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Researching what is relevant to local industry

Research and development of digital methods and systems are increasingly in demand by companies and businesses in the southern part of Norway. That is also why the Faculty of Engineering and Science at the University of Agder places its emphasis there.

drone photo of campus Grimstad
The development of digital methods and systems is central to all the 11 students who completed their doctoral degrees at the Faculty of Engineering and Science this spring.

“Using digital hydraulics rather than today's technology will improve energy efficiency. But we need good control systems before we can start using it in Norway”, says Sondre Nordås.

He has graduated from the doctoral programme at the Faculty of Engineering and Science specialising in mechatronics. Mechatronics is a combination of the fields of mechanics, electronics and information technology.

“Increased awareness of global warming and pollution has put more focus on designing more energy efficient systems”, Nordås says.

The doctoral project is part of research conducted at UiA's Center for Research-Driven Innovation (SFI), Offshore Mechatronics. Nordås has studied control systems hydraulic winches, which are widely used in the oil and gas industry.

Industry focused research themes

Sondre Nordås has followed the PhD course at the Faculty of engineering and science, specializing in mechatronics.

Sondre Nordås has followed the PhD course at the Faculty of engineering and science, specializing in mechatronics.

Researchers at UiA do not work in a vacuum, but in close cooperation with the industry in the Agder region.

This spring, more candidates than usual have completed doctoral dissertations on challenges relevant to both the offshore and onshore industries in the region. The development of digital methods and systems is central to all those 11 who defended their dissertations at the faculty this spring.

More expertise and more effective methods have been called for by industrial companies in the region. Therefore, the companies influence what the faculty researches and develops.

“Good digital models is something industry wants. We always go in the direction industry and business want, but we don’t always react immediately”, says Michael Rygaard Hansen, dean of the Faculty of Engineering and Science.

The regional clusters EYDE and NODE, the research institute NORCE and offshore and industrial companies such as MacGregor, MHWirth and National Oilwell Varco are some of the faculty’s partners.

“Digital methods and technologies will reduce the environmental impact of businesses. A lot of maintenance and process monitoring in the offshore industry can be done onshore using digital methods. This saves the company resources, time and money”, says Rygaard Hansen.

Digital monitoring

Michael Rygaard Hansen, dean at the Faculty of engineering and science

Michael Rygaard Hansen, dean at the Faculty of engineering and science

With newly developed digital monitoring models, sensors can detect noise, vibration, temperature and much more. The method is used to monitor and reduce errors and decrease machine downtime.

“Such methods help to reduce waste and maintenance on parts and reduce business costs”, says Rygaard Hansen.

This is some of what Martin Hemmer and Jagath Sri Lal Senanayaka have focused on in their doctoral work. They have completed the same doctoral programme as Nordås. Both have worked with computer modelling and models that can predict what happens in large and complex industrial systems. The models give an overview of the energy consumption, so that one can adapt the use and conserve energy.

“Digitalisation of the process of monitoring the condition of a system is also an incredibly environmentally friendly way to do a job. Instead of travelling to offshore installations, one can stay on land and do the same work”, says Rygaard Hansen.

Green technology

Jannik Hartwig Jakobsen has also researched data modelling in mechatronics. Hartwig Jakobsen has performed research on environmentally friendly hydraulic oils. He has looked at how various substances can be replaced by more environmentally friendly fluids. For example, whether a more environmentally friendly fluid can replace or partially replace mineral hydraulic oil in hydraulic systems.

“The goal is for the industry to eventually adopt these solutions and become more environmentally friendly and energy efficient”, says Rygaard Hansen.

Simulating systems

Good simulation models that can reproduce real situations are sought after by industrial companies. In their doctoral work, Philipp Thomas Pasolli and Bernard Munyazikwiye have developed simulation models or computer systems that simulate the behaviour of complex systems in a good way.

Munyazikwiye has created a model that simulates what happens to the electronics and mechanics when a car collides. You cannot do that by guesswork. Car manufacturers are concerned with the quality of the parts and the cars they sell. Then it is important to have safety testing methods. By using data simulations in testing, manufacturers will be able to save a lot of time and resources.

Artificial intelligence

In addition to the six who have defended their dissertations in mechatronics, other have completed their doctorate in mathematics didactics and information and communication technology (ICT). Among them are Mehdi Ben Lazreg and Sondre Glimsdal with research on artificial intelligence.

“Artificial intelligence is becoming increasingly important and helps us make better decisions”, says Rygaard Hansen.

Glimsdal has looked at the application of a known algorithm. Our goal is to expand the scope and use it to solve more difficult and complex problems. He looked at whether the algorithm could be used to optimise the organisation of warehouses based on customer behaviour, estimation of travel time and the life cycle of wireless sensors.