Managing the R&D process

From emerging idea to an automated production line

Finding the right idea and then cultivating it into a product tailored to our customers’ needs requires a specific approach. Our innovation methodology comprises several steps to ensure that customers benefit from a dedicated and efficient process. Once an idea gets to the prototype stage, both our extensive lab facilities and our pilot lines support the further refinement of the new product.

Speeding up our time to market

Development can also be done via modeling. In 2011, we continued to focus on the process of numerical modeling to speed up our time to market. Using computer simulation, our developments are designed and undergo extensive virtual testing. A real life model is produced, in line with customer requirements, only when a development is tried and tested via simulation. This results in a faster development process, a significant decrease in cost and improved customer focus.  

One of the domains where numerical modeling proves successful is in the development of profiled wires. The final shape is obtained after multiple rolling steps. Complex profiles require sophisticated tools and the design of these tools calls for extensive experience and testing. Using numerical modeling to obtain the required shape of the roll grooves reduces and in some cases eliminates the number of experiments, resulting in reduced lead times and reduced development costs, as well as in improved rolling conditions.

Modeling has also been successfully applied in the design and development of equipment. The advantage is two-fold: the design cycle reduces dramatically, resulting in a first-time-right solution, and we are able to optimize our equipment.

At Bekaert, R&D goes beyond product development. Our 2 main Technology Centers are also equipped with pilot production lines. Extensive testing of new materials and products in these pilot plants allows us to roll them out to our production platforms worldwide, without the initial difficulties that typically arise during start-up.

Investing for the longer term

To sustain our technological leadership, we invest in fundamental research, both on the product and on the process level. Every year we explore new possibilities in metal transformation and advanced coatings on wire. New business development projects also support our long term innovation strategy.
On a process level, we intensively search for new technologies that reduce our energy consumption and environmental impact. Reduction in water consumption and waste streams are important achievements within this area.

Acknowledgement

Our thanks go to the Flemish government agency for Innovation by Science and Technology (IWT) as well as to the Belgian government. Their subsidies & incentives for R&D projects, involving highly-educated scientific personnel and researchers in Flanders are pivotal in securing the foothold of our R&D activities in Belgium.

Protecting our intellectual property

As a technology leader, we make significant strides in protecting our intellectual property, both for new and for improved technologies and for processes & products. In 2011, we filed 48 new patent applications. To recognize the Bekaert inventors and to stimulate patent protection, our Industrial Property Department organized the Bekaert Inventors Day in Kortrijk (Belgium), Assen (The Netherlands) and Jiangyin (Jiangsu province, China).

On 19 May 2011, Ann Lambrechts, head of R&D building products at Bekaert, won the European Inventor Award in the category Industry. This award, granted by the European Patent Office, is one of the greatest honors an inventor can receive in Europe. Ann Lambrechts received this important recognition for the development of Dramix® steel fibers for concrete reinforcement with flattened hook-shaped ends. The construction industry welcomed this innovative fiber design as it opens up a world of new application possibilities. Ann's invention increases the bending tensile strength of concrete by up to 32%, compared to similar hooked end fibers without flattening.

Our Technology Centers are equipped with state of the art lab facilities for both fundamental and applied research.

  • Share
  • Print