29 Sep 2022
“M2C” intends to address micro-technological challenges faced by industry, including laser 3D printing.EPFL, Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (based in Lausanne) and CSEM, Swiss Center for Electronics and Microtechnology (Neuchâtel) have joined forces to create the Micromanufacturing Science & Engineering Center (M2C), a new hub for pure research and technology transfer.
The M2C, which focuses on high-precision 3D microfabrication, will cover every step of the development process – from pure research at EPFL laboratories to the transfer of sustainable, high value-added technologies to industry under the guidance of CSEM. The new center based in Neuchâtel, is designed to catalyze collaboration between academic, institutional and industrial partners, as well as serving as an education and training platform for members and users.
‘Raising the bar for precision’
“3D fabrication methods are raising the bar for precision and digitization,” commented Bruno Studach, operational director of M2C at EPFL. “These techniques are shifting the industrial landscape, taking us toward a future in which objects and computers are increasingly connected. Investing in these rapidly evolving fields is vital if we are to stay ahead of the global competition and remain at the forefront of innovation. The M2C was created with precisely these challenges in mind.”
The partners say that the growing popularity of additive manufacturing, also known as 3D printing, “can be attributed to the fact that it unleashes creative freedom and allows engineers to build complex yet lightweight and robust components.”
With 3D printing, every step in the process can be digitized – from design to production. Moreover, a single machine can build fundamentally different objects. The scientists and engineers at the M2C will explore ways to capitalize on new materials and production systems through design, development and testing.
With their distinctive characteristics, 3D-printed parts appeal to sectors and industries as diverse as space exploration, custom prosthetics, microfluidic devices and watchmaking. Moreover, because sensors and other technologies can be built directly into these components, they open the door to the collection of varied and precise data sets for applications such as predictive maintenance and complex system monitoring.
The M2C team will develop solutions for systems and components on scales ranging from a few microns to several dozen centimeters. The center’s work aligns with the advanced manufacturing strategic focus area of the ETH Domain.
“This multidisciplinary alliance will allow EPFL and CSEM labs to share cutting-edge facilities and work together to fast-track the adoption of new manufacturing technologies,” commented Olha Sereda, the group leader in additive manufacturing at CSEM. “That means Swiss manufacturers will keep pushing the boundaries of innovation and stay competitive on the global stage.”
In related news, CSEM is coordinating an EU-funded project to enhance the performance of thermal control systems by developing 3D-printed pipes with embedded sensors. In addition to potentially opening up new avenues of fundamental research for both CERN and the European space industry, these “smart” pipes could have uses in areas ranging from industrial heating and cooling systems to irrigation mechanisms for Industry 4.0.
The project, called Advanced Heat Exchange Devices (AHEAD), kicked off this summer and aims to revolutionize thermal control systems – critical components of a number of high-performance devices like satellites and space rockets. With AHEAD, the goal is to develop systems that are compact, less expensive and wireless, allowing for real-time data collection and improved efficiency.