The new joint laboratory of will be hosted at premises of the Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology (LIST) in Hautcharage. Researchers from LIST and Gradel engineers will work together to develop Gradel’s ground-breaking technology known as “xFK in 3D”.

A joint laboratory for ultra-lightweight structures

Robotic arm used in the joint laboratory of LIST and GradelIn the space and satellite industry, weight is expensive – the heavier a product is, the more expensive it is to transport it into space. In their new joint laboratory, LIST and Gradel aim to produce very tough but ultra-lightweight structures. They will use continuous carbon-fibre-reinforced polymers (CFRP) in a filament winding process to create ultralight 3D structures. The carbon fibre is coated with a polymer that solidifies the entire object and makes it extremely solid and resilient. The optimised 3D-mesch design gives the parts their special mechanical properties.

The joint team will work on two projects. “xFKin3D” – named after the process technology used – aims to make structural parts by weaving the filament manually to demonstrate the use in space. “Robotised xFKin3D” has the objective of producing the same parts using a new robotic arm recently installed at LIST, thereby making the manufacturing process fully automated and make it possible to produce parts on an industrial scale. By replacing parts that traditionally are made out of metal and therefore relatively heavy, a reduction of weight of up to 75% can be achieved. The parts will be commercialised by Gradel, which already has a proven track record of producing products for the space industry.

Research cooperation

LIST will contribute to the projects with its expertise in the formation of materials. The institute will research issues such as the optimal conditions, speed, printing, pressing and temperature to obtain strong parts of good quality. “Setting up joint laboratories to support innovative Luxembourg companies is at the very heart of our missions,” said Dr Damien Lenoble, director of LIST’s Materials Research and Technology (MRT) department. MRT already hosts a joint lab set up with French company 3D-Oxide to accelerate the discovery of new functional materials allowing the development of the hydrogen sector in Luxembourg.

The joint projects with Gradel are supported under Luxembourg’s national space programme LuxIMPULSE, which provides funding to help Luxembourg-based companies bring innovative ideas to the market. The programme is managed by the Luxembourg Space Agency together with the European Space Agency.