Manuel Lai holds 20 years’ experience in Materials, Process Technologies, Manufacturing and Methodologies for Automotive Applications matured in different roles and responsibilities in Centro Ricerche Fiat which he left in 2012 to found IRIS together with 2 other young entrepreneurs already involved in the industrial exploitation of laser processing technologies. He has a long experience in Innovation Management, being also promoter of more than 10 patents in forming/welding technologies.
Tell us more about…IRIS!
IRIS is a company born in 2012 and located in Italy, in the industrial area of Turin. Consisting of twelve employees and supported by several external collaborations, IRIS owns a strong background in industrial laser, Additive Manufacturing and plasma technology applications, adding value in process optimization/ qualification in order to guarantee best affordable product performances (dimensional, structural reliability, etc.). IRIS is involved in a European and regional network of companies, maintaining an active portfolio of investments in technological innovation. IRIS facilities include a 400 m2 lab for experimental testing of laser and plasma processing.
IRIS maintains partnerships with a group of local manufacturing SMEs specialized in laser and plasma cutting, CNC machining, bending and welding technologies, capable of building prototypes and testing new processes and equipment in an industrial environment. IRIS is also part of different running European funded projects, related to additive manufacturing and laser techs, with extended partnerships with larger companies. Main fields of activity are the development of environmental applications of plasma technology (2 patent applications pending approval), design of industrial applications of laser technology with a strong focus on metal additive manufacturing and support for innovation and technology transfer to SMEs. To know more about the company, visit the website at www.irissrl.org.
Which is the experience of IRIS in the field of Additive Manufacturing?
IRIS develops smart self adaptive solutions for the efficient exploitation of laser processes: cutting, welding, direct metal deposition. The focus is on process set up, characterization and validation vs. performance target and green labelling. In this framework, IRIS specialises in process definition and characterisation against performance indicators on production time reduction, cost savings and energy & resource efficiency of next generation Additive Manufacturing machines. IRIS also participates to other two different EU funded project in the thematic area of Additive Manufacturing, being involved in the process definition and characterization.
The last one is 4D Hybrid, a project where AM will be coupled with cold spray deposition for repair operations in aerospace, oil & gas and power generation equipment. The first one is Borealis, where the goal is the development of a large machine for Additive Manufacturing and Subtractive Manufacturing processes on complex metal parts for the aerospace and automotive sectors. Our strong commitment for AM is demonstrated by the investment made in the last year, to build up a new shop floor of more than 400 m2 equipped with a Borealis machine, to demonstrate the potentialities of the DED process with an industrial machine and to start the realization of medium/large 3D titanium parts by additive/subtractive manufacturing in with aeronautic, automotive and medtech sectors as main field of applications.
Which are the benefits of having an hybrid machine like Symbionica in the medtech field?
Symbionica machine will exploit three different technologies: Direct Energy Deposition for metal powder melting, ablation for getting rid of small and local deposition errors and Fused Deposition Modeling for PEEK extrusion. The architecture of the Symbionica head foresees an easy integration on the head skeleton of terminal parts such as nozzles for powder ejection or “pinching nozzle system” for the wire feeding. This hybrid concept is the key innovation point of Symbionica: in fact, for the first time, there will be a machine capable of producing both metal and plastic components. For the medtech field, this means a reduction in the lead time of a prosthesis with respect to the actual process chain of the product, with obvious benefits for both the producer and the patient. Symbionica targets a 50% lead-time for manufacturing one new patient’s specific prosthesis with respect to current values for same level of customization. This is a real breakthrough since will enable to shift from stock to order (today necessary to satisfy customization) to build to order (today not feasible due to unaffordable lead time).
A very important step toward this objective is the development of the Co-Engineering platform which is software through which the users of the Symbionica tools can exchange the data required to drive the tools and, ultimately, create the machine control files required to manufacture products. Another important point is that in Symbionica there will be the integration of AM and ablation. Especially for the medtech sector, this is a crucial aspect. Ablation allows to perform superficial texturing on the surface of metallic component that improves osseointegration and may also have utility in those cases where devices are placed in contact with the bone surface.
Which are the benefits for your business gathered from the participation to the Symbionica project?
IRIS’ main exploitable result derived from the participation to the Symbionica project is the knowledge and know how gathered in the study of the process for additive and subtractive applications, related to the chosen materials, both metal and plastic, and related to the processes themselves. IRIS will have the opportunity to exploit the knowledge in laser processing gathered during the activities of the project and transfer them to new market opportunities, transferring its knowhow in AM and subtractive applications for expanding its portfolio of competences. As a practical example, IRIS has bought for its laboratory two machines equipped with pulsed lasers, with an investment of 30 k€.
Thanks to the knowledge gathered from the participation to the Symbionica project, IRIS can now meet the demand of those customers that need pulsed lasers for their applications, such as welding operations for plastic component and micro-manufacturing (such as marking and scribing) for metal applications. Thanks to these new machines and to the know how maturated from the work carried out during the project, IRIS has opened a new business, where the expected revenues will ensure a return of investment within one year.
Manuel Lai, IRIS