“Our roadmaps show more and more interfaces"
“For people who are not familiar with our business, steel will most probably be anything but sexy. And yet, we discover new opportunities every day.” We are talking with Filip De Coninck, senior engineering manager for exploration projects with steel wire manufacturer Bekaert. “New opportunities also come with lots of challenges and here Flanders Make comes into the picture”, confirms Filip.
And he continues: “Many people believe that there is nothing new anymore that can be learned about steel. I experience every day that this is not true. Innovation is definitely still possible: new applications, better performances, smoother production processes... When combining the microstructure of steel with advanced coatings, we can create solutions that are almost as spectacular as, say, the possibilities of a newer material such as graphene.”
Ever better, ever stronger
“Our products are becoming increasingly complex and, as a result, so is our production process. Products must be even more precise and of an even higher quality, which also increases the need for controls. To be able to improve the production process, you have to improve its measurability. Powerful, fast and cheap sensors play a very important part in this. For one particular application, we needed to improve such high-quality sensor and we turned to Flanders Make for support.”
“Meanwhile, the research project is approaching the final stage and the first prototypes have already been made. Then it’s back to us to develop them into an industrially deployable version and to test them on an increasingly large scale. At the end of the ride, we aim for a powerful sensor that can be used worldwide in our production machines."
“In fact, Bekaert is working closely together with Flanders Make for quite some time now. We’ve built up a good relationship. The best proof: we are always eager to join new projects. Not only in connection with sensors but also for instance for projects exploring control skills.”
“Our roadmaps show more and more interfaces. We discuss ideas, questions and challenges with our colleagues of Flanders Make. They, in turn, will try to set up relevant synergies with other industrial players and academic partners. By the time that an idea has been developed into a full-fledged research project, it is also on our roadmap.”
Finger on the pulse
“This whole process is getting an increasingly synchronous course. The mutual dialogue gets better. Every 6 months, an intensive consultation with Flanders Make is scheduled, not only to discuss ongoing projects but also to keep our finger on the pulse. Could there be other interesting research projects that we can link to our challenges?"
Filip concludes: “The cooperation with other companies in such a project is very enriching. Irrespective of content and industry, you always recognise certain issues. You discover how other companies handle challenges. Sometimes, they are working on issues that are not of immediate relevance to Bekaert but about which you do acquire knowledge that may come in handy at a later time. This automatically generates cross-fertilisation: you learn from them, they learn from you.”
“The best proof of our good cooperation with Flanders Make? The fact that we are always eager to join new projects.”