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.


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:


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.


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


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.


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.


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.

> Hitachi ABB Power Grids, Poland

> Brinter, Finland

> RMA Sp. z o.o., Poland

> AGH University of Science and Technology, Poland

>  JRS (J. Rettenmaier & Söhne), Germany

> CRF, Italy

> MEYER TURKU, Finland

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.


Brinter is a trailblazing Finnish bioprinting company. We provide comprehensive 3D bioprinting solutions and services for pharmaceutical, biotechnological and cosmetic industries, universities, and research facilities. We strive to learn our client’s specific applications and needs. Therefore, each Brinter® Bioprinter is custom-built.


JRS is a family-owned company founded in 1878. JRS currently employs more than 3000 people at more than 80 manufacturing and regional sales organizations around the world. 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.

ABIS Poland

Throughout this period of activity we have executed over 1000 projects in various fields of industry and municipal services. We rely on products of the world leading manufacturers, which, combined with training and experience of our designers and programmers, gives our customers the assurance of high quality services.

Abis is targeted its solution for all branches of industry. We connect IT data down to factory floor single station and back built system from basic engineering, design, assembly throw conception of Industry 4.0 to combain date from all working machines, select, report and connect to ERP cloud.

The specialty of our company is the construction of complete manufacturing lines based on industrial robots.

For Novum project Abis will design, construct, assembly and start-up of the pilot line at ABB plant in city Lodz (Poland) with connection of other project partners supplying different technological devices.


CRF mission is the development and transferring of innovative powertrain, vehicles systems & features, materials, processes and methodologies together with expertise in order to improve the competitiveness of FCA products.

CRF develops research and innovation along the three principal axes of sustainability: environmental, social and economical conducting collaborative research initiatives at the national and international levels concerned targeting specifically the industrial exploitation of research. CRF supports FCA in the protection and enhancement of intellectual property management

Hitachi ABB Power Grids, POLAND

Hitachi ABB Power Grids is creating a sustainable energy future with groundbreaking technologies. Together with our customers, we are building a stronger, smarter and more environmentally friendly energy system.

Hitachi ABB Power Grids manufactures, designs, supplies and maintains transformers and reactors, power grid management guidance, automation and control systems and projects, as well as transmission and distribution network solutions such as substations for energy and electricity companies, industry, transport and infrastructure.

To deliver maximum value, Hitachi ABB Power Grids has four global Business Units (Transformers, High Voltage Products, Grid Integration, Grid Automation) and have local offices and research centers spanning 90 countries. This highly networked design enables our 36,000 experts to stay close to customers (fostering a strong awareness and knowledge of local market operating conditions), connecting the latest pioneering developments and solutions, competence and reference points from our global Business Units.


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


MEYER TURKU OY, family-owned by Meyer family, is one of the leading European shipbuilding companies. The successful shipbuilding tradition in Turku shipyard has been continuing since 1737 by Meyer Turku and its predecessors.

The company provides state-of-the-art technology solutions, advanced construction processes and cutting edge innovations for cruise operators and other ship owners. We are a reliable partner for designing and building innovative, tailor-made cruise vessels and ferries according to the customer’s needs. The ships built in Turku shipyard are known to be the safest, most environmentally friendly, comfortable, reliable and energy efficient in the industry. Over the years the shipyard has built more than 1,300 new ships for customers around the world.

MEYER TURKU has over 2,000 employees and is a major employer in Southwest Finland but also throughout the maritime network in Finland. To be able to build today’s magnificent ships, shipyard works closely in co-operation with an effective and efficient network of suppliers. All combined, the Finnish maritime cluster employs over 30, 000 people. The cluster is a network of all actors involved in technology, education, training and manufacturing, formed around the maritime industries and shipping.


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.