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Exploring multi-material structures in ALM with ETH Zurich

How can we make sustainable technologies breakthrough?

ETH Zurich, sometimes known in English as the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zürich, dates back to 1855 and regularly features in international rankings as one of the best universities in the world. It’s an institution that prides itself on ingenuity, teamwork, and the pursuit of excellence in meeting global challenges.

These are principles that ETH Zurich brings to a three-year project on which it is collaborating with Capgemini Engineering to develop artificial intelligence solutions in the design of multi-material structures for Additive Layer Manufacturing (ALM). For this project, a team led by Ramon Antelo, Chief Technology Officer for Manufacturing and Industrial Operations at Capgemini Engineering, has joined forces with a group of researchers supervised by Professor Markus Bambach, Advanced Manufacturing Laboratory, at ETH Zurich.

Performance and sustainability

The physical properties of materials have always been a major factor in the performance of products, but with the arrival of ALM techniques in recent years, how those materials are made and used are only like to increase in importance. It’s a manufacturing method that is precise, that reduces waste, and that can be conducted on a distributed basis rather than only in large factory hubs. For these reasons it can significantly reduce the need for transportation. What’s more, using ALM to create multi-material structures can significantly improve the performance of products. In short, the potential to take the sustainability of manufacturing to new levels is considerable.

The three-year research partnership between ETH Zurich and Capgemini Engineering, which began in April 2023, will focus on the discovery of new combinations of materials that can be printed using standard ALM technologies. Here, too, there are potential gains in sustainability. For instance, a product might benefit from both high thermal conductivity and low thermal expansion – but these are conflicting properties, so how might they be reconciled, and how could the adhesion necessary to bring together layers of appropriate materials be achieved?

Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) are playing significant roles in the research project. “We’re using AI and ML in three key ways,” said Ramon Antelo.

“First, these smart technologies will help us to discover in advance which combinations of materials will deliver the desired properties. Second, they can guide us in determining whether these combinations can be achieved with ALM. And third, they can contribute to our assessment of overall sustainability, because we need to factor in where materials will be produced, their manufacturability, the energy that will be needed to produce them, and the social impact they may have.”

Ramon Antelo, Chief Technology Officer for Manufacturing and Industrial Operations, Capgemini Engineering

It’s a very exciting project. Professor Bambach of ETH Zurich believes the shared expertise of the two organizations will help to revolutionize many industries. “We’re focusing on designing the next generation of multi-material solutions for high-performance products,” he said.

Research & Innovation

Our research and innovation programs are business accelerators that help clients with high-intensity R&D to reveal the value of incremental and disruptive technologies by pioneering engagements built around recognizable assets. Clients go further, faster and to places they would not necessarily go alone.​

    École Polytechnique Fédérale de Zurich (ETH Zurich)

    Collaboration will devise methods and tools to create the next generation of multi-material structures and help build advanced engineering designs in a sustainable way