At the beginning of 2015 TNO and the province of Limburg launched the Brightlands Materials Center, a shared research center for polymeric materials. At the Brightland Campus in Geleen top scientists and industry specialists collaborate on sustainable innovations. One of the program lines is Additive Manufacturing, or 3D-printing. On 5 June DSM also joined the program as a partner.
A range of different innovative projects are currently running at Brightlands Materials Center. It is good news that DSM has joined the initiative. This international chemical company will be collaborating in fundamental research that should ultimately lead to new applications for polymer materials.
“Additive manufacturing is a very promising new technology,” says Marnix van Gurp, managing director of the Brightlands Materials Center. “In one production run you can build a hollow structure, an directly assembled system in which parts rotate or slide, or a part that fits your body perfectly. There are already a lot of great applications, but the existing materials are not always optimised for this new technology. This has partly to do with the production process. It is difficult to get the successively printed layers or powder particles to adhere to each other firmly, which has an adverse effect on the strength. To be able to make optimum use of additive manufacturing, we have to improve the materials themselves. Twelve young academics from Eindhoven and Maastricht are therefore undertaking fundamental research for industrial and biomedical applications, such as scaffolds on which tissue is able to grow.”
A second program line is Opto-Electronics. Peter Wolfs, TNO Program director and with Gurp responsible for Brightlands Materials Center: “For the built environment we are looking at how you can manage energy that takes the form of light or heat rays. The sunlight that comes into an office also brings in the heat that you would rather keep outside on warm days. Using infrared reflection for example, in such a way that it can be adjusted to the prevailing situation, means that it can stay cool inside without the need for expensive air conditioning. On the other hand, if you can keep the heat inside when it is cold outside, you can keep your heating bills down. Another application for opto-electronic materials is the development of a sensor technology that allows power grid managers to measure the composition of gas both inexpensively and in real time. The well-known natural gas from Slochteren has a very constant composition, but through the import of gas from other countries, the supplier is no longer able to gauge from the volumes how much energy he has delivered to the customer. The gas sensor offers a solution to this problem.”
There are more program lines. Van Gurp: “In Lightweight Automotive a sizeable project recently sterted involving nine SMEs and co-funded by the EU. It concerns thermoplastic composites: superlight with endless fiber-reinforced plastics. This is an example of how we continue to develop through innovative products and technologies.”
“This is an example of how we continue to develop through innovative products and technologies”
Become a partner
At the beginning of this year Brightlands Materials Center opened an office and lab facility in Geleen. Van Gurp: “Around October we will be extending the facilities to further support the programs. I warmly invite companies that want to stay right in touch with what’s happening and become a partner to contact us. Participation in our programs, such as those concerning opto-electronic applications in the built environment, means access to all the results in the program. Together we can do much more than we can on our own.”