Increased efficiency increases market power - Leister Infrared Systems / Krelus
In many industrial production processes, the competitiveness of a component depends not least on the quality of the heat input. As a leading manufacturer of infrared heaters, Krelus is further expanding its position thanks to the support of the High-Tech Center Aargau.
Since its launch 44 years ago, Krelus has focused on the manufacture of infrared heaters and related controls. The range of applications for these high-performance, tailor-made devices is wide: coating (e.g. of plastics, textiles and paper), thermoforming, activation of adhesives, drying of printing inks, welding of plastics - to name just a few examples.
An important new field of application is the production and curing of thermoset fiber composite structures, such as wing structures for an aircraft, wind turbines or car spoilers. A lot of energy is needed for this process. Complex plant technology is also required.
In view of the increasing price pressure on the market for such composite structures, Krelus strived to make this process faster and easier to control and to increase energy efficiency. Ultimately, in order to also reduce the costs for the plant.
In order to achieve this goal, the High-Tech Centre Aargau initiated a feasibility study at the end of 2016 and was able to win suitable external project partners: the Institute of Polymer Engineering IKT (Institut für Kunststofftechnik) of the School of Engineering Switzerland FHNW in Windisch for the research work. At the Plastics Training and Technology Centre (KATZ) in Aarau, existing facilities can be used.
Lower energy costs
The solution is to direct the required amount of heat onto the surface of the component to be cured using an infrared heater field in order to optimally control the curing process. This significantly reduces the thermal mass to be heated as well as the duration of this working process.
The innovation consists in the development of a model to determine the local control parameters for the individually controllable radiation fields. The process should immediately deliver the required product in a fraction of the time previously required. The feasibility study was carried out on the basis of a fibre composite material with an expensive synthetic resin. These material systems are used, for example, in the aerospace and automotive industries.
With its proven infrared heater modules, Krelus has an instrument at its disposal to offer optimal process solutions. The successful feasibility study focused on components in the form of flat plates. In spring 2018, an Innosuisse follow-up study with three-dimensional structures in the center was realized. The long-term goal is to develop the technology to industrial-scale application.
Leendert den Haan, technology and innovation expert at the Hightech Zentrum Aargau: «Krelus is an excellent example of how high-tech can also be achieved by SMEs in Aargau and that there is global demand for it».
Krelus exports its products to more than 60 countries. For Krelus, Hans U. Jordi, Senior Consultant, focuses on a further point: «At Krelus, we greatly appreciate the cooperation with the High-Tech Centre Aargau because the competent consulting team was able to find the right partners for our research project quickly and easily.»