Start-up of the day: Energy Floors is making smart parking spaces in Rotterdam

Over the coming year, Rotterdam’s Energy Floors wants to sell smart surfaces for public outdoor spaces that generate data, measuring how many cars, pedestrians and cyclists are passing by. These can be used to regulate traffic flows and lighting, for instance. These Smart Energy Floors also generate energy via the solar cells that are integrated in them. At the moment, the Rotterdam municipality is on the lookout for a suitable location for the application of this kind of energy surface in a city parking lot, says Michel Smit, CEO of Energy Floors. A trial of this is planned for 2020 in cooperation with the Engie energy company.

What motivated you to set up Energy Floors and what problem has this resolved?

“Our first idea was to create a Sustainable Dance Floor on which people can dance to generate energy, something that you can actually see because the tiles light up. (By converting the vertical movement of the dancer on the floor into rotational movement through a mechanism underneath the flexible floor tiles so as to generate energy, ed.) That idea originally came from two companies: Enviu and Döll. In 2017, they brought me in as a hands-on expert from the club scene. I had been running a large nightclub in Rotterdam for four years, called Off-Corso. They wanted to bring sustainability to the attention of young people and thought that the Sustainable Dance Floor could help with that.

Unlike today, it was difficult to get young people interested in sustainable energy at that time. It had a bit of a stuffy image. We initially tried out that first version of that dance floor at the Rotterdam pop stage Watt (which went bankrupt in 2010, ed.) – that made it the first sustainable club in the world. We started building our business around that first Sustainable Dance Floor.”

What has been the biggest obstacle you have had to overcome?

“That we had customers for the Sustainable Dance Floor before we had the actual product. At first, we only had a drawing of the floor, an artist’s impression. We worked out the concept and technology with TU Delft and TU/e in Eindhoven. And together with Daan Roosegaarde, we were able to further develop the interaction between the public and the technology. This is where our Sustainable Dance Floor is unique: the interaction between people and sustainably-generated energy. When they dance harder, they generate more energy.

This is what we want to offer people when it comes to our business proposition. That they themselves have an influence on improving the sustainability of energy. We want commitment. This is what we are specifically focusing on. The second obstacle was how we could go about expanding the scale for things that this product can be used for. So that it has a real impact. That’s why we wanted a surface that was suitable for large permanent fixtures in outdoor areas. We had to drop our initial unique selling point – as in ‘human energy’ – for this type of surface. Instead, we came up with our Smart Energy Floor. We use solar energy rather than kinetic energy. Otherwise, the project would be impossible to complete. The system has to be cost-effective, robust and resistant to wear and tear.”

What has been the biggest breakthrough so far?

“That we sold 25 of those Smart Energy Floors to schools last year. Three of them in Germany and the rest in The Netherlands. As a company, we have three business propositions: the Dancer for clubs and discotheques, for example, the Gamer for schoolyards and the Walker for large outdoor facilities. The first Walker in the Netherlands is located near Croeselaan in Utrecht on a crossing opposite Rabobank’s head office. Rabo has partly financed this floor. There is also one in the palace garden of the President of Malta. He found us via Google. It is a public garden with a Gamer and a Walker. A Gamer costs 13,000 euros including the installation. While a Walker is available from 25,000 euros.

The fact that we appeal to people all over the world doesn’t surprise us at all. Our first signed contract was with the producer of Absolute Vodka. He wanted to make a road show around New York with our dance floor in 2009. So, that’s what we did. We get two to three requests a day. Our challenge is to be able to deal with these properly. Because we want to keep on innovating too. As an example, you could also use the Smart Energy Floor on motorways if you developed the software for that.”

 What can we expect from Energy Floors over the coming year?

“We want to start selling more Walkers. This is a new market for us that has a lot of potential. Smart city projects that you can use it in are much larger projects than what we have done so far. You could equip bike paths with our technology so that you can turn them into walkways. We are going to do a smart parking trial next year together with Engie and the municipality of Rotterdam. We will be installing  a Walker for that reason. The energy generated by the solar cells in the surface goes to the electricity grid and can subsequently be used to charge cars. Currently, we’re looking around for a suitable location.

We are also planning to enter the German market. This fits in well with our product and company. There is plenty of capital there and focus on sustainability. And the German way of doing business isn’t that different from the Dutch way of doing business.”

What is your ultimate goal?

“Ultimately, we want our Smart Energy Floors to be used in all the world’ s major cities and have their data connected to each other. You can learn a lot from each other’s experiences. You could monitor and influence the behaviour of the users of our surfaces on city roads. For example, in order to regulate busy situations at certain locations. You can apply the technology in a smart way. If there are very few people driving or walking on the road, you could turn the lights off in the evening.”

EU Commissioner Vestager to present new AI law at the start of 2020

Over the next three months, European Commissioner Margrethe Vestager will draft a new European law for AI. As of December, she will be responsible for the digitization of the European market. She plans to present her new AI law in March. After that, the European Parliament and the governments and parliaments of the Member States will have to approve her new AI law.

The new AI law is to lay out the rules regarding the collection and sharing of data by, among others, the large American tech companies such as Facebook, Amazon and Google whose internet platforms are being used on a massive scale by European citizens. At the moment there is only a guideline for e-privacy and one set of regulations for data protection (GDPR). The new law must include rules that make the collectors and distributors of data liable for any abuse use of this data.

Nightmare for the US

The greatest nightmare for the high profile big tech companies in the US is her intention to adopt new tax regulations following on from the new AI law. This should apply to internet platforms all over the world which make money from consumers in European countries. In recent years, Vestager has already taken Apple to court for tax evasion. She imposed a fine of 13 billion euros on them for this.

As far as she is concerned, the new tax regulations that she has in mind should be applicable worldwide. If she cannot do this because, for example, some countries do not want to cooperate, she said that the European Commission will continue to impose fines on non-European companies on an individual basis if they pay insufficient tax in the EU.

Breaking up Google and Facebook

She may also impose fines if American big tech companies abuse their dominant market position. She has done so in the past few years while she was European Commissioner for Competition. If these fines do not lead to an improvement in their behaviour on the European market, she wants to break up the American business conglomerates. That is what she said in response to questions from Paul Tang, a Dutch Member of the European Parliament. Tang is also member of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats on behalf of this PvdA party (the Dutch Labor Party). Vestager then told Tang that she had the means to do this. She did not specify what kind of means she has at her disposal.

Member of the European Parliament Paul Tang wants Commissioner Margrethe Vestager to break open American ‘big tech’ companies.

Gaining citizen’s trust

With its new European AI law, Vestager said they want to allay the fears of European citizens. In particular those who currently lack faith in the digitization of society. She says this is necessary as she believes there are two types of companies. The type that is digital – and the type that will soon become digital. In other words, sooner or later all citizens will have to participate in the digitization of everyday life, so she wants to make sure that the Internet is not intimidating to them.

In the second place, she wants AI to be used to make the citizens’ lives easier rather than more difficult. She wants to prevent digital platforms from collecting data via AI in order to influence the choice of consumers and businesses so that they can earn money from them. It was precisely for this reason that during her previous term as European Commissioner for Competition, she imposed a fine of 4.3 billion euros on the search engine Google.

More rules, less innovation?

The question is whether the new rules for AI will not stand in the way of innovation. Nicola Beer, an MEP from the Renew Group in the European Parliament, wanted to know whether Vestager had thought about how she intended to preserve Europe’s leading role in AI innovation. Vestager replied that she was looking for a more balanced situation. According to her, European citizens should benefit from the innovations that AI brings. Yet at the same time also be protected against their eventual misuse.

Europarliamentarian Nicola Beer wants to know how Vestager will ensure that the EU will remain a leader in the AI field.

Meanwhile, the initial reactions from the AI group of professionals to Vestager’s plans for new legislation have been quite reserved. “I find it a bit vague that Vestager says that AI sometimes makes life more difficult.” That’s what Buster Franken says, AI entrepreneur and developer from TU/e. “It is true that AI influences your choices via Google. But that can also make your life a lot easier.”

‘Small-scale AI companies in the EU are the victims’

Franken believes that there is a danger that a new law will burden smaller AI companies with far too many rules. “We already have a hard time finding capital to invest in our innovations. If new rules are added now, that will adversely affect us. It also means that you have extra work in order to comply with them. Maybe we don’t have the money for this. While this new law is supposed to combat abuse by large companies such as Google and Facebook.”

Read also: ‘Europe must invest in a hub for collaborative robots in SMEs’

“The point is namely that companies like Google can abuse data because they have loads of money. If there is a new law, they will undoubtedly be able to comply with it. Then they will simply look for another route. They have enough money to hire an army of elite lawyers. Small AI companies don’t have that.”

Start-up of the day: Heat Power generates extra energy when there is no sun or wind

During his mechanical engineering studies at the TU in Eindhoven, Henk Ouwerkerk came up with a system that allows combined gas and steam turbines to generate supplemental electricity ‘on demand’. And now, fifteen years later, his idea has evolved into a product that he plans to sell through his company Heat Power. It will be on the market for the first time next year.

What motivated you to set up Heat Power and what problem does it resolve?

“I always wanted to become an entrepreneur and I always have all sorts of ideas too. I had written down a few of them and I thought they could turn out to be something. I have been lucky enough to have been given the freedom to design a prototype at the TU/e during my Masters and subsequently as part of my PhD in Mechanical Engineering.

My idea was to enhance electric generation from existing combined gas and steam turbines so that they can meet market demands more quickly. So turbine can generate more electricity when there is more demand, and less when there is less demand. This innovation is particularly interesting for smaller factories that use steam, for example to heat raw materials during their manufacturing process.

Electricity on demand

A combined gas and steam turbine which is capable of generating electricity is already a reality in large power plants. But these turbines run continuously and on the basis of a consistent air flow. You can’t turn them on or off from one moment to the next. This is possible with our system, the Rankine Compression Gas Turbine (RCG). How? We let the steam turbine drive the gas turbine’s compressor. We then use a special valve in order to gauge how much air can or cannot pass through the steam turbine. The more air you let in, the more electricity is produced by the generator connected to the turbine. This allows you to generate as much electricity as you need at any time. That way you save on costs as a company. Because then you don’t have to buy energy from an external supplier.

If you generate more power than you need for your own manufacturing process, you can also sell it if there is a demand for it. You could earn money from that. Our Rankine Compression Gas Turbine generates electricity on demand. That’s very useful. Because when a great deal of sustainable solar and wind energy is already being produced, you don’t want to add to the electricity supply. That’s of no use to anyone. In that case, the electricity grid might become overloaded.”

Henk Ouwerkerk (right), project engineer Jeroen Schot and project leader Marc van Erp Photo: Heat Power

What has been the biggest obstacle that you have had to overcome?

“Our turbine is an industrial hardware product. You have to finance the transition from an idea to a working system in a factory. Before you get that far, you are already talking about an investment of $1 million. And then you haven’t even done anything over the top. The steam turbine that we had to buy was the most expensive component for us. I found a used one in Germany. The new price is €150,000. But I bought this one for €10,000.

I attracted investors and issued shares for each stage of the design of Heat Power. At first, these were business angels from my own network, and then investment companies later on. I also applied for an energy innovation grant from the Netherlands Enterprise Agency. Looking for funding was half the work. I also spent many years investing my own unpaid time and money in it. We did energy consultancy work for third parties through the company. That’s how we earned money. We put that back into the company. We have made steady progress thanks to this diverse mix of income.

In the early days, I was also a truck driver in the evening hours for one of my business angels who is in the meat industry. I also drove trucks full of beer crates to supermarkets’ distribution centers for a beer brewery at night. I am a night person, so that wasn’t a problem. Then at 10 a.m. the next morning, I started tinkering with the prototype for my own company again.

What has been the biggest breakthrough so far?

“That was the pilot at the Hout Industrie Schijndel factory towards the end of last year. Our Rankine Compression Gas Turbine is actually integrated into the manufacturing process there. We were able to demonstrate that our turbine is capable of a quick change of gear without hampering the manufacturing process.”

What can we expect from Heat Power in the coming year?

“Then we will bring our first full-scale commercial model onto the market. The model used in the pilot is made up of just one module. You need several in order to be profitable because you can then generate more electricity that way. We currently have three potential customers. But we are hoping for more.”

Where do you want Heat Power to be within five years? What is your ultimate goal?

“That purchasers of steam turbines will be able to choose the Rankine Compression Gas Turbine as an extra option via the established suppliers. The market in Europe, where there are 25,000 companies that use steam, is large enough for us.  Although it continues to be a niche market. After all, these are exclusively companies that use steam in their manufacturing process and that want to generate flexible electricity.”

What does Heat Power’s innovation improve in comparison to products in your segment of the market?

“That you only need to generate extra electricity with this turbine when there is a demand for it. In order to supplement the supply of renewable energy from the sun and wind, which is very difficult to regulate.”

 

 

Read moreStart-up of the day: Heat Power generates extra energy when there is no sun or wind

[UPDATE] How we can lower the risk of antimicrobial resistance

An ever-increasing proportion of bacteria are becoming resistant to antibiotics. Overuse or misuse of antibiotics causes bacteria to become immune to them. This is the reason why antibiotics no longer work effectively against infections in human beings. A faster method for identifying which bacteria a patient is suffering from will lower the risk of antimicrobial resistance.  The iGEM student team at the Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e), has designed a system that can do this. The team was ranked in the top three during the iGEM competition in Boston, America.

iGEM stands for international Genetically Engineered Machine, in a nutshell, everything that has to do with synthetic biology. This year, 377 teams from all over the world will take part in the competition. They have all been doing research on solutions to social problems from a biology angle. The Eindhoven team has focused on how we can lower the risk of antimicrobial resistance. A growing problem which currently there isn’t a solution for. “Developing a new antibiotic takes a lot of time, often decades. We don’t have that much time. That is why we have devised a detection system,” Yvonne van Mil explains.

“The competition is very broad, so it’s very difficult to compare projects with each other,” she says. That’s why there are different categories within the competition. The Eindhoven team participated in the diagnostics category. Within this category, iGEM was one of the top three in terms of components: best poster, best measurement, best base part, best composite part and best diagnostic project.

Gold medal

In addition to the different themes, there are also different levels. For example, there is a separate category for secondary school students. Then there are two categories for students from the university. These are divided by age, above and below 23 years. In the end, one team becomes the overall winner.

Unfortunately, the Eindhoven team missed out on this title. They did win a gold medal. “This is rewarded when a team fulfils all the requirements of the competition, varying from the registration of the team to the creation of a model of the project.”

Het team tijdens de competitie in Amerika

Faster diagnosis

With their system, the students want to focus on a faster diagnosis. It takes two to three days at the moment to diagnose what kind of an infection a patient has. “During this time, a patient is often given several antibiotics before it is actually determined which one will best help,” says Van Mil. “During those two or three days, someone could become resistant to those other antibiotics that they have been given which they never needed in the first place.” After several years, people run the risk that not a single antibiotic might work anymore.

That’s why the students have developed a detection system that can diagnose someone’s infection within a few hours. “This means that doctors are able to prescribe the proper antibiotics immediately,” says the student. The system works with bacteriophages. “These are a kind of a virus for bacteria which have a high specificity. These phages bind to a specific bacterium and inject their DNA into it. The phages rapidly multiply in the bacterium, which eventually destroys the bacterium,” Van Mil explains.

A specially engineered protein then binds to the phage DNA. This sends out a light signal which it uses to determines what type of bacteria a patient is carrying. “This is then measured in a sample taken from the patient, such as their urine,” she says. The system can test the sample for various bacteria in this way.

Determining the dose                                                      

At the same time, the students are also studying whether it is possible to use the same system to find out how widespread the infection is. This means that the dosage of the antibiotics can be adjusted accordingly. “Too much or not enough antibiotics do not always produce the intended results.”

Over the past six months, the students have focused primarily on producing the protein that is needed in this process. “The tests that we did have shown that it does work,” says Van Mil. “We have not designed a device for the system as yet. The university will continue studying this in the coming months.” Such a device has to be  thoroughly tested before it can be approved for use in hospitals. “That’s going to take a few years.”

Would you like to know more about this technology? Check out iGEM’s extensive website here.

Improper use of antibiotics

The problem of antimicrobial resistance is less acute in the Netherlands than in countries such as Greece or America. “In the Netherlands, you have to see a doctor first before you get antibiotics to take home with you. In some other countries, you can just buy them at a chemist”, explains Van Mil. “People often use antibiotics when they don’t need them at all. This is how the bacteria become resistant much faster.”

University to take over the research

After the competition, the iGEM technology will be developed further at TU/e. “A professor has told us that he is interested in our technology,” says Van Mil. “One of our team members is probably going to take it on as a graduation project. We really like the fact that our idea has so much potential that the university wants to continue working on it.”

ECsens wins 4TU Impact Challenge with sensors that enable faster diagnosis of cancer

ECsens has won the 4TU Impact Challenge. The start-up from the University of Twente is designing sensitive sensors for a faster diagnosis of cancer. This year, for the first time, the technical universities in the Netherlands have organized a joint innovation competition where students can showcase their groundbreaking solutions to social problems. The winner will go together with representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and a number of companies on a trade mission to the World Expo in Dubai.

“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime chance that we have got to take,” says Pepijn Beekman in response to his ECsens company’s victory. “It’s great that it was a success.” His aim with this start-up is to ensure that every patient can be given personalized treatment. A major elimination round preceded the final in the Zuiderstrand Theater in The Hague. The technical universities in Eindhoven, Delft, Twente and Wageningen had each held their own preliminary rounds last spring. A total of around 800 students took part in the competitions, 80 teams per TU. In the end, sixteen finalists made it through.

Impact on the lives of many

One of the reasons why the independent jury chose the Twente start-up was because their product solves a major social problem. It has the potential to have an impact on the lives of many people. Nevertheless, jury chair Esther van Someren, deputy general of the Dutch consulate in Dubai, admitted that it was a tough decision.

Each and every one of the teams has brilliant solutions for social problems. For example, from more efficient healthcare with eye tests at home, to the smart repair of coral reefs. The food industry and the impending food shortage are also popular themes. As an example, students researched the substitution of meat with insects as a way to get sufficient protein. Another team devised practical products with a clear goal. Such as a tool for recognizing PTSD symptoms in aid workers and care providers early on. This would mean that employers, for instance, could offer professional help at an earlier stage. Or a toy train that grows along with children as it teaches them programming in a playful way.

LoCoMoGo’s pitch, the play- and programming train © Cindy Langenhuijsen

Pitch boot camp

A few months ago, the students received pitch training so that they could present their story in a clear and concise manner. “The students had demonstrated in the preliminary rounds that their idea has potential in technical fields. But transferring that idea is a profession in its own right,” Pitch Academy trainer Nathalie Mangelaars told IO at the time. “To do that, students need to get out of their comfort zone.” The students learned to pitch in three different ways: for journalists, politicians and the general public during the final. At the end of the training, students stated that explaining the idea in a simple way is not always easy, but it is important.

You can read more about the pitch bootcamp here.

Visit to the Dutch parliament

Prior to the final e-pitches, a number of students handed over their ideas to the Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte at the Binnenhof, the Dutch parliament building. “Rutte was open to our ideas and asked several questions,” says Beekman. Now there is hope among the technical universities that the Dutch government will actually invest more in innovation. According to Robert-Jan Smits, chairman of the Executive Board at TU/e, this will not nearly be enough. He would find it a good move if, for example, the government were to support start-ups through incubation programs.

© Cindy Langenhuijsen

“We want to remain at the forefront of innovation and technological development in the Netherlands,” says Victor van der Chijs, chairman of the 4TU collaboration. “It is essential to continue to invest in young talent and the innovations they come up with. The social importance of this is tremendous. Moreover, companies are eager to get in touch with young talent who are able to shape the future and who can work well together.”

Cooperation is the key word

Eindhoven University of Technology does this together with TU/e innovation Space, among other things. Student teams, start-ups and companies can meet each other and work together on innovative solutions for social problems through this community. Four teams from this community participated in the 4TU Impact Challenge. For example, Team RED is making a model for quickly providing insight into changes within the field of sustainable energy. Team CORE is building an incinerator that recycles metal which is becoming increasingly scarce. Intense Keyboards is designing a pressure-sensitive keyboard that helps to recognize stress-related complaints more quickly. And SpaceSea came up with a solution for the impending food shortage using seaweed.

Read more on TU/e innovation Space here.

Robert-Jan Smits is convinced that being part of a student team is a worthwhile experience within a study program. “I daresay that students learn more in one year in a student team than in two years during their regular studies,” he tells IO at the end of the event. He emphasizes that gaining knowledge is extremely important, but that students in student teams develop other skills such as presentation, communication and solution-oriented thinking.

In his opinion, these skills are also crucial when the students eventually start working for a company. This is one of the reasons why Eindhoven University actively involves companies in the creation of student teams. One of the partners is ASML. Herman Boon also gave a speech on behalf of ASML during the event, which focused on the start-up mentality they started out with. “It’s great that ASML still continues to show and cherish that,” says Smits. “Companies have to contribute to student teams because it is about their future employees in many cases.”

Things are looking good for that future. Smits: “Of the hundred ideas from students, perhaps only two or three actually reach the market. These are the companies that will really change the market and society.”

© Cindy Langenhuijsen

Broader 4TU cooperation

The 4TU Impact Challenge is part of the overall cooperation between the four Dutch technical universities. They are joining forces with a view to making optimal use of knowledge and creativity in the technology sector. They are doing this in the areas of education, research and knowledge valorization. This event is an example when it comes to the knowledge valorization category. The students transfer the knowledge that they have gained back to society through start-ups and student teams. Their products and services contribute to solving social problems.

How seaweed contributes to sustainable food production

Seaweed. You no doubt recognize it as the green stuff that tickles your feet when you swim in the sea. That creepy stuff can help solve social problems such as the impending food shortage and the transition towards green energy. It can even contribute to reducing greenhouse gas methane emissions. However, much more seaweed must be grown in order to be able to use it for these purposes. Start-up SpaceSea wants to help seaweed farmers expand their farms.

Students from Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e) are designing a platform where seaweed farmers are able to gain insights from satellite data from the European Space Agency. There are a number of satellites floating around the earth that collect data on, for example, water temperature and the chemical composition of various places in the oceans. “We can provide a variety of services based on this data. Such as remote monitoring of farms, prediction of ocean conditions, early warnings for farmers, recommendations for optimal operation times and locations for future farms.”

“We’re working with seaweed farmers and biologists to identify the ideal water conditions for various seaweed species to grow. We are able to establish what the conditions are at different areas in the ocean. This is how we can recommend ideal matches to farmers by using these models and the satellite data,” explains Santiago Princ, technical manager at SpaceSea.

This makes it clear to seaweed farmers as to where they can best grow certain types of seaweed. “Nowadays, seaweed farmers often have small farms in places that made sense to them personally or were convenient to them,” he says. “In the future, for example, if they want to expand their farm, they will need a tool to help them see where a particular seaweed grows best.”

Saving time and money

Seaweed farmers are able to save a lot of time and money with this tool. At the moment, farmers have to physically go on the water with a boat to determine the condition of the water and to see if the seaweed is still growing properly. “Apart from the fact that it takes a lot of time, it also costs a lot of money,” says Princ. “Farmers often have to hire a boat and divers. These must be insured properly as well. And there are plenty of other costs that farmers face.” According to Princ, the total amount that farmers have to pay in order to monitor seaweed growth can amount to around 2000 euros per trip. “We are able to offer our monitoring tool for about ten percent of the current price.”

With the tool, the farmers can not only measure the water conditions at any given moment, but they can also see how it will develop over time. “We are also able to make predictions based on the data from past years with the help of machine-learning,” says Princ. “For example, we can suggest that a farmer should leave a seaweed crop for another week that was supposed to be harvested after three weeks. Or harvest it earlier if the upcoming conditions could prove harmful. For instance, if the temperature of the water were to get higher.”

He hopes that the data will enable SpaceSea to warn farmers if something goes wrong with the crops, e.g., when warm water currents turn up. “This way a harvest is less likely to be affected or lost and subsequently farmers face less risk.”

Een preview van de tool

Producing sustainable food

All that seaweed can be used for all kinds of purposes. “According to official estimates, there will be over 9 billion people in the world by 2050,” says Princ. “These people will need food and energy, but food and energy production are not very sustainable at the moment. He believes that seaweed can change this. “First of all, it is tasty and very nutritious. It has more iron than other vegetables. We can start eating more seaweed. But it can serve as fertilizer for crops and food for cattle such as cows as well”. “This will make meat production more sustainable,” says the co-founder.

Cows emit a relatively large amount of methane via belching and flatulence. This greenhouse gas is not good for the environment – it is roughly 25 times worse than CO2. “By incorporating seaweed into bovine feed, around 30% less methane is released through their belching and flatulence. Producing enough seaweed is paramount in order to be able to use it on a large scale.

Seaweed also has remarkable applications in the energy sector. “It can also be used in the production of biofuels. Its chemical composition makes it exceedingly well suited to this purpose. In fact, seaweed has been categorized as the third generation biomass source for the production of renewable energy, a bit like bioethanol – which is currently the most efficient generation,” he says.

Global expansion

Seaweed production must first expand considerably in order to take full advantage of these applications. “We are further developing the technology at SpaceSea so as to make this happen. We currently have a prototype, and are laying down the basis for running a pilot.” says Princ. The product will be able to enter the market after that.

SpaceSea started out at TU/e Innovation Space with the help of various organizations such as the Netherlands Space Office and the European Space Agency. The start-up is focusing on the European market first. Nevertheless, the European seaweed market is still in its infancy. Comparatively, 97% of the world’s seaweed production is presently being done in Asia.

“We want to raise awareness of the potential of seaweed and establish ourselves in the local market. Once we have laid down a solid foundation, we want to expand into the American and Asian markets as there are great opportunities for growth there.”

Keyboard recognizes typing behavior and provides enhanced computer security

A pressure-sensitive keyboard can be used to improve the security of a computer. “The computer not only looks at what you enter as a password, but also how you type it,” says Kayle Knops, founder of the Eindhoven-based start-up Intense Keyboards. Typing styles vary from one person to another. When a computer uses software programs to map these out, the device knows that a certain typing style belongs to a particular user.

“It is enhanced security that can be used in combination with a normal password,” Knops explains. At the moment, the start-up is currently in an exploratory phase with this application. “We are now in discussions with various potential customers in order to best meet their needs.” He does not yet have a specific customer in mind. “Various companies will be able to use this technology,” he says. For instance, companies that require employees to log in to a particular system or website.

Recognizing stress

Aside from computer security, Intense Keyboards is also working on another application for their pressure-sensitive keyboards. They want to gauge the health of the user on the basis of their typing behavior. For example, they are able to recognize stress-related symptoms sooner. “Employers and employees will be able to use a keyboard like this with a view to taking preventive measures in order to address such things as burnout syndrome or RSI. Employees feel better as a result and therefore their work performance improves,” says Knops.

ASML Makers Award

The start-up from Eindhoven University of Technology won the ASML Makers Award with this idea at the TU/e contest earlier this year. This ensures them a place in the pitch round during the 4TU Impact Challenge. Which is a competition where the most innovative and promising start-ups and student teams from the Dutch technology universities all get to compete against each other.

Besides the pressure-sensitive keyboards, the start-up has also developed the associated software. These software programs can accurately map out the way in which someone types. A profile is built of each user, a sort of starting point. This allows for various applications such as extra security measures or stress recognition. “Based on how people type, you are able to see what kind of emotions they are experiencing. We then try to go one step further to see if these emotions can determine if someone is working under stress.”

Software and service

Knops: “Our added value does not rely on the manufacture of keyboards. They do that much better in China. We need to focus on the technology behind pressure sensitivity. And also the software and service that companies will need in order to use that technology to help optimize their employees’ vitality.”

The software has been developed for the most part. Now it’s time for the young entrepreneurs to bring it to the market. “We need a partner for this, a company that wants to help us with the following steps.” A number of companies have shown interest, but there is no real cooperation as yet. Knops is convinced that his start-up will grow faster if he would work together with another company. “Then we can brainstorm about developing the technology further. Also, as a start-up, we can eventually benefit from the team and the processes that our future partner has already set up.”

To market

Knops thinks that the application can be brought to the security market fairly quickly. “Medical applications are subject to plenty of rules. So, many parties are involved as well, “explains Knops. “For example, users must take action if their typing behavior is showing signs of stress. This would have a greater impact.” In his opinion, things are different when it comes to security. “People grant permission just the one time in order to be able to use this option, then they never have to worry about it again.”

Aside from that, he envisages a third application for pressure sensitivity in keyboards. It could be used in e.g. games to operate a puppet or a car. Pressing softly means walking or driving slowly, pressing hard means walking or driving fast.

Everyone should have a pressure-sensitive keyboard

The ultimate goal for Knops is that pressure-sensitive keyboards become the new standard. “A few years ago there was a manufacturer who incorporated colored lights into a keyboard. You see that everywhere now and everyone wants to have a keyboard like that. We want to see keyboards with our technology at every major electronics retailer.”

‘Faster transition using a scale model for sustainable energy’

An interactive model that shows the consequences of sustainable energy on the TU/e campus. Team RED wants to use their tool to support policymakers in decisions on the construction of, for example, solar panels or a wind turbine. The student team at Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e) wants to speed up the energy transition process.

There are various forms of sustainable energy available, such as solar panels, heat pumps, wind farms or heat networks. Not all forms are equally suitable for use in a specific building. “With our interactive model, we can quickly show what the energy consumption is in a specific building. This also allows us to show what the consequences are when, for example, solar panels or a heat pump are connected,” explains Sjoerd Pernot, co-founder of Team RED. “For instance, think about the amount of money that can be saved in this way.” The first scale model used by the team is based on the TU/e campus. “The scale model also shows users what the consequences of this sustainable solution are for the rest of the campus.

The scale model consists of a touchscreen monitor with physical buildings on it. By using the touchscreen to click on a building, users are able to request more information about a building. In addition, they are able to add sustainable solutions to buildings with the help of small tokens. Such a token represents a solar panel, for instance. The rest of the scale model instantly shows the consequences for the building and the entire campus. This allows users to immediately see whether the nearest power cables are powerful enough to be able to install solar panels. There are several aspects that need to be taken into account. “The scale model lets users try out different scenarios in a very accessible way, and ultimately choose the best option,” says Pernot.

Complete overview provides added value

That’s why the scale model provides added value according to Pernot. “Graphs are often used to show the results of different technologies on a particular building, but these are difficult to interpret. By using our model, users can see immediately what the consequences are.” The scale model is able to demonstrate this not only for solar panels, but also for other sustainable energy sources such as wind turbines.

The student team wants to use the scale model to encourage discussion on sustainable energy. “The results of sustainable solutions are presented in a relatively straightforward way. In this way, people with fewer technical skills are also able to join in the discussion,” says Pernot. “Someone who doesn’t know much about electrical engineering, for example, may not realize that the previously mentioned electricity cables that are in the vicinity, must have a particular amount of capacity in order to be able to install solar panels. That’s what our scale model shows right away.”

© Team RED

Dutch Design Week

During the Dutch Design Week (DDW) the students presented the first prototype of the model of the TU/e campus. “We were able to buy a first touchscreen and finished the demonstration version of the software”, says Ruben Lathuy, team capain of Team RED. The reactions were generally positive. “We also received very valuable feedback from a number of visitors. As a result of meetings during the DDW, we even had contact with various interested visitors to see if we could do something for them in a future project.”

In order to further develop this first prototype, feedback from the Housing Department at Eindhoven University is very important to the team. “That way, we can make the scale model even better in our next assignments.” The students receive supervision from TU/e innovation Space. “We have a weekly meeting with our regular supervisor. In addition, we can always turn to other student teams and start-ups to ask questions,” Pernot says. “We all run up against the same things, so it’s nice to be able to help each other.”

From campus to community

Team RED currently focuses primarily on campuses of universities or companies, yet also wants to look at the application of the scale model in the future in e.g. residential areas. “The social interaction within a neighbourhood is very different from that on a campus. Our model would be a great way to get residents and the municipality to talk to each other about sustainable energy.” The team is in dialogue with a party that wants to look at the application in a neighbourhood. However, various new aspects, such as privacy, will be discussed. A market research will show whether a translation of the tool into the application for neighbourhoods is a wise decision.

The team is already talking to the administrators from two other campuses about creating another scale model. The students also want to use the market research to look for new potential customers. Only when the first model is completely finished, do they start looking at the possible commercialisation of the product. “We want to continue to improve this tool and ensure that more and more people benefit from it,” says Pernot. “At the moment, we consider it particularly important to contribute to the energy transition process by helping others in their decision-making around it.”

Specialized incinerators for recycling metals: ‘Solution to a rising shortage’

The manufacture of batteries, telephones, laptops and other electronics is continually on the rise. The mountain of electronic waste is also expanding. Thousands of kilos of recyclable metals are currently being dumped in landfills. The CORE student team at the Technical University of Eindhoven (TU/e) has developed a relatively simple process aimed at bringing these metals back to their purest state. They can be recycled this way and the supply of metal will become unlimited.

The earth has its own process for recycling waste. For example, waste ends up in rivers via contaminated air and eroded rocks. These rivers bring it out to the ocean where it slowly sinks down to the bottom of the sea. There it gradually disappears between the cracks in the tectonic plates under the seabed into the earth’s core. There it is so hot that the materials disintegrate back into pure elements. The core pushes those elements, such as metals, back to the earth’s crust where people are able to mine these. This process takes 35 million years. And that is far too lengthy a process for meeting the current demands of industry. In 35 years’ time, for instance, lithium and cobalt will be depleted. “That’s why we’ve developed an incinerator where this process can be carried out in about one week,” says Dirk van Meer, captain of Team CORE.

Children with lead poisoning

Recycling metals in this way is not restricted to the production of electronics. It also solves a social problem. “Old phones and computers are currently mainly being sent to Africa and China. There, small children are forced to take out any useful parts in order to be able to sell them,” says Van Meer. “The combustion process which is used to destroy the electronics causes the rivers to become acidic. The children often suffer from lethal levels of lead poisoning.”

These scenes are a thing of the past thanks to the recycling factories set up by the Eindhoven student team. They want to set each province up with its own factory equipped with this kind of recycling incinerator. “Then the waste won’t have to be transported very far. That makes a big difference in terms of environmental pollution and costs.” Construction work on the first factory will start at the end of 2020 in Duiven. This site will mainly process waste generated by the recycling of automobiles. At the moment, the team is actively involved in preparation, e.g. with arranging environmental permits. “We always provide multidisciplinary teams wherein enthusiastic students as well as experienced professionals from the industry get to work together.”

Following the factory in Duiven, the student team aim to build a factory on the Metalot site in Budel, also in the Netherlands. “We are planning to process tougher waste streams there, such as batteries,” he says.

From waste to pure elements

Energy-rich waste, such as sludge, and low-energy waste, such as metal, are mixed together in the electric incinerators. ” This means that we only have to switch on the incinerator once and then it will remain warm because of the energy from the waste,” explains the chemical technology student. “In addition, it allows us to process a variety of waste materials that are normally useless to industry.” Team CORE has a partnership with Auto Recycling Nederland (ARN). ” A fraction of a car remains after recycling. We are able to process this in our machine.” Products such as scrap vehicles, telephones and laptops are first crushed into particles of about one centimeter,  then they go into the incinerator.

The incinerator then separates these waste products into pure elements. This creates three layers: metal, sludge and mineral layers. “In principle, it’s all about the metal. New products can be made from these elements.” The team has also sought new applications for the sludge and the mineral layers. “Various residues such as rubber are incorporated into the sludge. This is similar to tar,” says Van Meer. That’s why sludge is frequently used in the construction industry. “The sludge from various metal mills is already being used in construction. There is more than enough demand for us to bring our sludge there too.”

Stones absorb CO2

The mineral layer is mainly made up of obsidian. This is a rock that is formed during a volcanic eruption when lava cools down too quickly. “This substance is capable of absorbing CO2 into its structure. We are therefore able to potentially use it in the top layer of roads. It absorbs part of the CO2 emissions from cars, for example. Moreover, the rock remains 1.5 degrees warmer than present-day asphalt. That will greatly reduce the amount of road salt used during winter.”

Circular economy

Subsequently, this is how the CORE team contributes in various ways to a circular economy. This is also a major dream for team captain van Meer. According to him, a circular production will only be achievable if companies decide to work together. “We want to deal with waste products that other companies don’t do anything with or don’t benefit from. By working together with us, the status of companies that normally do nothing with these waste products will also improve. They will be able to say that they are working in a more sustainable way,” he says. “I don’t see the point of competition in this area. There is still so much to do which nobody else is doing.”

All the factories with the recycling incinerators that the CORE team wants to set up will also be operated by separate companies that are collaborating with one another. For instance, IVER BV will run the factory in the north. “Private investors, such as the Noordelijke Ontwikkelings Maatschappij (NOM, Northern Development Company) and Rabobank will finance the factory over there. Ultimately, a private investor’s company will manage the factory.” A number of students from the student team will get to work in that company. The rest will continue to focus on research. The student team itself is a foundation wherein students will remain involved in the development of the technology.

Challenges for students

Van Meer: ” This is how everyone will be able to further develop their own ambitions and achieve their own goals.” At present, the team is made up of 28 students from a variety of study programs across various academic years. The personal growth of each team member is very important to him. “I want everyone to work on a task that appeals to them. People should enjoy what they do and learn from it at the same time. This is the most important starting point for a student team.” The team is part of TU/e’s  innovation Space. A place at the university where students receive supervision during the setting up and running of a student team or a start-up. “There are many experienced people walking around who can support us in all sorts of ways. Aside from that, we also support other teams with the knowledge that we have gained. For instance, when it comes to grant applications.”

There is also room for relaxation alongside the hard work. The chairperson sees his team as a group of friends. ” One minute we’re out grabbing a beer together and then the next, we’re busy solving social problems.”

Best read: Navigate a busy city? Make self-driving cars more aggressive’

Trams, cats, colliding cyclists – they can make it pretty difficult for self-driving cars. Especially in a city like Amsterdam. Carlo van de Weijer, director of the recently opened Eindhoven Artificial Intelligence Systems Institute (EAISI), thinks that it will never work. Let autonomous vehicles drive through our busy main city? “That can’t be done,” according to Van de Weijer. That’s what came out of our best read article this week.

Still, that all sounds rather set in stone. Ten years ago, nobody would have predicted that we could transform leftovers into decorative edible tidbits with a 3D printer. Is a self-driving car in a city like Amsterdam really so inconceivable?

Just this past summer, a TU Delft research team presented a milestone for self-driving cars in cities. The researchers designed a system that analyses and predicts pedestrian behaviour. “It is a system that covers the entire processing chain, from vehicle perception, situation analysis and planning to control,” said lead researcher Dariu Gavrilla at the time.

At least another 30 years

In other words: a self-steering car that is able to predict whether a pedestrian will stay waiting patiently at a curb, or choose to cross the street. “We are one small step closer to being able to roll out autonomous driving effectively in a busy, urban setting,”,said Gavrilla. Would that mean self-driving cars will be lining the Amsterdam canals? Things won’t go that fast, Gavrilla also believes: “A car that can drive through a city and be as adaptable as a human driver – that’s going to take at least another thirty years,” he told the Dutch broadcast service NOS in August.

So, things will still be a long time coming, although it certainly doesn’t seem inconceivable. That’s how trend-watcher and Tesla driver Vincent Everts views it too. “I already use the autopilot function on 95 % of my trips,” he says. “Especially on the highway, but also in the city if the road is suitable enough.” The only condition is that the roads have to be clear. “I hardly ever use it on inner city streets, but there are no lanes there and things jut out all over the place,” Everts says. “The car is not at all ready for that yet.” But will it be possible someday?

Read moreBest read: Navigate a busy city? Make self-driving cars more aggressive’

‘Ordinary person will never be able to afford their own, fully self-driving car’

Waymo

If in a few decades’ time fully self-driving cars are allowed on public roads on a grand scale, they will almost exclusively be shared cars. This is what Gijs Dubbelman expects will happen. He is head of the research group on mobile perception systems at TU Eindhoven. “The equipment that you will need to install in your car is so expensive that an ordinary citizen won’t be able to afford it.”

People who are able to afford one, are probably the same people who can pay for their own plane or helicopter. Everyone else will have to share a car and request one when they need it. ‘Mobility as a service’, is how Dubbelman terms it.

Expensive equipment

The most expensive parts of the fully self-driving car are the special sensors. The lidar in particular (a laser detection system also known as LADAR). Along with the AI and the computer that has to process all the data. “The cost of a lidar alone can be as much as €50,000,” says Dubbelman. “That’s very expensive. And then you don’t even have a car, you just have a lidar. Lidars are likely to become cheaper in the future. Yet one lidar is not enough, as you need to be able to cover the entire area around a vehicle. More sensors are required in order to be safe in all situations and circumstances.” So that’s why it will stay expensive.

At the ‘AI in engineering’ symposium held by TU/e, Gijs Dubbelman shows an image of what the autonomous test car sees while driving. Photo: Lucette Mascini.

In the future, navigational maps for autonomous cars will also have to drop in price. At present, the production of such maps is still too limited and is usually only intended for relatively small test areas. “You can imagine that this is not cheap.”

The navigation equipment aims to pinpoint the exact location of the car, the roads on which it is driving and the stationary objects in the vicinity. The AI focuses on predicting the behaviour of the people who walk there, as well as animals and other moving objects in the area.

Traffic chaos caused by a snowflake

The British Law Commission announced last week that its research has shown that autonomous vehicles suffer from so-called ‘frozen robot syndrome‘. This means that they are not yet able to discern haphazard, moving objects on the road, such as leaves, plastic bags and even birds and snowflakes. As then they instantly apply the brakes and ‘freeze.’ This can cause chaos on the road. The main concern is when the car already comes to halt because of a snowflake, for example. That the car stops when it doesn’t recognize what’s moving in front of its bumper or windscreen is logical, says Dubbelman. “But you don’t want it to start up again and then run over a child.”

Read more‘Ordinary person will never be able to afford their own, fully self-driving car’

Self-driving cars will never be possible in Amsterdam city center

Anyone who thinks that the self-driving car is the future is wrong. At least when it comes to the chaotic mess in city centers like Amsterdam. These are so cluttered and unpredictable that it would be impossible for autonomous vehicles to anticipate traffic conditions. Which is what Carlo van de Weijer has predicted at the opening of the AI in Engineering symposium. He is director  of the new Eindhoven Artificial Intelligence Systems Institute (EAISI, pronounced ‘easy’ in English) at TU Eindhoven in the Netherlands.

Traffic chaos in the Amsterdam city center is too much for self-driving cars. Photo: Lucette Mascini

Experiment in the US

Van de Weijer worked in the automobile industry for a long time and wanted to answer the question as to why we are still not driving through the country in self-driving cars. The reason is that it is very difficult to make automated vehicles function like a human being. Van de Weijer gave an example of an experiment in the US where a robotic car kept driving on the right lane while a very slow truck was driving on it’s left. A tailgater behind the autonomous car wanted to pass but wasn’t able to.

Read other Innovation Origins columns by Carlo van de Weijer here.

Read moreSelf-driving cars will never be possible in Amsterdam city center

Sustainable housing? Combine existing technologies for the best results

A sustainable house covering a variety of aspects, from the drawing to the execution and the completion. Team CASA, a student team from Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e), combines existing technologies in one house with the aim of accelerating the energy transition. During the Dutch Design Week (DDW) they will be showing the model of the house that will actually be built in Helmond next year.

“In terms of sustainability, there is still plenty of room for improvement in the construction sector,” says Joline Frens, board member of Team CASA (Comfortable, Affordable, Sustainable, Alternative). She sums up: “50 % of our raw materials go there, 40 % of our waste comes from there and 35 % of our CO2 emissions are caused there.” Nevertheless, many technological solutions have already been found that, for example, reduce electricity and gas consumption and recycle materials. The students maintain that the sector makes far too little use of these.

Solar panels and heat pumps

A variety of technologies come together in CASA 1.0, the first model of the house. The house has two heat pumps and solar panels. “The solar panels generate a relatively large amount of electricity in the summer. Now that energy is mostly being returned to the grid,” explains Frens. “When the sun shines a lot, the solar panels become very hot which in turn lowers efficiency. We are installing pipes under the solar panels where water will circulate. This cools the solar panels.” The water warms up and can be stored in a water tank under the house.

“In the winter we use the stored heat to heat the house.” The students say it is important that the heat is kept stored in the actual homes. “The grid is unable to cope if more people install solar panels and everyone gives energy back to the grid during summer.” Saving energy in water is a lot cheaper, safer and more sustainable than saving it in batteries, according to the students. “Many harmful acids are used to remove lithium from the ground, which is what batteries are made of. This is not good for the environment. Moreover, the consequences are far greater if such a large battery were to explode,” Frens points out.

CASA 1.0 model ©ByLaura photography

Recyclable parts due to the special building construction

In addition to sustainable energy, the students have also thought about recycling materials. “Houses are often built now with the idea that they should be there for hundreds of years. That doesn’t often work out that way in practice,” Frens explains. ” A renovation happens after some forty years.” The team has taken this into account during the construction of the house. “We work with a clip system which means that internal walls can literally be moved. This avoids the need to completely demolish a wall and subsequently rebuild it.” Which results in a lot less waste. The front facade can also be replaced in the same way. “For instance, the facade can be easily adapted if the local authorities come up with other stipulations.”

Materials are not fixed with glue in the CASA building construction but are fastened using a bolt system. “Various materials can then be reused.” As well as this, the students use sustainable materials such as bamboo. “It is a fast-growing type of grass which has the properties of hardwood and is easy to recycle,” says Frens.

Brainport Smart District

The students’ first house will be built next year in Brandevoort in the Brainport Smart District in Helmond, the Netherlands. A neighborhood where various technical and innovative building projects are to be accommodated. In addition to homes, there are also sharing systems for cars and self-driving buses. Housing corporation Woonbedrijf is going to buy the first CASA home and then rent it out. The students are aiming to build these sustainable houses for similar prices as houses in the current housing market. Consequently, it could be a substitute for existing social housing rentals.

CASA 1.0 is one of the projects in the Drivers of Change exhibition from the TU/e. Frens: “We want to show people what is already possible when it comes to sustainable living. There are plenty of examples of innovative building projects on display at the exhibition. We hope that this will make people demand more sustainable solutions from the construction sector. Which would mean that developments will happen more quickly.”

The Drivers of Change exhibition ©ByLaura photography

Connecting technology and society

During the Dutch Design Week, student teams, spin-offs, PhD students and other TU/e researchers will present their technology at Strijp-T. Vice President of the University, Nicole van Ummelen, opened the exhibition with the words: “It is important to make a connection between technology and social problems.” Students present their solutions to a social problem in their own way. From generating energy with iron powder to 3D printed food and from 5G networks to smart drones as assistants.

How education is evolving; students now learn through challenge-based learning

Students at the Technical University of Eindhoven (TU/e) are no longer sitting in the lecture halls as much as they used to. Education is focusing more and more on the practical side, which means on the actual application of technological knowledge. Student teams are an example of this. Over the past five years, the number of teams has increased from six to fifteen at TU/e. Participating in a student team can be the most instructive time for students during their studies. In this respect, proper supervision is crucial.

Student teams are made up of students from various backgrounds, levels and study programs. They work together outside the regular education program to find solutions to social problems. Team SOLID, for instance, generates energy from iron powder instead of from coal. Solar Team makes a solar-powered family car. While Team CORE is designing an oven which recycles batteries. The students take part in a team on average for just one year. They then make way for a new group of students. “Students learn skills that they don’t learn in the classroom,” says Mia Jelsma, coordinator of the student teams. For example, about leadership and cooperation, but also about recruiting sponsors and PR.

Eindhoven University is a leader in the field of challenge-based learning. The campus also has a special community, TU/e Innovation Space, where student teams and start-ups are provided with workspaces and supervision, among other things.

Practice-based courses

Professionals run the courses for the student teams. “Of course, they want to achieve as much as possible in that year, which calls for proper supervision,” Jelsma says. One of the trainers is Roel Wessels from Holland Innovative. He coaches the students in the areas of project management and leadership. His company gives these kinds of courses not only at the university, but also to the business community. “The term challenge-based learning is commonly used in education nowadays,” says Wessels. “To me, it just means learning in the real world. You don’t learn to swim on the shore either. You learn to swim in water. But when you get into the water, a teacher first has to prepare you for that on shore and offer you help in the water if you need it.”

Leadership is the greatest challenge

That’s exactly what he wants to do in his courses. “In terms of leadership, the student teams immediately have to face one of the greatest challenges,” says Wessels. He aims to teach students the basics of leadership – “so that they can start swimming early on and cover longer distances.” In his opinion, leadership within student teams is often especially difficult. “Quite a lot of students have known each other for a while already or even work together. And then one person is suddenly appointed as the leader,” he explains. “This doesn’t usually happen in business. Typically, someone from outside is chosen as the new leader,” he says. Managing a group of peers is a challenge, yet student teams tend to do very well when it comes to this.

Wessels provides support where possible. “I see the students once every two weeks. That regularity is very important to me. The trainer finds that someone who is in the process of learning frequently has no idea that a problem exists or that one is imminent. Then it is important to meet up with each other at regular intervals to make sure you can steer things in the right direction in time.” Wessels gives workshops on a variety of topics during these meet-ups. Such as devising a test schedule for a prototype or drawing up a communication plan.

Issues

Aside from all this, there is plenty of room to discuss any issues the students have come up against. “This is how we link theory and practice. Students can work on the implementation and development of their plans after these workshops.” Jelsma: “Although we don’t intend to shield the students from everything. They are supposed to learn and this involves sometimes making mistakes. If things really go wrong, we will throw them a lifeline in time.”

Out into the world

Wessels also encourages students to go public more often. “It is often taught in school that you have to master something down to the last detail before you present it to the outside world.” The trainer believes there is nothing wrong with that, but it may also limit students. “My tip is always to just talk to people. Even if the idea or solution is not quite clear yet. People and companies often want to think along those lines with you. Nobody has a ready-made solution, yet together you can make some headway.”

Jelsma sees that the students’ communication skills improve as a result of the training. “It struck me that after Roel’s course, students came to me for help sooner if something wasn’t working out,” she says. “They can communicate their ideas and their vision of the future much more clearly. This is good for them personally, but also for when they approach potential sponsors.”

These are the occasions when Wessels says that he feels particularly proud. “I think it’s great when students already have the courage to venture out with just a rough draft of a design. Jelsma adds: “Sometimes students come up with wild ideas that I initially don’t think will work. But then they manage to do it anyway. That’s what I love to see.”

Education needs to evolve

That is why the university is looking at how student teams are able to integrate into regular education more effectively. As an example, by awarding a number of credits after contributing to a student team. This could lead to the dropping of a few courses or an internship, for instance. In some cases, students can now do their entire final bachelor project within a student team and graduate that way. It is also occasionally possible to do an internship within that kind of a team. This is a good first step, Wessels finds: “Linking lectures to student team issues seems very useful to me. Students are immediately able to put theory into practice this way.”

Although he does have one reservation. “Teachers must also be able to teach like that,” he says. In order to do this, teachers should continue to connect with students. “As an example, if the changes mean that tests no longer need to be taken, then teachers must be able to question students in other ways to see if they understand the material. This might require some other skills.”

Jelsma: ” Practical experience will show us how challenge-based learning is turning out.” It is a matter of urgency, in any event. “Students numbers are constantly rising. Eventually, it will no longer be possible to stick students in a lecture hall with a professor up front. We have to look for other alternatives.”

Improved level of comfort for babies in incubators thanks to algorithms and pressure sensors

Every year, around 15 million babies are born prematurely worldwide. Almost all of them spend some time in an incubator so that they can gain strength. Each of them is covered in electrodes and connected to a monitor via a tangle of wires. All of this in order to keep a close eye on the babies. An alarm goes off at least a few hundred times a day in these wards. In many cases this is a false alarm that doctors do not have to respond to. This causes ‘alarm fatigue’ among nursing staff, which means that they may be less responsive to an alarm that does matter.

Rohan Joshi has devised a way of avoiding false alarms in the event of lower heart rates or oxygen levels. One that is based on machine learning. In addition, the PhD student at TU/e uses this technique to enable critical alarms to be triggered 20 seconds sooner. Doctors at the Máxima Medical Centre are able to do their work more effectively because of this invention, . They don’t have to respond to non-emergency calls as much and can intervene more quickly when needed.

Joshi is one of approximately one hundred PhD candidates who are connected to the Eindhoven MedTech Innovation Center (e/MTIC). This is a collaboration between TU/e, Philips and three leading clinical hospitals in the region, Namely: the Máxima Medical Center, Kempenhaeghe and Catharina Hospital in The Netherlands. Within this consortium, researchers want to bring new healthcare innovations to patients more quickly. “We work in three different areas: pregnancy and birth, sleep disorders and cardiovascular diseases. In many cases, research is still carried out in an invasive manner. This can be quite daunting for patients. One of the things we want to do is ensure that patients are able to be monitored without the need for invasive contact,” says Carmen van Vilsteren of e/MTIC.

Another one of e/EMTIC’s projects: Multimillion euro grant brings artificial womb for premature babies one step closer

Increasing comfort levels

In addition to the algorithm, Rohan Joshi has also designed special pressure sensors. Van Vilsteren: “These are located in the mattress that the baby lies on. They measure the same things as the patches which are normally applied to the skin. This increases the level of comfort for babies considerably. Patients at Kempenhaeghe could benefit from this as well. They are also covered with sensors when they undergo sleep research. The ultimate goal is that people will be able to be monitored at home too.”

e/MTIC also researches solutions for cardiovascular diseases © TU/e

It is possible not only to treat a disorder, but also to prevent or detect diseases more quickly by monitoring people at home. That’s according to Van Vilsteren. “The hospitals we work with all have an enormous amount of patient data at their disposal. This enables us to provide support to physicians in a smart way. It can serve as a basis for making decisions concerning the treatment of a patient. But it is precisely through combining and analyzing all of this data across a variety of areas that you are also able to have something to say about the development of a disorder. This is how connections are found that would otherwise have remained undetected.”

More can be done under current privacy legislation than is often presumed, Van Vilsteren states. “It is often about interpreting what is conceivable within the boundaries of the law. You can see that because of this, companies and healthcare institutions are very cautious in their actions in order to avoid risks. As a consequence, they share less data or store less of patients’ data.”

That’s a pity in her opinion. “The technology that is needed to compare this variety of patient data is developing rapidly. Kempenhaeghe has an incredible amount of data on sleep. It could be the case that interesting insights could be gained by combining sleep data with heart failure data. However, the use of (patient) data should not be allowed arbitrarily, even if it has been rendered anonymous. Before you can analyze this data, you have to obtain prior consent from patients.”

Data portal

Researchers at e/MTIC are working on a data portal to make this kind of analysis and the necessary data exchange possible. “We make clear in advance what patient data can be used for and that this data is shared here solely within e/MTIC. At present you see that researchers sometimes take up to a year to set up a clinical study. They are no longer able to see the wood for the trees. That’s due to all the various rules and regulations that they have to comply with. We want to take that work off their hands by setting up that infrastructure and supporting them with their submissions. This will enable us to significantly speed up the innovation process without skipping any steps. Of course, we don’t want to act negligently or contravene any rules.”

Although e/MTIC has been officially in existence for just one year, the cooperation goes back much further than that. “The TU/e has been working with hospitals for about 25 years and the relationship with Philips goes back much longer,” says Van Vilsteren. These are no longer separate projects within the e/MTIC framework, but rather an approach based on a vision that has been clearly outlined by the parties involved. “We are working on a collective roadmap. The advantage is that we are working together with hospitals. This means that we know what is going on with doctors and patients. This allows you to come up with a solution based on specific needs. We then test a concept several times with patients and physicians. Then we take the next step in the form of a new algorithm or a prototype.”

e/MTIC has a strong industry partner in Philips.  Which makes sure that new techniques are less likely to remain on the shelf, Van Vilsteren adds. “When you first set up a medical start-up from a university, that road is often very long. A party like Philips knows its way around, which is a huge help. E/MTIC has a far greater impact because of this.”

On Friday 11 October e/EMTIC is organizing a symposium at the TU/e entitled ”Technology meets Value-based Health Care‘. This will be organized together with the Dutch CardioVascular Alliance. The inauguration of Lukas Dekker will also be highlighted. Dekker is a researcher at e/EMTIC in the field of cardiovascular diseases. Registration is possible via Mrs. A. van Litsenburg at A.J.J.T.Litsenburg@tue.nl.

Start-up of the day: How old diesel engines can run cleaner

A dirty diesel engine will be able to drive much more sustainably thanks to the TORQAMP, an electric compressor. “It almost sounds too good to be true,” admits the co-founder of TORQAMP, Jelke Hoekstra. “Yet we can reduce carbon emissions by up to 35 percent. Which makes a car significantly cleaner.” Four years ago, together with Daniel Hilgersom, he started TORQAMP, a spin-off from Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e). What started out as an electric turbo for motorsport, has gradually progressed more towards making a variety of vehicles more sustainable.

How does TORQAMP work?

Hoekstra: “There are various devices available that can boost the performance of a car, such as superchargers and turbos. A turbo injects more air into the engine so that it has more power in combination with extra fuel. For example, the car is able to accelerate faster or drive faster. We have created an electric turbocharger. It uses less fuel and is much easier to install. In fact, it is comparable to a compressor or an air pump. It can be used on all combustion engines whether they use petrol, LPG, diesel or kerosene. This makes the TORQAMP suitable for all kinds of applications, such as road vehicles, motorsport and in the shipping industry.”

In what way does this contribute to sustainable mobility?

“Unlike a normal turbo, the TORQAMP does not rely initially on exhaust fumes in order to blast out air. Soot (as in carbon emissions) is reduced, since air can be blown into the engine proactively. Soot is a result of too much fuel and not enough oxygen when fuel is burnt. We want to prevent a diesel engine from emitting any soot at all in the future. That would be ideal. We already have a few solutions in mind for this, but that also calls for a lot of research. We are currently investigating the options for lorries and ships as well. Electric propulsion is not possible for these vehicles in the short term, but our device could very well be a solution.”

“Ways are being thought up that aim to make new cars cleaner. For example, by making the engine smaller so that it uses less fuel. The government even encourages us to buy new cars. But with our device, we are also able to make existing diesel cars cleaner relatively inexpensively. We have even designed it so that most people are able to install it themselves. Moreover, the TORQAMP is suitable for all cars. The unit is made in such a way that every engine can cope with the extra air pressure.”

Hydrogen

“As well as making diesel engines cleaner, the TORQAMP is able to contribute to the development of hydrogen cells. A hydrogen cell needs a compressor to pump air into its system. The oxygen is needed as part of the chemical process for generating energy.” Hilgersum adds: “Combustion engines suck in air themselves by they way they operate, but a hydrogen cell doesn’t. That’s why they have a separate compressor. Otherwise it won’t work. The hydrogen cell’s efficiency is also increased this way.”

“There are several compressors on the market, but they are comparatively expensive,” continues Hoekstra. “Most compressors which are suitable for the hydrogen market cost around 25 thousand euros. Our compressor is €2,500. Therefore, the TORQAMP could significantly reduce the price of a hydrogen cell.”

“We are working towards further development in this area with various parties. For example, TU/e-start-up DENS, which is working on hydrogen cells, has already asked us to supply a compressor. We have also submitted a plan together with TNO so we can take this application to a higher level. In addition to that, we are testing with yet another party a prototype of an electric aircraft. In this project, our compressor regulates the air pressure in a cabin. That’s how we are able to contribute in a number of ways to cleaner means of transportation.”

How did the idea for TORQAMP come about?

“During my final year I was working on high speed electric motors. That’s how the idea came about,” says Hilgersom. He graduated from the TU/e in automotive sciences. Hoekstra: “Daniel and I were introduced to each other via via. That clicked right away, so we started a company together in order to develop this even further. He is the engineer and I do the sales side as the business manager. We originally thought we could have developed the whole product within a year. In the end, it turned out to be four.”

How do you make sure that there is enough funding to roll this out further?

“We hope to be able to sell a number of TORQAMPS fairly easily in the motorsport sector. Selling to large car manufacturers is more difficult because they have set far too many conditions. In motorsport there are plenty of car enthusiasts with a lot of technical knowledge. That’s a better fit for us,” says Hoekstra.

“We have to test our product on various cars in order to gain the confidence of these car enthusiasts. We do some of this ourselves, but we also have small-scale tuning companies do this for us. They convert cars too. We approach them to test a car and ask them if they are interested in selling the product. When they realize the value of the product, they start talking about it to everyone. And word of mouth is still the best way to go. We have also set up a Kickstarter campaign through which we are aiming to sell fifty TORQAMPS.

“With the money that we are making in the motorsport world, we also want to expand the development of compressors for hydrogen cells and create cleaner diesel engines. We are currently applying for European subsidies for this. Our greatest passion lies in these applications. That’s why we are focusing the company’s long-term vision on this.” Hilgersom: “This is how we want to make a positive contribution to the environment by making it possible to drive in a more environmentally friendly way.”

Where will you be in a year’s time?

“We hope that within a year we will have enough financial resources to hire two extra engineers and a marketing professional. With several engineers, we will be able to speed up development. This will make it easier for us to place products on the hydrogen market and to do more research in the diesel market. Good marketing is a must”, says Hoekstra. “People and companies are expressing more and more interest in the product. They regularly ask us if we can make something for them. Now we are so busy with day-to-day issues that we can’ t do everything. That’s a pity. Extra engineers would certainly help with this.”

Isabelle Reymen on the future of education: Cooperating on solutions for real-world problems

Students should get out of the lecture hall more often. They learn far more by finding solutions to practical challenges when they work in interdisciplinary teams. This is what Professor Isabelle Reymen at the Technical University of Eindhoven (TU/e) is calling for. It is also exactly what she does at TU/e Innovation Space, where she gave her inaugural speech on Friday. With that, she has officially accepted her position as professor there and presented her vision on the future of education.

What once started out as a place to bring student teams and start-ups together grew into a new form of education. A place where students learn through experience. Companies present challenges to students from various study programs so that they can try to solve these together. Such as issues concerning sustainable energy, or the impending food shortage forecast for 2050. Companies, students and teachers work together on innovation in the broadest sense of the word. According to Reymen, this must be rolled out much further within the education system in the near future. In fact, Eindhoven University wants about eighty percent of its education to be structured this way by 2030.

You can read more about TU/e Innovation Space here.

The community is growing

TU/e began its experiment with this form of education and has since become an international role model. After a pilot in the Gaslab, a small building at the back of the campus, TU/e Innovation Space moved to a larger building in the middle of the compound. Since then, everyone has settled down and the first year in the new building (named Matrix) has come to an end. Reymen is now working on professionalizing TU/e Innovation Space even further. It’s all about providing more structure. “We worked very ad hoc during the pilot and supplied students with what they needed on request. Now we are planning to establish and structure processes more comprehensively. Like when it comes to determining and allocating the various challenges from companies,” Reymen told IO earlier.

Eventually, more students will be able to turn to TU/e Innovation Space as a result. In the last academic year, more than 1,600 students followed courses this way. They worked together on 46 projects. Already students from all of the faculties have worked at the TU/e Innovation Space. A large proportion of the students have joined the community outside of their regular courses. Via a start-up or a student team, for instance. Undergraduate students are able to do their final project via TU/e Innovation Space. Master’s students are also given the opportunity to work on a practical challenge as part of their study program. This is how theory and practice converge.

Education is being transformed

In her inaugural speech Reymen mentioned a few examples of how education is being transformed. Like working in interdisciplinary teams more often, learning on the job and the increasing importance of self-reflection for students. They are able to define their own trajectory much more now, often through projects at TU/e Innovation Space, for example. This requires a certain degree of discipline as well as an open attitude. Teachers are expected to have a coaching role in this. According to the professor, students want to have an impact on society. They really want to make a contribution. This is possible, particularly when the university focuses on socially relevant research and is open to challenges from industry.

The future of  TU/e Innovation Space

In addition to the further expansion of challenge-based learning, (education which works with practical challenges), Reymen also wants to focus on the challenges of the future. For example, she wants to see more opportunities in the fields of agri-food and AI. Networks need to be expanded in order to achieve this. This will enable the university to forge new partnerships with entrepreneurs. Furthermore, work is underway with regard to challenges on which students at various levels (bachelor, master, HBO, MBO) can work together. The university is collaborating with Fontys and Summa for this reason. The first steps have also been taken towards working with the other (technical) universities in the Netherlands on a food related challenge for the Ministry of Defense. There are still plenty of opportunities for TU/e Innovation Space to grow even further, Reymen states.

Research into forms of education

In addition to the day-to-day management, Reymen is also involved in research into this form of education. A culture that encourages students, companies and knowledge institutions to collaborate on projects needs to be in place in order to make this type of education possible. The High Tech Campus is an example of this kind of innovative ecosystem. There is room here for various parties to work together and activities are being organized to support that. Reymen has the view that universities play an increasingly important role in this. Primarily because they are becoming more and more active in collaborations with companies.

In the near future, the professor will focus on further research into the specific role of TU/e Innovation Space within these regional ecosystems. Additionally, she is also looking at themes inside the university. For example, what the best method is for assessing work carried out by interdisciplinary teams. She is also examining how students can learn to reflect more effectively on themselves and how discipline plays a role for students.

It’s about people

Eindhoven University is located in a region where cooperation is commonplace. It is therefore not surprising that it is a leader in the field of challenge-based education. But in the end, it is people who make up a team. Which is why Reymen says that this is the most important thing for her research and work at TU/e innovation Space: it’s all about people.

Inspirational lectures on innovation for SMEs, ‘from theory to market’

Standing still is a step backwards. Entrepreneurs from various disciplines feel an ever-increasing need to innovate. Exactly how they should approach this often remains difficult, especially for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). That is why the Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e), Fontys, MKB Eindhoven and Eindhoven Engine are attempting to inspire innovative entrepreneurs with lectures on the application of promising technologies.

A new series of lectures was launched in August under the name of HIGH5. Here, TU/e professors share their knowledge with entrepreneurs and hope to learn from them through these as well. After such a theoretical lecture, innovative SMEs (often spin-offs from the university) are able to see how that scientific knowledge is applied in their company. “For participating SMEs, it presents a low threshold for access to science and its application potential,” says Monique Greve, initiator of the lectures. The lectures are about 3D printing, photonics and data science and other subjects.

“By combining theory and practice, we want to get entrepreneurs enthusiastic about innovation and inspire them to work with it themselves,” Greve explains. It is more difficult for SMEs to find a way into a university or another knowledge institution. That’s why Greve, together with colleague Herman van Hoeven, has been organizing these low-key lectures for the past five years.

The series kicked off in August with a session on circular economy. “A subject which every entrepreneur has to deal with,” Greve states. That entrepreneurs are interested in these types of innovations was clear to see from the huge list of applicants. “We even had to move to a larger hall,” she says with pride. For the second lecture too, on 3D printing, there were far more applications than available places. “

Bringing companies and knowledge institutions together

It is very interesting for small and medium sized companies to see how a particular technology works and who is involved with it. “Large companies often know where to go for information or ask questions, but this is more difficult for smaller companies,” she explains. For instance, when it comes to robotics or photonics, SMEs are often on their own when it comes to the innovation process. “That’s why we try to provide information during the lectures that suits their needs. We then try to bring companies into contact with each other, along with the employees of the partners involved, by following up with a networking get-together.”

Building a bridge to the market

Through these lectures, the organizing parties try to bridge the gap between research and actual practice related to a particular technology. “This can be done in two ways. Sometimes a researcher is interested in bringing a technology forward to the market. Then we bring the technology from the university into the market, so to speak,” explains Greve.

“On the other hand, there may also be a market demand for a particular technology. Then we are able to establish a link which enables them to move ahead.” They may contact TU/e Innovation Lab or one of the other partners if they have any questions resulting from the lecture. “It depends on which partners are best able to help the entrepreneur,” says Greve.

As an example, the university has for this purpose De Vragenbank (The Question Bank). This is an initiative which enables SMEs to ask students questions about technology. They then provide the company with a basic report containing an answer. After that, companies and students could possibly work together in the long term in order to actually realize plans. “Students and companies are working together on innovation in this way.”

A look into how things work in practice

The lectures are not only interesting for entrepreneurs. “It is also very educational for scientists to get information in return from those in the field as to how things work in practice,” says Greve. “Technologies are being developed at the university, which means that there is an enormous amount of knowledge. The translation to companies is frequently difficult. That’s why it’s good that professors share their ideas with entrepreneurs through these kinds of lectures. These are often the ones who will ultimately apply the technology.” This is how the university aims to create support and enthusiasm for technologies that will eventually appear on the market.

There are still three lectures in the series to attend. These take place on the last Monday of the month and cover the Internet of Things/Digital Twin, Data science and Photonics. More information can be found here.

Mondriaan Fund creates a workspace for two artists at TU/e innovation Space

Innovation Space Gif

In the midst of the battle between the alpha and beta universities for big money, there is some leeway for bringing the two directions a little closer together. The Mondriaan Fund is creating two temporary workspaces at TU/e Innovation Space for visual artists who want to explore the potential of technological research. Artists with a specific research question and a concrete plan for new work which has a focus on technology have until October the 14th to submit a proposal.

Eindhoven University of Technology is specialized in areas such as (mechanical) engineering, chemistry, data and computer science, innovative materials, human-technology interaction and biomedical sciences, but not ordinarily in art. Nevertheless, through the initiative of Isolde Hallensleben, the Mondriaan Fund has found a place in Innovation Space where the two worlds are able to come together. At Innovation Space – where Hallensleben supervises various projects – students, teachers, researchers and companies are helping to resolve complex social and industrial issues. The focus is on innovation, technical design, making prototypes and innovative entrepreneurship.

Read more about Innovation Space here

The fresh perspective of artists

It is a logical step for Hallensleben, who has been connected to Innovation Space since 2016. “To be honest, I’ve been working on this since I first joined the TU/e. And Innovation Space is the ideal place for it.” Hallensleben, who is also associated with Dutch Design Week and VPRO, says it is “bizarre” that there is still hardly any interaction between the TU and the Design Academy. “Especially in this city which is so renowned for the way people work together here.”

Hallensleben is delighted to be able to take the step from “one-off” projects to something more structural. “This is especially important for students. The artists become part of their teams and that often offers a whole new perspective on things. Technology in itself is quite cold, artists are able to add conceptual and abstract thinking. They frequently have a fresh outlook on the way to reach a specific audience.”

Inspirational approach and focused on the target group

The selected artists are to collaborate with interdisciplinary teams of students, teachers, coaches and professors at the TU/e Innovation Space as promised by the Mondriaan Fund. “There are several workshops for making prototypes under the supervision of the technical staff.” Candidates are selected on the basis of a presentation plan wherein they clarify – “how they can reach a suitable audience in an inspiring way and bind them to the project or work that has been created during and after the work period”.

The deadline for submitting an application is Monday 14 October 2019. More information can be found at the Mondriaan Fund.

Best read: 3D printing, from eliminating food waste to personalized medicines

Houses, bridges and even organs. Using a 3D printer, you can make all of it. The market for 3D printing products and technologies will expand to over 22 billion euros by 2030. According to figures from the PWC consultancy firm, the next few years will see growth in aerospace, medical technology and the automotive industry in particular. However, in addition to these growth sectors, there is more to come: Designers who print costumes in 3D, or aircraft fanatics who rebuild a JSF to scale -you guessed it – 3D printed parts. And what’s this week’s best read? Cutting down on food waste by putting food leftovers into a 3D printer.

So what else is happening? And where is it all headed? Today we will take a crystal ball and together with Pieter Debrauwer, have a look at the possibilities this technique has to offer. Debrauwer is director of AMSYSTEMS, a partnership between Eindhoven University of Technology and TNO (Netherlands Organization for Applied Scientific Research), among others. This is where researchers develop 3D printers in collaboration with industry (food, pharmaceutical and high-tech).

You are able to print all kinds of materials, all sorts of plastic, metal, concrete, food and even living cells. Is there something a 3D printer can’t print?

“There are still some types of metal that are difficult to print. There is a lot of research on this. And hard polymers with a high degree of rigidity are difficult as well; these require a higher temperature. Different types of food vary in structure. When it comes to chocolate, you have to deal with coagulation properties. A few years ago it was only possible to print very small quantities of chocolate in order to avoid thermal problems. And now it is possible.”

And printing different types of materials together?

Multi-material printing is a new area. There is a lot of experimentation on how to mix flexible materials with hard ones. Some polymers can be printed at 100 degrees Celsius. As for metal, sometimes up to 1000 degrees Celsius is required. These temperature variances are too high, you must let the metal cool down first. Ideally, you would have to be able to isolate the heat of the metal so that other materials will not be affected by it. However, no solution has been found as yet. Multi-material printing will become increasingly more important in the coming years, as you will be able to combine the properties of different materials.”

Which new developments are making you even more enthusiastic?

“In industry, manufacturers often use 3D printing methods when it concerns specific products in small print runs. Aircraft parts for a certain type of aircraft, for example. Because the quantities involved are low, you want these products to be perfect from the outset. But every product is different; at times it is quite difficult to estimate how material reacts to temperature levels. So it’s not always possible to print things properly in just one go. That’s why we use simulations and digital twins more and more. This enables you to eliminate design errors before you print something. You don’t need to make multiple prototypes of a product which you might only sell once.”

How fast will 3D printers become?

“3D printing will never be able to compete with mass production. At TNO, we made a printer that took 15 minutes to print one piece of pasta.It will take you forever to print a full plate with 25 of those pieces. We have begun to improve this and there are now about 30 pieces coming out at the same time of this printer within 1 minute and 40 seconds. But this still can’t compete with mass production.

However, speed is not the main thing. Components for satellites are also made with a 3D printer. A satellite doesn’t launch every day, so speed doesn’t factor into this. Quality and reliability play a crucial role here.

What is only possible with a 3D printer?

“Due to their layered output design, 3D printers can produce structures that cannot be made with a cast. You see this with implants, for example. To save weight, something that is normally solid can be left hollow. Another example: Turbine blades rotate very quickly which causes them to warm up. But because these blades are curved in a specific way, you cannot drill a straight hole into them. If you make a blade like that with a 3D printer, you are able to print an internal structure which acts as a cooling channel.

What will the future look like?

“I don’t think that the future will be bad at all if certain utilities in a house, like underfloor heating, were to be made by a 3D printer. Today, complete houses are already being churned out of a printer.

In the distant future, we will be able to precisely adapt the dose of a drug to each individual person. At the moment it is too expensive for pharmacists to set up a production line for specific medicines, because the disease is too rare or the medicines are too expensive. The dosage a patient receives is based on weight. Yet because the drug is only made in pills of 1000 mg, someone who only needs 800 mg then gets a higher dose. This might cause unpleasant side effects. What’s more, these drugs are so expensive and are taken by relatively few patients that a personalized dose is not only better for their health, but will ultimately reduce the cost of care as well.