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#TPRCminds: Emiel

"You never stop learning at the TPRC"

Emiel van de Wetering took an unusual route to get where he is today. He started out as a practically-minded car mechanic with a secondary vocational education (MBO) degree. Today he combines this practical approach with his research at the TPRC, but now with a degree from a university of applied sciences in his pocket.

Read other #TPRCminds interviews with Jeroen (Research Engineer), Wouter (Assistant Professor), Yannick (PhD Researcher), Ramona (PhD Researcher), Sebastiaan (AniForm), Jagadeesh (PhD Researcher), Vanessa (PhD Researcher), and Dennis & Rens (PhD Researchers).

It was during his studies at HAN University of Applied Sciences that Emiel really fell under the spell of thermoplastic composites. He took a course in automotive engineering there after completing an automotive technology course at the MBO school and spending lots of time in garages during work placements, part-time jobs and a graduation project. “At HAN I joined the Hydromotive team, a group of students that is developing an electrically powered hydrogen car. We enter the car in major international races and try to achieve the highest possible fuel efficiency. It’s an incredibly cool project. We designed and built a completely new hydrogen car and achieved a fuel efficiency equivalent of 1 litre per 700 kilometres. Obviously, the vehicle has to be extremely light to achieve this degree of efficiency. I went on to follow the Lightweight Constructions minor programme and I was able to apply what I learnt about composite materials directly in the Hydromotive team. I discovered that you can combine carbon and fiberglass to make it extremely strong in a specific direction while also creating a much lighter material. I calculated how the forces had be applied and it really felt like I was innovating and working on the materials of the future. It was a feeling I wanted to keep.”

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Crazy about cars

“I was not done pioneering yet and felt that there was still much more to discover in the realm of new materials. After I completed my thesis at the TPRC I found that the world of thermoplastic composites would not let me go.”

Emiel worked for some time on a project at AniForm Engineering, as a highly valued TPRC tier-2 partner, and is now back at the TPRC in the role of Research Engineer. Although he is mainly involved with the aerospace industry in his current position, another passion of his also drove him in this direction. “I have always been crazy about cars. Composites are already being used in high-end automotive sectors like Formula One, but they can also be found in the BMW i3 and i8, which have a carbon chassis. I saw that chassis at a trade fair with only the wheels attached. It was so light you could easily shift it with just a finger. I was fascinated. I hope to see thermoplastic composites used on a larger scale in regular passenger cars in the future, and I would like to contribute to making this happen.”

Road-worthy helicopter

“Another project that has always fascinated me is the PAL-V, a flying car with a foldable rotor on the roof. I once visited that company on a school excursion. They have a working concept that uses lots of composites. Product development at the company REIN4CED is also really interesting. They spoke at our conference to celebrate our tenth anniversary last autumn. They are already using thermoplastic composites in lightweight bicycles.”

You are obviously closely watching the development of applications of thermoplastic composites. But what does your research focus on?

“My research focuses primarily on induction welding. I am conducting a study for our partner Boeing, but I also get questions from parties such as Toray Advanced Composites or the Instituto Tecnológico de Aeronáutica (ITA) in Brazil, who focus on aviation. I am studying how induction welding can be applied to thermoplastic composite parts. An aircraft is a big piece of equipment, which means you have to fit lots of relatively small parts together in order to achieve that massive final product. This currently still often comes down to drilling holes and fitting bolts in them, but this process interrupts the fibres and so upsets the distribution of forces. Moreover, there are thousands of bolts in a Boeing, and tightening them all takes a lot of time, plus it’s also an extra weight because bolts are heavier than composite. In short, if we can replace these bolts with an induction weld we can reap huge benefits.”

What’s it like being a researcher at the TPRC?

“We’re all inventors really. We conduct research into applications for the industry and are pretty much free to decide how we go about it. Because we are a relatively small group, with close contacts with our partners and lots of equipment in our lab, we can test our ideas straight away. In a big company you have to go through all the layers of bureaucracy first, which can take much longer. Here we brainstorm together about our ideas and then we carry them out. We all have our own specific knowledge and together we are stronger. That’s a feeling we all share here, which I really love. You only need to look at my educational background to tell that I’ll never be finished learning.

During my graduation project I designed a test setup to measure the bending strength of composite materials with in plane waviness defects. The setup is still being used by my colleague Ramona Sitohang, who is doing a PhD here. I was given an important role for a graduate, which for me is more proof of how working together helps us to make each other stronger and take our research to a higher level.”

Time to get accustomed

“It did take me some time to get accustomed to this role. With my MBO background, the way I was used to working was that, say, you repaired a car and then you were done. The research we do here is for the long term. It’s never really finished because you always encounter something new, but I have found that this suits me fine. Here I can gain all the practical experience and theoretical knowledge I need to help further the development of thermoplastic composites. At the end of the day, we’re really interested in any product that can benefit from weight-saving technology.”

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#TPRCminds

Our series #TPRCminds introduces you to the people behind our success. Who are they? What is their background? What drives them and what do they dream about? How do they look at the future of thermoplastic composites? Continue reading other #TPRCminds episodes:


Photos ©Gijs van Ouwerkerk

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#TPRCminds

The TPRC has recently celebrated its tenth anniversary. The TPRC, which started out small with just a few researchers, has since developed considerably. The key to this success? TPRC’s people, without whose expertise and drive there would be no future.

Our series #TPRCminds introduces you to the people behind our success. Who are they? What is their background? What drives them and what do they dream about? How do they look at the future of thermoplastic composites?