sensing control and flexible gripper control

Flexible gripper controlStepper motorSoft sensing This work is done for a company in Flanders, it relates to an automated unit to pick up and transport medicine packages with different sizes.  The automated unit picks up your order form the medicine stock and brings it to the pharmacist. For positioning of the grippers, four stepping motors are used. These motors are preferred because they are ideally suited for low-power positioning applications. To increase the reliability of the machine, the stepping motors are used in combination with mechanical position sensors. This entails an increased purchase and implementation cost. Therefore, intelligent sensorless stepping motor drives have been implemented and tested. Feedback of the load angle obtained via voltage and current measuremets is used to detect when the gripper touches the package. After a pre-determined threshold is exceeded, the motor stops rotating but the holding torque is maintained. In this way, the gripper can hold the different packages even if their size is not known in advance, without unnecessary squeezing them.

More information (Dutch)

Under construction

Smart Fluids

Vision based wear condition monitoring

Zero-defect Manufacturing - Flexible Assembly

Optimal Maintenance & Product Planning

Innovative Metal Foam based Cooling