30 May 2022 |
Research article |
Innovative Materials and Advanced Manufacturing
Bringing Intelligence to the Circular Economy
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Lucas Hof, Professor of Mechanical Engineering at ÉTS for just over three years, is passionate about innovation, creating intelligent manufacturing processes for optimal integration into the circular economy. This issue directly concerns the ecological characteristics of sustainable development in addition to reducing manufacturing costs for companies.
“My research is at the crossroads of capitalism and ecology: by reducing waste and manufacturing costs for companies, we become good for the environment!”
Lucas Hof is working on developing smart technologies to make manufacturing processes more efficient through recycling and remanufacturing. His efforts are in line with Industry 4.0 principles aimed at mass customization or, in other words, large-scale custom manufacturing.
A Sustainable and Intelligent Manufacturing System
In a system that upholds the principles of the circular economy, Professor Hof is working on a smart chip inserted into a product containing all the data relevant to the object’s manufacturing.
“This embedded intelligence makes it possible to take the product apart at the end of its life cycle, knowing the qualities of the parts and components and their level of degradation. We also know all the chemicals used during the manufacturing process and their toxicity. This way, we can choose what to recycle and what to reuse.”
This efficient reuse is part of the circular economy and sustainable development. It’s a bit like a recipe, with the preparation steps and the list of ingredients broken down. “This way of doing things reduces the pressure on the demand for raw materials, energy and use of toxic products.”
Large companies are obviously interested in the manufacturing processes developed by Lucas Hof. His work focuses on creating printable materials in a circular economy context, and high-precision processes for complex materials. He is also a member of the ÉTS Numérix and Dynamo laboratories, CIRODD, RRECQ, CERIEC, and the Innovation 4.0 Network.
Helping Others, a Personal Value
The call of the pandemic to solve problems for the population has a familiar ring for Lucas Hof. “Helping others is a family value, as is participating in solving problems that affect them.” Early in the Covid 19 pandemic, he coordinated a community of manufacturers in the Covi3D initiative to provide printed visors to CHUM staff. He also co-authored a white paper for small and medium-sized companies interested in shifting their production to medical devices.
Working with students is also a form of mutual aid for him. “The opportunity to transfer knowledge and methods to younger people, to use my life experiences being a teacher is very rewarding.”
For him, a few hours in the lab to solve a student’s research problem is heavenly. On the other hand, he feels that the administrative tasks associated with teaching and research are rather cumbersome. But the intellectual freedom inherent in academia is well worth these somewhat unpleasant detours.
Not surprisingly, when asked what advice he would have liked to get when he began his career in research and teaching, he answers, “a guidebook containing all relevant information needed to become a fully functioning new professor-researcher.” He even adds that, as a native of the Netherlands, he would have liked information on the political and administrative organizations of the City of Montréal and the Province of Québec.
So, with a smile, he suggests the development of a smart chip with tips and tricks for new teachers who were not born here!