“Production and test centre for the manufacturing industry of the future”

In 2024 Thor Park, the Limburg business, science and technology park focusing on energy transition and smart manufacturing, will expand with FacThory. At this location, innovative companies and research institutes will be able to explore and test the possibilities of technological innovations.

How does FacThory fit into Thor Park’s mission?

Gabriële Buglione, Business Development Manager, Thor Park: “Thor Park gives innovative companies access to expertise and infrastructure. That expertise consists of both our own knowledge and ecosystem knowledge. Because of our focus on the manufacturing industry, among others, we attract very specific companies between which cross-fertilisation occurs. In that context, every autumn we also organise SMAFACC, a conference on smart manufacturing that puts us in the spotlight as a place where industrial companies can always come with all their questions on innovation.”

“In terms of infrastructure, we are currently building FacThory. There will bring companies together with research institutions such as Sirris, Flanders Make and KU Leuven to trigger innovation. We are also investing directly in innovative machines that we will then put at the service of companies via ‘pilot & contract manufacturing’ to test out.”

We invest directly in innovative machines that we then put at the service of companies to test out.

Gabriële Buglione, Business Development Manager, Thor Park

So what kind of machines are we talking about exactly?

Erwin Junius, Project Manager industrie 4.0, Thor Park: “FacThory focuses exclusively on innovative and risky investments with a lot of future potential. Subsequently, we provide technicians who can initiate and support companies with this. Specifically, we invest in three categories: additive manufacturing and quality control, digital twins and flexible assembly. Together, these investments account for approximately EUR 4 million. We are using grants from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), the Hermes Fund and the Fund for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (FIO).”

FacThory focuses exclusively on innovative and risky investments with a lot of future potential.

Erwin Junius, Project Manager industrie 4.0, Thor Park

What machines are covered by additive manufacturing and quality control?

Junius: “Additive manufacturing is the successor to everything that used to be understood as molding, turning and milling. For example, we are looking at more specialised techniques of 3D printing: hybrid set-ups, techniques where two materials can be printed simultaneously and insert 3D printing (e.g. re-printing something on an existing component).”

“Laser also belongs to this category. We are convinced that any industrial process can be replaced by a laser. We therefore invested in an advanced laser that, among other things, can be used for surface treatment with the aim of adding functionalities. This can certainly be of great value to the automotive and aerospace industries. A huge advantage is that it is very energy-efficient because it works so precisely and is very flexible at the same time.”

“In the quality control section, we are looking at fast and user-friendly inspection methods. More specifically, our eye fell on Deltaray’s X-ray technology. With this, you can also rapidly check the inside of a component. Our device is very flexible and can be used in all industries.”

What is your focus within the field of digital twins?

Junius: “We initially focus on digital twins of the most standard machines used by the industry today. In our ecosystem we have already companies like ViManPro offering these at a good price. At the same time, FacThory is already focusing on the next step of having the digital twins of lasers and 3D printers created. In this way, the industry will have them immediately at their disposal, should they switch to these technologies.”

What is the added value of flexible assembly?

Junius: “Thanks to flexible assembly, companies will no longer have to invest heavily in a complete redesign of the production line and operator training each time new or modified products are made. We will provide a standard assembly line that can be used flexibly for various products, because the the operator is supported by flexible tools during assembly. On the other hand, multiple operators can be placed on one line and product. Thanks to the support of technology and with limited training, an inexperienced operator will quickly become employable.”

Interested in FacThory?

Would you like to be part of FacThory and, by extension, the Thor Park ecosystem?


FacThory: Financial support

FacThory is being realised with the support of “Europees Fonds voor Regionale ontwikkelingen” (EFRO – project 1383) and “Agentschap Innoveren en Ondernemen” (Hermes Fonds). The financial support amounts to 5.2 MEUR and 1.0 MEUR respectively.

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