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ESA & RUAG - Finding commercially attractive applications for the multi layer insulation

Wintersemester 2012 / 2013 

Executive Summary

Abstract

The RUAG Space GmbH is the largest company in Austria developing space technology and has started it’s activities in the space sector in 1983. The company is focusing on supplying space technology and related ground support equipment in the areas of electronics, mechanics and thermal hardware.

The objective of this project was to find new application fields for the Multi Layer Insulation, a foil which has to be used in combination with vacuum and reflects heat radiation by metallization.

Our team was assigned to systematically search for and evaluate potential applications for the Multi Layer Insulation technology and to develop suitable market entry strategies for the most promising applications.

Initial Siutation

RUAG Space Austria has been developing and producing multi-layer insulation (MLI) for space application (satellites and instruments) since 1991. They also offer cryogenic superinsulation for various applications. The MLI consists of at least 10 aluminized layers separated by a polyester or glass fiber spacer, has to be used in combination with high vacuum and reflects heat radiation by metallization. The heat transfer by conduction and convection is eliminated by vacuum as only a minimum amount of molecules are left.

At the moment the MLI is only used in fields of refrigeration and the number of possible applications for the multi-layer insulation in heat zones has not already been examined. Therefore we identified benefits which qualify the MLI for further application areas in more diversified, high margin markets. Special attention has been paid on application areas within a temperature range of -40°C to +600°C since this is the field of market where the company is not established yet.

Project goal

The aim of the project was to find as many new and attractive application areas for Multi Layer Insulation as possible, to evaluate these opportunities and to develop a commercialization strategy for the most promising ones.

Procedure & Methodology

Throughout the project the 4-phase-framework “Technological Competence Leveraging” has been used:

  • Identification of the benefits delivered by the technology

  • Systematic search for alternative application areas by interlocking Broadcast and Pyramiding search methods

  • Analysis of the commercial potential of identified applications

  • Assembly of an actionable commercialization strategy for the most promising applications

Results

By interviewing current and potential users of the Multi Layer Insulation, three main benefits (from a user’s perspective) of the technology were revealed: (1) prevention of thermal bridging, (2) efficiency in narrow space, (3) minimization of heat radiation.

Based on an iterative process with approx. 170 interviews, brainstorming activities and crowd sourcing, more than 67 ideas of application were identified. All potential application areas were examined and filtered through predefined criteria. Ten ideas which were rated the highest in the dimensions of benefit relevance and strategic fit, were ranked ‘positively validated’.

In accordance with the project partner, the three commercially and strategically most promising application fields were selected at the project’s steering board meeting: (1) heat treatment of metal, (2) high temperature battery, (3) vacuum tank container.

A detailed analysis of theses application areas consisted of Market analysis, Competition analysis, SWOT analysis and Porter’s Five Forces. From these analyses, suitable business models with a focus on the revenue stream were derived for the chosen three applications:

Heat treatment of metal
In 2011, the value of the European, Asian and North American market for heat treatment of metals was around $ 13 billion and has been constantly growing over the last few years. This development has positively influenced the production of furnaces. As a result, the furnace market is expected to carry its good performance into the next years and reach $12,5bn in 2017. A direct market entry with one of the three biggest European furnace builders (Ipsen, Seco/Warwick, ALD) is highly recommended.

High temperature battery
Worldwide in 2011 about 50.000 e-cars were sold. Even if e-cars have to overcome several hurdles, the long-term trend is rising worldwide. In 2011 about 65,4 Million cars were sold. If we assume, that e-cars can substitute the whole amount of cars in the future, it would be a big opportunity for the RUAG Group. Cooperation with the Zebra battery producer FIAMM SoNick SA market entry is recommended.

Vacuum tank container
In 2010, the amount of the handled containers for temperature-sensitive goods was around 2.53 million TEU (International measurement unit for container handling) and has been constantly growing over the last few years. This target group offers a sales potential of up to 2.625.000 m² of the foil per year. Market research has shown that Asia is the leading container production manufacturer with more than 98 percent, with China producing 95 percent. A market entry with one of the three big- gest Asian vacuum tank producers (China International Marine Containers, Nantong Tank Container, Singamas Container Holdings) is recommended.

Cooperation Partner

  • European Space Agency
    TEC-ST Keplerlaan 1
    2200 AG Noordwijk ZH The Netherlands

  • RUAG Space GmbH Leobersdorfer Straße 26
    Objekt 43
    2560 Berndorf
    Austria

  • Ansprechpartner
    Frank M. Salzgeber

    (Head of Technology Transfer Programme Office)
    E frank.salzgeber@esa.int
    Erhard Prechelmacher

    (Director Thermal Systems)
    E erhard.prechelmacher@ruag.com

Student Team

  • Emina Babic
    Elias Ferihumer
    David Hanke
    Daniela Leitgeb
    Mirko Obkircher
    Katja Pröts
    Maximilian Ramais
    Manuel Rauter
    Michael Wild