Our research serves one overall purpose: supporting product and production innovation within the Flemish manufacturing industry. That's why we perform industry-driven, pre-competitive technological research into the vehicles, machines and factories of tomorrow. As such, we stimulate the digital transformation of our companies – big and small.
Initially, this research leads to actual applications for companies (innovation leaders) participating in the research project. Next, we also share results with the rest of the industry so that innovation followers can make the transition to Industry 4.0 as well.
This is how our research strengthens the competitiveness of the entire industry.
Four competence domains for successful digital transformation
Flanders Make’s expertise focuses on four domains. In each single one of them, modelling and virtualisation play an important part. These four domains have been translated into competence clusters in which companies, other research institutions and knowledge centres work together. To each of these competence clusters, a number of core labs have been assigned that perform concrete research projects.
DECISION & CONTROL
Mass production is giving way to customised production.
Production environments must be able to produce in a highly modular fashion,at the lowest possible operational cost and without any machine downtime.
Customers expect zero-defect products and total flexibility. Moreover, systems are becoming increasingly autonomous. Examples include fruit-picking robots,autonomous vehicles in logistics, unmanned patrol boats, and many others.
Sensors play a major role in these areas. However, it doesn’t end with measuring. Data must be interpreted and applied in robust, self-learning measuring and knowledge instruments to improve mechatronic systems. Artificial intelligence plays a major role in these areas. This is the only way in which we will be able to develop intelligent products and highly effective production environments – smart products and smart factories that are characteristic of Industry 4.0 – necessary to remain competitive in Flanders.
DESIGN & OPTIMISATION
Demand for customised production is rising dramatically, and introducing a single product to market is no longer enough. Using model-based design methods and supporting software, we help developers improve the increasingly-complex design process. An entire product family is expected from the outset. This is only possible if the design process is aligned accordingly, right from the very first phase. After all, the further you are into the design process, the more expensive and time-consuming it is to implement any changes.
Specific tools give designers near-instant insight into the different possible concepts and optimal design choices. We also offer support for production environments, in which we take the impact of production on the design into account.
We support businesses in their digital transformation to become ‘factories for the future’. To satisfy increasing demand for quality, personalised products at the cost price of mass production, and taking into account high wage costs as well as the ageing population in Western Europe, we’re focused on getting smart machines and people to work together. To achieve this, we perform research into flexible assembly units that can cope with multiple product variations.
People continue to play a key role in the modern production environment, but are supported by robots for specific tasks. This interaction is a must for any factory that wants to survive tomorrow and ensure the work continues to be manageable.
Many companies in Flanders work around products with a motion component such as vehicles and machines. We apply this competence to help them develop new ‘future-proof’ products which are smart, automatically adapt to the environment to provide optimal performance, and use digital, Industry 4.0 technology.
The focus is on the architecture and the validation of systems, as well as the combination of autonomy and automation (autonomation) for professional applications. For businesses, this leads to improved, better-performing products that last longer and deliver better quality.
Types of research
- Strategic Basic Research (SBO) is challenging and innovative research with a clear perspective towards product development or production process innovation. Through the user group, you can follow up the project for four years and submit cases to validate the results. As such, you are the co-creator of a hotbed for the technology of tomorrow.
- Industrial Applied Research (ICON or Interdisciplinary Collaborative Research) in which we develop new knowledge together with a consortium of at least 3 companies, which can be applied in practice and thus contribute to economic added value in Flanders. These are typically two-year projects working on medium-term applications. Companies actively participate in the research with the aim of using the results in their own products or processes.
- Collective Research & Development and Collective Knowledge Dissemination/Transfer (COOCK) accelerates the introduction of technology and knowledge within your company. We do this, for instance, by conducting cases that show the added value of a technology for your company. In this way, we close the gap between research results and industrial applications.
- International Research allows us to co-shape a strong, prosperous and competitive European innovation landscape. We are a partner in several interregional and European research projects. In addition, we are part of a network of Digital Innovation Hubs (DIH) all over Europe. These innovation hubs are funded by regional or European initiatives and aim to accelerate the digital transformation of the industry in general, and of SMEs in particular. Through Flanders Make, you can thus get access to a European network.