Activities & Expertise

Digitalisation

As an industrial R&D centre, our primary mission is to develop new products and solutions for our customers and assist them with our technical competences to help them achieve their goals. And it is our ambition to do this in the most efficient way and with the highest quality standards. In this context, our secondary objective is to continuously improve our operations – and digitalisation is a key factor in realising this.

During the past two years, digitalisation of our operations has risen exponentially, allowing us to achieve another level of performance. This ongoing digital transformation is largely due to the increased computational power that OCAS has access to today, and to the enhanced performance of modern artificial intelligence (AI) tools.

For this, a Digital Cell has been created in our organisational structure to gather all engineers active in this domain. This cell is in charge of piloting, consolidating and disseminating all digitalisation activity in our lab with (amongst other initiatives) multi-disciplinary cross-fertilisation as a particular target.

A first digital pillar – which has accelerated enormously – is everything related to (big) data, which concerns all stages of data management in our R&D biotope.

  • The first stage is data generation, where our small-scale combinatorial experimentation has been expanded from rapid sample synthesis to further property screening and microstructural analysis. As such, quantities of data are generated more quickly, and the necessary tools have been constructed to handle all these data efficiently.
  • For such a structured data capture and storage, our existing Lab Integrated Management System (LIMS) has been upscaled to a modern 4.0 tool that enables standardisation of activities, storage of data with a uniform ontology, and visualisation via state-of-the-art big-data analysis packages.
  • In particular, huge steps have been taken on (pre)treatment of high complexity data such as time series and images, including ‘face-recognition’ of microstructural images using Artificial Intelligence.
  • The next step is profound exploration of Process-Structure-Property correlations in these extended data sets by means of the most recent machine learning techniques (e.g. artificial neural network models).
  • All these tools are also being increasingly applied to data sets directly originating from an industrial production context. As such, several successful cases of technical support to customers have been realised.

Next to the big data axis, our classical modelling activities have advanced significantly thanks to higher computational power and better algorithms and models. These models cover the final application part – e.g. simulation of electric motors allowing a reduction of the number of trial prototypes at our customers, prediction of geometrical and metallurgical evolutions in welding and wire arc additive manufacturing, modelling of the mechanics during forming processes or the mechanical behaviour of final components – as well as the steel processing part – e.g. simulations of metallurgical evolutions during hot rolling.

All of these capabilities enable us to further reduce expensive experimentations and, ideally, they produce ‘first time right’ results.

Related expertise to this activity

We develop your tailor-made alloys in small batches, from 100 g to 100 kg. Specifically for the development of new steel grades or special alloys, we can simulate an entire industrial production process on laboratory scale. This includes casting, hot and cold rolling, and annealing. Our production process for customised casting and rolling of metal alloys can be scaled up to an industrial environment. Recently, we automated our heavy gauge lab rolling mill and cooling pilot.

OCAS adapted one of its lab rolling mills to be able to switch to “bar mode”. Straight round bars with good ovality can be obtained. The lab bar rolling is compatible with OCAS’s lab casting tools. As such, the composition of the bars can be tailored to the client’s needs.

Apart from smart materials selection, we have experience in advanced materials testing and characterisation.

Our aim is to help you reduce your development cost (as there is less need for expensive industrial trials), to optimise your process and to enhance material properties. 

OCAS develops new functional and aesthetic surfaces for any metal substrate to meet your specific requirements. Our skilled staff can rely on state-of-the-art equipment to prepare, apply and characterise different coatings: organic, inorganic, metallic, hybrid and/or enamel coatings. Our aim is to optimise your surface functionality, lower your production cost and make your product more environment-friendly.

The complete coating and enamelling process can be simulated in our laboratory, using a wide range of technologies. The first step is the pre-treatment of substrates including for example degreasing, pickling, phosphating and passivation. Coatings are then applied by electrodeposition, spraying (wet or powder paints or enamels), dipping, spinning or using a roll coater. A more advanced technique is Chemical Vapour Deposition, allowing the deposition of very thin layers (20-50 nm) on a variety of substrates. Our curing methods include conventional, infrared (IR) and ultraviolet (UV) curing.

We are able to perform the full characterisation and testing of different technological aspects of surfaces from macro to micro and even to nanoscale: flexibility, adhesion, hardness, wear and staining resistance, colour, gloss, appearance, etc. Both outdoor exposure racks as well as accelerated corrosion cabinets are available to check the corrosion behaviour and durability of materials and coatings, including the evaluation of buried structures in different soil types.

In addition to these standardised tests, we are also equipped to perform electrochemical measurements using impedance spectroscopy, Scanning Vibrating Electrode Technique (SVET) and Scanning Kelvin Probe (SKP). Read more about how our scanning flow micro-cell boosts our study of fundamental corrosion reactions.

OCAS’s expertise in alloy and coating design, metal surface engineering, non-standard testing and modelling supplements Endures’s current knowledge on corrosion, electrochemistry, MIC (microbiologically influenced corrosion), antifouling and protective coatings. The Endures team of experts helps its customers to reduce their corrosion costs by selecting appropriate materials and protecting structures in marine and corrosive environments. Endures conducts applied research on vessels, offshore installations and land-based structures and buildings to determine the type of corrosion damage, including MIC (microbiologically influenced corrosion), and to prevent future damage. Based in the harbour of Den Helder, Endures has a C3/C4 seaside testing location to expose samples to maritime exposure conditions both aerial and immersed, as well in the tidal or splash zone. Endures also has a raft for efficacy tests of antifouling paints and can carry out lab experiments in running natural seawater.

Together with Flanders Materials Centre (FLAMAC), a division of SIM, we make an accelerated development of new coatings possible, thanks to the high-throughput experimentation technology. Specific software and equipment allows fast and precise preparation of the formulations. The High Throughput Technology is based on an automated formulation, application and curing of coatings. This quick screening not only allows for cost reduction. It also reduces the research time to obtain the perfect coating for your application, thus reducing your time-to-market. Explore Flamac's high-throughput experimentation technology service.

With our modelling and simulation tools, OCAS offers solutions for your design and engineering challenges in order to achieve maximum efficiency and to reduce costs. Depending on the complexity of your request, we choose the most appropriate approach in close collaboration with you. This can range from empirical and analytic tools to more advanced finite element modelling (FEM) tools. Thanks to a wide choice of available software tools our multidisciplinary team selects the best combinations to improve your product or process development. The outcome of simulations can be experimentally tested at our facilities and compared with real-life tests for validation purposes.

Our skilled staff can rely on state-of-the-art equipment for materials testing, joining & assembly. The OCAS labs are equipped with standard as well as customised test set-ups for large component testing.

Joining and assembly at OCAS cover a large range of material types, thicknesses and industrial applications. We optimise your component and manufacturing route for assembly through welding, joining or adhesive bonding. Our facilities include all major arc welding processes - MIG/MAG, PAW, 5-wire SAW, TIG, MMA.  In addition, we are equipped for brazing, braze welding and adhesive bonding.  

You can benefit from our vast materials expertise, covering the full range of steel grades, including coated steels, as well as other materials, in a large thickness range from less than 1 mm to more than 200 mm. 

OCAS performs welding procedure development and qualification to relevant standards and is furthermore fully equipped to evaluate the welded joint in terms of mechanical properties. Our experienced welding team can advise you on further optimisation of your welding process, including the introduction of novel techniques. Allied technologies available include heat treatment and non-destructive evaluation of welded joints.

To minimise your health and safety risks in the welding shop, we offer technical support in the field of air quality and welding fumes. Our extensive spectrum of sampling - from gas to dust - and analytical techniques available - from composition to particle morphology - completes our offer for fume analysis.

Our dedicated adhesive bonding lab is fully equipped to apply and test strength and durability of structural bonds. 

Read more on our in-house welding capabilities.

Our welding team has highly skilled and experienced operators. All our welding project leaders are EWE/IWE qualified. Since 2012, one of our senoir research engineers welding chairs sub-commission C-XI-E 'transmission pipelines" of the International Institute of Welding (IIW) and is furthermore elected representative on the technical management board of IIW.  Since 2008, one of our senior project leaders of the surfaces department chairs the sub-commission Health & Safety for Welding of the Belgian standardisation body.