… separation also needs to be efficient.” This very ambitious approach has underpinned the research partnership between Management Center Innsbruck and MANN+HUMMEL for many years now, with great success. A better, marketable product was created in the short timeframe of their last project together (to design and develop a cyclone cell), and this success can be related to one factor: the mutual trust between the project partners.
Management Center Innsbruck (MCI) is an entrepreneurial school and a subsidiary of the University of Innsbruck. Its main task is to provide students with a high-quality education whilst conducting applied research geared towards industry.
I manage the research, development and technology transfer in the Engineering & Life Science Departments, which covers Process and Energy Engineering, Bio and Food Technology and Mechatronics, as well as the Industrial Engineering & Management department. We feed our seven research clusters from these technical core disciplines. One of these clusters is Fluids & Mechanics, bundling expertise from the areas of structural mechanics and fluid mechanics as well as particle technology and fluid system technology. The research partnership with MANN+HUMMEL is also located in the Fluids & Mechanics cluster.
One of the strengths of Fluids & Mechanics is the interdisciplinarity, including approaches like the experimental verification option for simulations and control technology-based intervention in mechanical systems. The focus of our work is to find the most suitable solution for the problem in question. To make conditions as close to the industry reality as possible, we use 3D printing to make prototypes, which are then field tested and in turn allow conclusions to be drawn for computer-aided simulation.
This procedure was also used during the research project to design and develop a cyclone cell, commissioned by the Industrial Filters Business Unit at MANN+HUMMEL and carried out between April 2014 and April 2015. Target values, including the maximum pressure drop and the separation efficiency achievable for the cyclone cell being developed, were defined and set for the project. Building on this, we also identified optimisation potential and implemented this in a number of prototypes. These optimisations tweaked how the dispersed gas flow phenomena inside the cyclone are measured, which involved evaluation with laser-optical PIV measurement systems and optimisation with empirical test series.
The targets MANN+HUMMEL set for us during research projects are always quite challenging. At the beginning, the targets may sometimes seem rather unrealistic, but they do act as an incentive for our employees to think outside the box. This may seem dissuasive for many people, but I think you have to set high aims in order to allow your employees to outperform. In return, MANN+HUMMEL gives us enough freedom when it comes to choosing the methodological approach, spending the research budget or selecting the laboratory equipment for the project.
What I really enjoy about working with MANN+HUMMEL on research projects is the high level of cooperation and mutual trust between the parties, which wasdeveloped over the previous eight years. With this kind of set-up, our research can pursue different avenues and we are not under constant pressure to deliver the end product as quickly as possible. Our project partners at MANN+HUMMEL trust us to deliver good results at the right time, provided that they allow us an appropriate level of research freedom – something our past successes show to be true. With all this in mind, the research projects are highly enjoyable.
Our project partners are really good engineers with lots of experience on such projects, and we can work on eye level. As an academic, you do generally have a little less insight into market requirements than the people coming directly from the industry. This combination of know-how makes the projects so exciting, too, because you get the chance to take part in discussions about marketability and feasibility of products, which is not our daily business.. When collaborating on projects with industry, all sides can learn a lot from each other: the industry gains problem-solving concepts, the research centres can motivate their employees with exciting and relevant project tasks, and the students get invaluable insights into areas in which they will potentially be working in the future.