Learn all about rubber technology at University of Twente and directly apply your knowledge at tyre manufacturer Apollo Vredestein in Enschede. That’s now possible thanks to a two-year PDEng programme.
Students are enthusiastic about their Professional Doctorate in Engineering (PDEng). This doesn’t surprise the coordinators Wilma Dierkes and Louis Reuvekamp: “The automotive industry is a very dynamic one”.
Five of the students meet around a car tyre for a group picture. They are half way their post-Master’s programme. Their supervisors look back on how it was made possible that Apollo Vredestein invests for five years of training by the University of Twente. In total, they plan to train 27 PDEng students.
Unique for UT’s PDEng programmes is that students have a clear focus on design of practical technology. Together with industry, University of Twente trains PDEng’s who will be able to realize high-quality, creative and innovative designs, in answer to complicated and multidisciplinary needs.
Safe and sustainable
Dr. Wilma Dierkes, of the Elastomer Technology and Engineering (ETE) group, about the cooperation of UT and Apollo Vredestein: “In our group we develop innovative materials, especially for tyres but for other rubber applications as well. Our research focuses on sustainability. New materials can make cars use less fuel, for example. But we also develop techniques for recycling tyres. Safety is another spearhead: designing tyres that have more grip, in particular on wet roads. For all this, we also developed measurement techniques for predicting, using just a small sample, how a new material will work out in a practical product.”
Only one in The Netherlands
As a Manager Platform at Apollo Vredestein, Dr. Louis Reuvekamp adds: “It is no coincidence that UT is the ideal partner for us. Here, you find the only rubber technology group in The Netherlands! For our core business - car tyres -, rubber is still the main material. What we offer students in turn: a work and design environment in which students can put their knowledge into practice, making it tangible in a real life product that may be introduced on the market.”
The car industry is a world in itself, always on the move. Students find it challenging to work in this field, Dierkes notices. “One of our education modules is: Materials for the Design of the Future. The way students come up with new ideas for this, keeps surprising me.” Lots of creativity and inventiveness. But how can this be connected to industry’s demands? “As a designer, maybe you need materials or a specific machine that has to be ordered or even has to be developed from scratch. This takes time, excellent planning and cooperation. These are also skills that our students learn in our multidisciplinary projects.”
In 2016, the first five PDEng projects started, all leading to better tyre properties or to production process improvements. An example is: improving the ‘wet grip’, rolling resistance and wear of a tyre. The tyre is still a rubber product, but to improve its properties, resins are added. This additive improves the grip, better protection against wear and rolling resistance, and clearly has an impact on fuel consumption and safety.
Ten percent improvement
“Without going into details, working on these improvements is typically what we expect of our PDEng students the coming five years. Design a new tyre rubber, include resins in your design and improve driving properties. Find out why a certain resin improves the grip, wear and rolling resistance by, say, ten percent. Sorting this all out in twelve months, that’s quite a job. Keep in mind that the number of possible resins that can be used, is infinite. For a tyre that has to get better, safer and more sustainable, efficiency in the materials you choose is the starting point.”
What about the first five PDEng students? Their photo shoot is ready. The real work can begin.
text: Berend Meijering, photos: Gijs van Ouwerkerk