Background.

EFFECIENCY’S COMPETITIVE EDGE

The global market for electrical insulation components amounts to $1.19Bn in sales and $321M in Europe.  In the increasing global competition, there is a growing need to develop more efficient and agile manufacturing processes and thus to fortify the competitiveness of the European electrical insulation manufacturing industry.

Electrical insulation components are used in oil-cooled power and distribution transformers. The components are made to different three-dimensional shapes, and cellulose is a common raw material for the insulation components due to its high purity, excellent dielectric strength, good mechanical strength, ability to be permeated with oil, and long lifetime at operating temperature.

While we believe that the use of bio-based cellulose is a positive one, the manufacturing process is complex, consisting of multiple stages, consuming a lot of time and energy, and is labour-intensive.  Moreover, as shown here, each power transformer unit usually has a very specific and individual design, which influences also the design of the insulation components.

Consequently, for each insulation component an individual metal mould has to be fabricated resulting in hundreds or even thousands of moulds being organised and stored. Finally, the process results in significant material waste.

A NEW WAY FORWARD

There is a clear need to improve the manufacturing process of electrical insulation components, in terms of energy consumption, waste generation, duration and automation. In addition, it would be beneficial if the dependency of the process on moulds, especially metal moulds, could be reduced.

Lastly, in the era of industry 4.0 flexible workstations equipped with robots are becoming more popular, automation of processes is one of the main areas of change in the factory of the future. Part of this trend is the progressive introduction of smart robots to perform repetitive tasks, freeing up employees to assume functions requiring a greater skill or more tasks.

Photo: Urszula Czapla/ABB

Main activities.

NOVUM aims to develop a ground-breaking manufacturing concept for electrical insulation components and thus build a basis for a radical renewal of the manufacturing industry. This can revolutionize the way in which power transformers are designed and produced, and lead to the transition from the current manual production to automated production lines with increased resource and energy efficiency.

The NOVUM approach is a three-stage development of the novel pilot line concept for production of cellulose-based electrical insulation components, driven by the end-product and process intensification specifications.

The three stages are:

Technology.

The technologies selected for NOVUM have been demonstrated for cellulose-based materials in different industrial sectors such as pulp & paper, food packaging, construction (as insulation materials) and medical materials/scaffolds. They are new to the electrical insulation application sector in focus of NOVUM, but upon success, will facilitate the electrical insulation part design and provide flexibility and resource efficiency for their manufacturing. Furthermore, the process technology advances in the NOVUM can also be transferred to other industrial sectors interested in applying cellulose-based materials in novel manufacturing processes.

The solutions for resource and energy efficiency will be developed cross-sectoral in cooperation with several industrial sectors including Pulp & Paper, Natural fibre processing, Moulded pulp processing, Engineering, Components manufacturing, across the whole value chain. This is to ensure the adaptation of best practices each sector has innovated or established.

Flexibility in the components production is a major driver in the novel production concept development in NOVUM. Two different but possibly integrated production approaches are in focus:

  • Production of components with more sophisticated design and smaller production series by 3D printing
  • Production of less complicated structural components with larger production series by forming technologies.

Cellulose-based material development

Optimised formulations for cellulose-based
material for 3D printing, foam forming, and
thermoforming have been developed.

3D printing of cellulose-based materials

3D printing equipment has been optimised for processing of cellulose-based materials. Advanced cellulose-based materials meeting the defined processing end-product and specifications have been printed into defined structures.

Foam forming for production of shaped cellulose structures

Foam forming process has been developed for optimal manufacturing of electrical insulation components. Components meeting the end-product specifications have been produced with a process concept based on foam forming technology.

Thermoforming for production of shaped cellulose structures

Thermoforming process has been developed for optimal manufacturing of electrical insulation components. Components meeting the end product specifications have been produced with a process concept based on thermoforming technology.

The production technologies in focus in NOVUM are flexible and modular, allowing the production at different scales. Processing technologies that have been so far used for cellulose-based materials in lab scale, such as 3D printing and forming with foam, will be demonstrated in pilot scale to produce electrical insulation components. Thermoforming is currently operated at larger scale but not yet for electrical insulation components, requiring advanced technology and specific material formulations.

The processing technologies will be assessed in terms of their technical feasibility at industrial scale, as well as economic and environmental impacts, also taking into account the circular economy considerations.

Objectives.

The main objectives of NOVUM are :

> Develop and demonstrate a compact and feasible pilot line concept based on novel processing technologies for rapid, design-driven production of advanced cellulose-based electrical insulation components.

> Manufacture two different types of electrical insulation components meeting the technical product requirements in the new pilot line constructed in the project.

3D shaped structure produced by 3D printing from molar mass controlled cellulose derivative

IMPROVED MANUFACTURING PROCESSES

The new streamlined manufacturing concept developed in NOVUM will aim to a leap in the manufacturing process of electrical insulation components. Remarkable improvement in terms of energy consumption, waste generation, duration and automation will be obtained. It will also have a positive impact on both the quality and reliability of insulation components as well as on the daily output of the components as well as on production flexibility.
This new pilot line will result in significant efficiency improvement and higher productivity and flexibility, while ensuring lower operational costs as compared with the state-of-the-art process. Manual production will be replaced by an automated manufacturing concept with increased resource efficiency, including 40% reduction in labour time and 60% reduction in waste generation, 20% lower energy consumption and 40% decrease in operating costs.

MARKET ATTRACTIVENESS

Cellulose, as a renewable, non-toxic, non-allergic, and abundant forest material, has several benefits to be utilized in a wide range of applications. Currently, it is, however, mostly used in large scale applications: paper, packaging, and textile.  The current industrial technologies have limitations in forming three dimensional structures from cellulose, which could be beneficial in complex shaped soft or hard objects.

On-demand and customer-oriented manufacturing will thus become feasible and enable the market competitiveness. An additional benefit with the introduction of novel processing for cellulose-based materials is promoting the utilisation of renewable and abundant bio-based raw material for the current application and beyond.

The technical, feasibility, and sustainability objectives which support the above are:

To formulate at least one advanced, well performing cellulose-based material for each selected processing technology providing excellent properties for the electrical insulation components.

To further develop the novel 3D printing, foam forming and thermoforming technologies for resource efficient manufacturing of the electrical insulation components.

To establish a novel manufacturing concept based on 3D printing and forming leading to high performance electrical insulation components applicable to harsh environments and resulting in improvements on the existing manual manufacturing process.

To use the new pilot line to be constructed during the project for two different demonstrations of electrical insulation components meeting the set technical product requirements.

To quantify impacts and select and deploy the best alternatives for resource and cost-efficient production of electrical insulation components from cellulose-based materials with positive socio-economic impact including the impacts of the circular economy in relation to the current manufacturing technologies.

To develop and adapt business models for commercial innovations to strategically manage their marketability beyond the duration of the project.

Consortium.

NOVUM is an industry-driven project with 10 European partners from several steps along the value chain. The industrial partners have a clear view on the business exploitation of the results from NOVUM.  The consortium consists of 3 large industries and 5 SMEs as well as 2 research partners. Research organisations provide their expertise on cellulose material science, novel process technologies, and testing of prototype components, as well as their supporting and management expertise. This will maximise the industrial exploitation of the project results.

> VTT, Finland

> ABB , Poland

> ECOXPAC, Denmark

> VERTECH GROUP, France

> 3DTECH, Finland

> RMA Sp. z o.o., Poland

> EXERGY, United Kingdom

> AGH University of Science and Technology, Poland

>  JRS (J. Rettenmaier & Söhne), Germany

> MUNKSJO APPRIEU, France

VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland Ltd, FINLAND

VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland Ltd is the leading research and technology company in the Nordic countries. Our research and innovation services give our partners, both private and public, all over the world a competitive edge. We pave the way for the future by developing new smart technologies, profitable solutions and innovation services.
We create technology for business – for the benefit of society.
Multidisciplinary experts work together to help customers and partners create new products, production processes, methods, and services. In doing so, promote sustainable development, employment and well-being. The broad network of co-operators means access to customers to the best knowledge worldwide. We can also offer top of the line research facilities and a wide range of IPR and licensing services.

ECOXPAC A/S ecoX, DENMARK

ecoXpac A/S (ecoX) is a manufacturing and technology development company within the industry of molded paper fiber. ecoX was founded in 2005 as a production company utilizing the known industrial technology of Hot Pressing (thermoforming of moulded pulp), to provide high quality and output packaging. Through the years, ecoX researched greatly upon the basic technology to increase manufacturing capability. Having achieved the apex of improvement on traditional thermoforming manufacturing technology (2010), the organization shifted focus from manufacturing to technology development. To achieve never previously seen levels of energy expenditure and output capability, ecoX is now the leading developer of previously non-industrialised Impulse Drying Technology (IDT). ecoX is now, the leading developer of IDT for commercial usage in moulded fiber; the majority of technology development takes place at the main site of the company, but is supported by involvement in Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs). Through previous progress in technology maturing, IDT is ripe for, and will be furthered by, the tasks of this project.

In addition to the focus on development of industrially applicable manufacturing technologies, ecoX holds a strong competency within molded fiber production. This combination of development and production competencies, primes the organization for designed technology development toward project oriented purposes. Within the ecoX product portfolio, highly complex 3D shapes take up a majority and priority. This also entails a high level of personnel involvement in advanced manufacturing design. Both aspects are beneficial to the project objectives.

3D TECH OY

3DTech Oy is a Finnish High Tech start-up company in the field of Additive Manufacturing or in the other words 3D printing. Our key areas of expertise include 3D Printing Processes Technology Development as well as providing solutions to our customers in the field of 3D Printing, 3D Scanning, 3D Design, contract manufacturing, and consultation.

3DTech’s R&D activities are focused on bio- and recycled material composites aiming at the sustainable use of natural resources, as well as philosophies like made to order, close to end customer with the possibility for personalized mass production. 3DTech is a micro SME having a staff of 7 persons including owners, but company is very well networked globally with other micro companies, global corporations, research institutes and Universities which gives the company a solid ground to grow to a major global player in the selected business fields.

EXERGY LTD EXE, United Kingdom

EXERGY is a leading renewable energy and engineering company with the expertise in architecture, solar technologies, monitoring systems, heating and cooling systems, industrial process engineering and energy performance assessments. Exergy provides services, across the globe, construct and operate projects that contribute to developing a low-carbon and sustainable future.

Exergy has been in the built environment and renewable energy industry for over 10 years, playing a major role in the development of sustainable and energy efficient engineering systems. Operating across a range of innovative low-carbon energy technologies, Exergy’s capabilities cover everything from project planning to construction and from operation to re-use, while they stand by our clients as technical experts throughout the project life cycle.

Exergy helps their clients manage the cost and implementation of their buildings services and construction projects, guide them throughout the project life cycle and achieve target sustainability ratings and benchmarks. Exergy collaborates with architects, facility and construction managers to deliver efficient systems, buildings and communities.
Exergy development of a large-scale solar farm in Nigeria, retrofitting of a prestigious university’s campus buildings whilst achieving the target sustainability measures, analysis and assessment of a sea water reverse osmosis plant located in Spain, installation and commissioning of a variety of technologies and monitoring systems are a few examples of Exergy’s technical and practical capabilities which have given them industry-leading skills and expertise.

JRS, J. RETTENMAIER & Söhne Group

JRS is a family-owned company founded in 1878. JRS currently employs more than 2400 people at more than 30 production plants world-wide. JRS is committed to the development, processing and optimization of high-grade natural fibers from cellulose, wood, grain and fruit plants for use in pharmaceuticals, foodstuffs and technical applications. The products are mainly used as additives for the industry. The research facilities of JRS have equipment for the mechanical and chemical modification of organic cellulosic plant materials and their characterization. JRS is a solution provider with extensive functional know-how, expertise in applications, specific raw material selection, application support, metering and conveying systems as well as global QA and logistics support.

MUNKSJO APPRIEU Munksjo France

Ahlstrom-Munksjö is a global leader in fibre-based materials, supplying innovative and sustainable solutions to customers worldwide. The Ahlstrom-Munksjö share is listed on the Nasdaq Helsinki and Stockholm. The company was formed on April 1, 2017 through the merger of Ahlstrom Corporation and Munksjö Oyj. Their offerings include decor paper, filter media, release liners, abrasive backings, nonwovens, electrotechnical paper, glass fibre materials, food packaging and labelling, tape, medical fibre materials and solutions for diagnostics.
The Research & Development Centre in Apprieu, in France, is composed of specialists in different knowledge areas related to fibre use (refining, chemistry, materials and others), supports the R&D structures of the four business areas – Industrial Solutions, Decor, Filtration & Performance and Specialties, as well as partners, with samples analysis, knowledge in several technologies and solution proposals. The centre also counts on advanced technology, allowing deep analysis of the raw material used in the paper production and its impacts in the production process; a paper production pilot machine, equipment for coating and calendaring paper; also, equipment for electronic microscopy analysis, topography surface, gas chromatography and others.

ABB Sp. z o.o., POLAND

ABB is a pioneering technology leader in electrification products, robotics and motion, industrial automation and power grids, serving customers in utilities, industry and transport & infrastructure globally. Continuing a history of innovation spanning more than 130 years, ABB today is writing the future of industrial digitalization and driving the Energy and Fourth Industrial Revolutions. As title partner of Formula E, the fully electric international FIA motorsport class, ABB is pushing the boundaries of e-mobility to contribute to a sustainable future. ABB operates in more than 100 countries with about 136,000 employees.

ABB is the global leader in transformer technology with a leading global market share and an innovation track record. The company is a major manufacturer of insulation components used in power generation, transmission and distribution.

ABB Sp. z o.o. is one of the leading providers for the energy and automation sector in Poland, with a total orders at $837 mln (2016). The company is headquartered in Warsaw and employs over 5000 people. Its scope of operations includes 11 factories across 7 locations as well as Global Business Services Center and Corporate Research Center in Krakow. ABB’s Lodz factory is the company’s largest production center in Poland. It is also one of the world’s largest and most important producers of distribution transformers, power transformers and electrical insulation based on cellulose for power transformers including SPT and LMPT.

The ABB Corporate Research Center located in the heart of Krakow, Poland was established in 1997. The location was selected on the basis of the strong academic population in Krakow enabling the Research Centre to recruit high-flying MSc and PhD researchers. Members of the multidisciplinary, multinational team at ABB Corporate Research Center devise and execute projects in the areas of power system networks, medium and high voltage products, power electronics, material science, multiphysics simulations, distribution system automation, advanced manufacturing technologies, information technology and diagnostics and asset monitoring. These projects are regularly run in collaboration with colleagues at other research centres and universities from across the globe. In addition to bringing state-of-the art research to a level that is ready for productization and commercialization, ABB scientists look to disseminate their findings with both academic peers, through publications in international journals and presentations at leading conferences, and with the wider community through initiatives such as the European Commission’s Researcher’s Night.

VERTECH GROUP, FRANCE

VERTECH GROUP is a leading French environmental engineering SME. It creates value by supporting organisations in improving their sustainability performance and minimising their impact on the environment. The company is based in France’s Eco Valley – the city of Nice – a real, sustainable urban environment. VERTECH GROUP is also present in Madrid, Spain, with plans for future expansion.
VERTECH GROUP is a member and regular contributor to many international platforms, such as:
• The Education Committee of the forum for Sustainability and Life Cycle Innovation (FSLCI)
• The Sustainable Recycling Industries, from the World Resources Forum.
• The French Life Cycle Assessment network
• The Indian LCA Alliance
• The Ibero-American Life Cycle Network and its technical committee.

The company contributes with the UNEP/SETAC Life Cycle initiative, and is a Full Member of the SPIRE platform (Sustainable Process Industry through Resource and Energy Efficiency) and Bio Based Industries Consortium Technical member in the ISO IWA 19: 2017: Guidance principles for the sustainable management of secondary metals. VERTECH GROUP participates actively in R&D projects in different sectors: Energy, Waste, Water, Building & Industry and Materials.

AKADEMIA GORNICZO-HUTNICZA IM. STANISLAWA STASZICA W KRAKOWIE AGH (AGH University of Science and Technology), POLAND

4138 employees and 33 455 students make AGH University of Science and Technology in Krakow, one of the best and most renowned modern universities in Poland.
AGH UST consist of 16 faculties and 20 basic units which cover 59 branches of science.
AGH UST has a number of commercial technological and scientific laboratories and over 680 laboratories which are used for educational purposes. The Faculty of Materials Science and Ceramics is the only one in Poland and one of few in Europe focused on both research and education of non-organic and non-metallic materials and ceramicsThe Faculty has many research and development laboratories with top class equipment and also one certified laboratory of building and ceramic materials testing for the industry.

In June 2013, the Faculty acquired accreditation of European Network for Accreditation of Engineering Education for academic years from 2012/13 to 2017/2018 at first and second level of Materials Science studies. It is the first European Accreditation for Materials Science studies in Poland. The scientific and research activity at the Faculty of Electrical Engineering, Automatics, Computer Science and Biomedical Engineering concentrates on modern techniques and technologies in information, bioengineering, robotics, environmentally-friendly production, transportation and the use of electrical energy, modern electrical equipment, and metrology. Research conducted at the faculty usually finds practical solutions in various areas.

The Department of Electrical and Power Engineering is an organizational unit of the Faculty.
The Department operates in two main research areas:
 transmission and distribution of electricity and technical problems, economic and ecological operation in electricity,
 theory of nonlinear electrical circuits, analysis and mobile application neural network analysis of the electromagnetic field and the construction and operation of fuel cells

RMA SP ZOO RMA Poland

RMA is a private Ltd. company based entirely on the Polish capital. It was founded in 2008 as a company specialized in automation and robotization of processes productions. Our solutions allow to streamline manufacturing processes and THUS to reduce manufacturing costs, improve product quality, Increase efficiency and safety.
RMA’s offer is targeted to all branches of industry. Our main objective is to improve efficiency and the quality of manufacturing for our customers. With this goal in mind, we create new technologies, innovative automated and robotized stations and production lines.
Our strength is an experienced team of engineers and specialists with Achievements allow that undertaking complex projects. We employ 43 highly skilled, well qualified and experienced personnel in the automation, electronics, electrical engineering, mechanics and robotics
RMA is expert in designing stream-lined manufacturing processes and will design, construct, assembly and start-up of the pilot line at ABB transformers plant in city Lodz (Poland) under supervision of ABB.
The ultimate specialty of our company is the construction of complete manufacturing lines based on industrial robots. Our team prepares solutions that are tailored to the specific nature of a given product and customer requirements.

IMPACT.

NOVUM will have impacts across the manufacturing industry, addressing especially the chemical industry, engineering and power sector.

A special emphasis will be placed on the cross-sectorial vision of SPIRE, focusing on:

  • Using energy and resources more efficiently and reducing / preventing waste.
  • Replacing current inefficient processes with more energy and resource efficient processes when sustainability analysis has confirmed the benefits.
  • Reinventing materials and products to have significantly increased impact on resource and energy efficiency over the value chain.

NOVUM will focus especially on novel, radically improved production technologies. The partners have already identified and developed novel technologies for cellulose-based material processing. In the current project they will put together their solutions and experiences to develop a novel, flexible pilot line for production of cellulose-based electrical insulation components.

The knowledge on advances and integration of agile technologies for processing cellulose materials generated in NOVUM will be shared with larger industrial and research audience through the open technology platform. Further development of the processing technologies will facilitate the adaptation, transfer and take-up of the technologies in a cross-sectorial manner.

The utilisation of bio-based, renewable and abundant feedstock to replace fossil-based materials has the potential to contribute to Europe’s industrial and economic growth, as well as to significantly reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, other environmental burdens and resource dependency.

With the novel processing technologies and sustainable raw materials, NOVUM will target at significant reduction in resource (energy & raw material) consumption. This approach will facilitate the decoupling of human well-being from resource consumption, or on a wider perspective economic growth from environmental effects. This will help the transition into a Green Economy.