Q1. “Roll to roll” technology is one of the main pillars of the work done at PRODINTEC; do you think it is the future?
In our case it is the present, because since December 2012 in our Gijon facilities, we have had a manufacturing pilot line for printed electronics for the production of high added value products on low cost flexible materials. Therefore, with this line it is possible to obtain with a high degree of functionality, products that are able to have traceability or a connection with their environment (internet of things).
Q2. What are their applications?
Their applications are diverse and can be used in the field of consumer products, for example, sensor integration for the direct in-situ monitoring of certain parameters by the consumer, or likewise, in the industrial sphere via the real-time control of an industrial plant by connecting the key productive elements with decision-making. An example is intelligent production planning. This last application is included in the new concept of Industry 4.0.
Q3. Which project particularly stands out?
Right now we are working on various projects on regional, national, and international scales, focusing on optimising the manufacturing process and obtaining intelligent products in sectors such as lighting and signing products, photovoltaics, electrochemical sensors, microfluidic systems, flexible optical systems, smart labelling, wearables, etc.
Q4. Another of PRODINTEC’s outstanding lines is 3D printing. What exactly is this?
3D printing, or additive manufacturing consists in the manufacture of parts from a 3D model, without the need for moulds or tooling of any kind, by means of depositing layers of powdered material and its subsequent consolidation, which may be performed by laser sintering, ultraviolet light curing, or the addition of a binder, depending on the technology employed.
Additive manufacturing does not aim to substitute other technologies, such as milling or injection technologies, but complement them, especially in aspects like manufacturing short series, or one-off pieces, achieving complex geometric forms and mass manufacturing.
Q5. So additive manufacturing has multiple applications…
That’s absolutely right. Additive manufacturing is particularly popular in the fields of aerospace and automation (manufacturing of parts with lightweight structures or internal channels subject to frequent design changes), moulds and dies (manufacture of parts with internal cooling channels, inserts or hybrid moulds), medicine (manufacture of medical implants, customised orthopaedic products and surgical tools, and surgical planning and scheduling), and consumer products, including electronic products (furniture, lighting, circuits, etc.).
Q6. Apart from the previously researched projects and lines, are there any outstanding initiatives?
PRODINTEC has the largest depot of additive manufacturing equipment in Spain in terms of numbers, capacity and range of materials, allowing us to offer 600 manufacturing services each year to entities in a vast array of sectors.
In parallel to this, we also embark upon R&D&I projects that aim to improve the quality and efficiency of part production by using this technology; we develop new materials and efficiently integrate this process with other conventional technologies. We also develop methodologies to obtain the certification or regulation of processes and materials in the sectors that require it. One of our latest innovative projects is “CON3D”, which has allowed us to develop an automated process for manufacturing structures using additive manufacturing (3D printing) technology with advanced innovative concrete-based materials for the construction sector.
In addition, since the inauguration of the centre in 2004, we have gone to great lengths to share the advantages and applications of this technology with companies in the industrial sector, by participating as speakers in congresses, technical conferences, attending exhibitions, making appearances on specialised media, etc.
Q7. What is PRODINTEC’s role on an international level?
One of the advantages of additive manufacturing is that it is suited to distributed and collaborative work, without the need for face-to-face meetings, which is why the globalisation of services based on this technology is, a priori, much simpler than it is for more conventional manufacturing technologies.
PRODINTEC also has the necessary knowledge and experience in the field of additive manufacturing technology to offer guidance that is suited to the needs of its clients, including its deployment in its production lines.
PRODINTEC is also a member of the steering committee of the European technological platform for additive manufacturing, the “AM Platform”, which strengths the bond between Europe and Asturias, participating in the European community and the regional industrial fabric with the very latest trends and developments.
Furthermore, we coordinate the H2020 project “FoFAM- Industrial and Regional valorisation of FoF Additive manufacturing Projects“, which aims to develop a roadmap for the growth and maximum exploitation of this technology across Europe, bringing together expert knowledge and skills from the different regions. In this last part it is aligning with the European alliance Pioneering Initiatives, of which Asturias is an active member.