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ALUHAB – Hungarian innovation with Norwegian support

Innovation prize winner Aluinvent Plc has built its environmentally friendly aluminium foam panel producing line with nearly 370 million Forint (~1.172.000 EUR) support of Norway Grants. The development was implemented within Green Industry Innovation Programme of the Norwegian Financial Mechanism.

 

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Outstanding Hungarian patent

As the result of a decade long development process, in 2012 the revolutionary invention of the research team lead by Dr. Norbert Babcsán, international patent protected ALUHAB has been adapted for pilot production. The globally unique aluminium foaming technology has been elaborated in cooperation with European Space Agency (ESA), under the wing of Bay Zoltán Nonprofit Ltd. for Applied Researches, it was adapted for pilot producing and technical usage within space-technology spin-off company, Aluinvent Plc. With the financial support of Norway Grants, 1000 tons per year advanced volume production of ÉMI-certificated (Hungarian construction quality control institution) construction panel, DESIGNIUM has started during the last year in the company’s factory, based in Felsőzsolca Industrial Park.

It is the unique characteristics of ALUHAB that makes the substance demanded on international markets. The ultra light-weighted, foamed metal’s specialty is the controlled, homogeneous cell-size which makes it energy absorbent and maintains high tensile strength, and the basic metal’s easy workability. This is the first, reproducible quality aliminium foam, which is usable as structural material and its features are designable according to user requirements.

Aluinvent Plc’s products are made from reused aluminium and are also easy to recycle to production. Its features are making the substance competitive with light metals and engineering plastics as well.

 

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Production as innovation progress

Norway Grants has supported the project implementation with a 369 781 208 Forint nonrepayable grant. The two main results of the development were the implementation of ALUHAB production and the elaboration of intermediate construction and casing material, DESIGNIUM.

We already had a pilot plant to base on the production facility. This step, the production process itself is the innovation. One part of the project was the procurement of engines and another was the research process – said Dr. Norbert Babcsán, vice chief executive and technology director of the company.

Aluinvent Plc’s innovation reached the highest, 9th international Technology Readiness Level – meaning it has evolved from pilot plant level to series manufacture.

Our production line is operating since April, we took possession of the technology. We have spent the last year with preparation to serial production and marketing, seeking customers. With the Norwegian grant aid we executed aluminium foam thinning as well – said Dr. Norbert Babcsán. Besides production technology, the company elaborated a new heat treatment technology, which duplicates the strength of aluminium foams.

 

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Recycled aluminum, an environmentally friendly substance

One direct result of the project is the development of an environmentally friendly, industrial level standardized manufacturing technology, producing a green substitute material. The company is using recycled aluminium to create ALUHAB. This technology is able to recycle the products without loss, and to utilize aluminium waste that is unusable with other methods, for example iron or rust contaminated aluminium. Industrial production of ALUHAB reduces the emission of polluting substances and increases the efficiency of waste procession.

The corrosion resistance and recyclability of the material resulted in a thoroughly green product. We are an aluminium-converting company, not an aluminium-smelter. We consume considerably less energy whilst no toxic sludge is produced – Dr. Babcsán estimates, a vast quantity of 100 thousand tons of aluminium waste is produced in Hungary per year. Aluinvent Plc’s current recycling capacity is approximately one percent of the national amount. A long-term objective of the firm is to reuse the majority of national aluminium waste, or even import recyclable material.

From space industry to design

ALUHAB is an entirely new material-family developed according to market requirements, constantly improved in cooperation with end-product manufacturers. Aluinvent created three aluminium foam based prototypes for European Space Agency: a micrometeorite absorbent panel, a mirror holding sandwich panel and a determined heat-transfer panel. Although metal foams are widely used in everyday industry segments also, such as in explosives transportation container’s energy absorbent walls, in interior design as furniture material or as outdoor construction cases.

Basically we are aiming three industry segments determining the main characteristics of the products. Beauty and aesthetics serves construction industry and design. Energy absorbance benefits in security technology, from car bumpers to explosion security panels. The third feature, specific rigidity is utilized in vehicle and engineering industry – said Dr. Babcsán.

 

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ALUHAB is both usable as raw material and component. Aluinvent has developed high rigidity packaging materials, sound-insulation materials of household equipments and automotive components. DESIGNIUM is used as building covering and design elements in construction industry. In the mechanical and engineering industry, aluminium foam has a breakthrough potential as cell phone cases, in the form of casting and foam sheets, as car components and security technology accessories like explosion security sheathes. The advanced technology of small-bubble foams should open up utilization possibilities in vehicle industry.

Future material

Certain panels of Aluinvent received Hungarian construction quality certificate in the year 2015. In this year the company is going to further develop its intermediate products considering customer demands, by creating light transmitting and flat panels, and also widening the panels.

Aluinvent’s main objective for the year 2017 is to equalize sales volume and industrial capacity. Dr. Norbert Babcsán thinks customer demands may increase to 10 thousand tons in the next three years, which induces the building of a newer and bigger production line. International market access of the product is a top priority, the next period’s target countries are Israel, Germany, Singapore and the USA.

Aluinvent Plc is cooperating with the University of Miskolc, Kecskemét College and a number of national higher education and research institutions. The company’s vision is to form a scientific and technological center within Borsod region, which may become the innovation and competence center of Hungarian aluminum industry.