lunes, 18 de enero de 2016

IK4-Azterlan. A Metallurgy Research Center to support the industry

It is not easy to gather in a brief blog post the intense activity performed in the last year by an active and dynamic research center such as IK4-Azterlan.

Since the beginning of its activity, the Center has been close to the industry and has specialized in the knowledge of metallurgy as well as in the different metallic material transformation technologies.
Two clear strengths of IK4-Azterlan, together with a high qualified and committed team of people that allow facing the new technological challenges with a greater level of success.
Without any doubt this is one of the main assets from the research centre, distinguished by an own style based on the scientific rigor of its workforce, a hardworking spirit and endeavor, along with a close relationship with the industry and the compromise to provide an appropriate answer to the actual demands and needs from companies.

IK4-Azterlan has evolved over more than 35 years of activity to become a leading technology supplier for the entire metal-mechanical industry, remaining as a key player in the promotion of innovation with the main goal of supporting a competitive industry on international basis, within manufacturing sectors considered traditional and mature (metallurgy and metal-mechanical transformation), but still involved in large technological development needs and requirements.

A brief mention to some of the main milestones that have been a reference in the activity of IK4-Azterlan throughout the year 2015:

Knowledge development and further transfer to the industry
Loyal to our mission as a technology center this year has allowed us to advance in the development of scientific and technological knowledge and its subsequent transfer to the industry through major research projects. A value added contribution in order to achieve a more competitive industry, with the additional commitment to support and to assist new companies (mainly SMEs) in joining the necessary innovation dynamics.

Highlight the research advances in the field of light alloys and their different processing technologies (with several reference projects focused on aluminum alloys), as well as with advanced metallic materials and with greater complexity alloys.

Knowledge development around the intricate solidification processes of iron alloys keep on being a preferential research area, with significant internal efforts devoted to it.

Another strategic area of knowledge that has experienced an important development during 2015 is directly related to the intelligent manufacturing processes in metal processing technologies and to be more precise, in the casting industry, with the launching of a pilot project that gathers the strong commitment and active participation of a group of relevant foundries from Bizkaia to integrate the basic concepts of the so-called "Factory of the Future".

An ambitious long term working plan intended to take a step forward and to line up these companies within the fourth industrial revolution based on intelligent manufacturing systems (Industry 4.0). The coherent and functional integration of information and communication technologies, massive data collection and analysis systems along with predictive control tools, are to be introduced in the traditional strategies of the foundry industry, as significant elements that interact in the metallurgical processes and the products derived from them.

Remark as well the important research efforts and the work done with the local industry within the hot stamping technology. An advanced transformation technology that continues experiencing an spectacular growth (passenger vehicle manufacturers progressively incorporate a higher amount of such components in the Body In White of their new designs), with  great opportunities for innovation, both from the perspective of the steel materials to be transformed, as well as from the equipments and tools involved in the production process itself.

The search for advanced solutions in the management of industrial waste materials belonging to metallurgical processes (mainly steel slags and waste foundry sand) has had also a significant level of activity throughout the year in the environment and sustainable development department.

Re-accreditation of IK4-Azterlan as a Research Center within the Basque Science, Technology and Innovation System and involvement with the new strategies and innovation policies
The strategy implemented by the Economic Development and Competitiveness Department of the Basque Government for the different agents of the Basque Science, Technology and Innovation System, implies a new orientation to its members, focused on improving their scientific excellence and looking for their specialization level and their proximity to the market demands.
This process requires technology centers to act in collaboration and coordination with the rest of agents from the network to improve their efficiency by forming a comprehensive scientific and technological supply, which will drive the future evolution of the industry and society, increasing their specific value.

IK4-Azterlan has been quite active in the intense phase of restructuring the Basque Science, Technology and Innovation System carried out by the Basque Government during the last two years, in close cooperation with the members of IK4-Research Alliance and following the new guidelines set by the Government for the re-accreditation as a Multi-Technology Research Center.
A recognition as a Research, Development and Innovation agent with multi technological performance capabilities and focused on various economic and business sectors, that will allow IK4-Azterlan to continue developing further on its research work and support to the metal mechanical industry, by its specialization in metallurgy and in the different metallic material transformation technologies.

Participation in European research projects
The participation in international research networks is another of the assets considered strategic within IK4-Azterlan. International cooperation has always been a key feature of the scientific endeavour. In a rapidly evolving global context, Research and Innovation are increasingly linked internationally, demanding new forms of cooperation

Beyond the strategic collaboration lines established with several technological centers, universities and international reference experts, throughout 2015 major efforts have been devoted to the analysis and preparation of proposals, which have enabled the implementation of relevant projects under different calls of the research and innovation framework programme HORIZON 2020 (Joint Technology Initiatives, Energy Efficiency, Waste … etc).

An opportunity to work on different research projects of greater scale and scope (the participation in the framework programme is based on competition among the best), with the presence of IK4-Azterlan in relevant international consortia (research platforms, companies and users).

Member of IK4 Research Alliance

IK4-Azterlan considers its membership in the IK4 Research Alliance as a strategic element of high added value, sharing among members different experiences, resources, projects, skills, and future challenges. A collaborative network driven to achieve the maximum level of synergies, based on the own respect to the identity of each of the nine centers that belong to it.

Important restructuring efforts and the common hard work done during the past year 2015 within the Alliance have allowed to establish its basis as an Intermediate Offer&Demand Technology and Innovation Agent in the Basque Innovation System, with the main objective to make a qualitative and quantitative leap in performance, in certain areas considered essential and preferential by its members.

High added value technological services

IK4-Azterlan maintains a constant effort to provide an appropriate answer to the continuous needs and challenges of the industry, sharing common main concerns and proposing competitive solutions characterized by their reliability and by the speed in the response.

Some of these needs are directly linked with certain technological services, provided through a wide range of analysis and material tests carried out under the National Accreditation Entity (ENAC) in accordance with the criteria defined in the Standard UNE-EN ISO/IEC 17025 (CGA-ENAC-LEC), ensuring an adequate characterization of metal-mechanical components.

Highlight in this point some of the specific capabilities of the center, that has an extensive experience in the field of failure analysis, as well as in advanced fatigue characterizations and fracture mechanics of metallic materials, particle analysis and cleanliness control level of automotive components, a wide range of Non Destructive Testings (computed tomography, X-ray Industrial fluoroscopy, ultrasound, magnetic particles, ...), degree of porosity in high pressure die cast aluminum components for the automotive sector (VDG specification), studies of corrosion and protection of metallic materials (stress corrosion cracking, salt spray, cyclic corrosion tests…) and multi-stage cryogenic treatments, among others.


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