This is how an innovation center works a la carte | Innovation

This is how an innovation center works a la carte | Innovation

How to ensure that the screen of the laptop does not produce reflection, or that our fingerprints do not remain when we touch the doorknob, that the crankshaft of the car wears out and we do not have to change it, or reduce the consumption of an airplane or brackets teeth that are not noticed, or a pair of glasses tailored to your specific vision problem. These are just some of the challenges-apparently daily-that researchers of IK4-Tekniker, a technology center dedicated to manufacturing innovation at nano, micro and macro scales: from tiny precision parts to large mechatronic systems, aircraft structures, telescopes, biomedicine, automotive, etc.

This center located in the Basque Country is defined as "an external R & D department". It has a staff of approximately 280 people, accumulates 119 patents. A system of innovation à la carte that has led to the creation of 29 companies and point out that, unlike the R & D carried out in universities and other technology centers, its focus is very much on the product. "We are not only dedicated to publishing scientific articles," they point out. His specialties are precision mechatronics, advanced manufacturing, surface and product engineering, and information and communication technologies (ICT).

Iván Arriola, manager of Technology Transfer of IK4-Tekniker and researcher Jesús Alonso tell EL PAÍS RETINA some success stories of this center that invoices around 24 million euros per year, according to details, of companies, of the Basque Government and of European programs (in an approximate proportion of 50%, 25% and 25%, respectively).

ILine Microsystems Coagulometer

Portable coagulometer

The first product that Arriola and Alonso mention is the iLine Microsystems coagulometer, which was born as a startup by the hand of two kids who wanted to make life easier for patients and who are now a company of more than 60 people. His idea: to develop a device so that anyone who needs it can instantly know their level of blood coagulation and assess the need to take medication (for example, Sintrom). And, thus, save the trip to the hospital and wait.

More efficient LED

How to improve the luminous efficiency of emergency lights with fewer LED bulbs? To this challenge they met in the technological center. "These bulbs have a transparent protective casing and you see the LEDs inside, which are really a lot of light bulbs that allow the entire cavity to be illuminated," the engineers explain. The company that manufactures them went to them to design an optical technology that allows to disperse more the light of these LEDs and make it more homogeneous, so that they do not have to use so many LEDs.

IoT in factories

Among the internet projects of the things of IK4-Tekniker is the European Twin Control, which this center leads, in collaboration with companies such as Renault, Massa, Comau, Gepro and other research centers. The purpose is to create a virtual world in which to simulate how a piece would be manufactured by varying different conditions, check what happens in reality and combine both experiences to increase efficiency, optimize the process, reduce set-ups, etc.


"There are forms (textures) or special coatings that transform a surface so that the bacteria do not like it, so they avoid being there or die directly. If you replicate these forms or apply these coatings on an operating table it is more likely that no one will be infected by a contact infection, "explain Arriola and Alonso. One of the examples they are developing is an operating table with goretex effect, inspired by nature. Specifically, in the qualities and form that cause the water to run off in the lotus flower.

Aircraft and more

They work with companies such as Aernnova and other large companies in additive manufacturing systems: the process of fusing materials to create objects from data from three-dimensional models generated by computer, generally from layer to layer. It is so called in opposition to traditional subtractive manufacturing methodologies and is changing the way organizations design and manufacture products for the time and money savings that it facilitates in terms of prototype design, manufacturing optimization and material consumption, and of elimination or reduction of errors. In their case, they have created a machine that the industry can incorporate into their production line to create large pieces of high added value (very expensive) and save raw material and machining time.

It is even developing a machine, which does not currently exist in the market, that can drill a 50-micron titanium plate holes. "This microperforation will allow to reduce the fuel consumption of airplanes considerably," the engineers say.

Diagnosis and visual rehabilitation

At the request of a company in Navarra, they developed a visual inspection machine that allows to automatically evaluate and treat a person's vision. "You pay around 20 euros and they give you a report of the state of your visual health with up to 75 different parameters (lazy eye, myopia, astigmatism …), they recommend the best glasses for your case, they quote you, if necessary, for some Rehabilitation session with the machine itself, etc. ", explain the engineers of IK4-Tekniker. This system is already available in two optics in Madrid and one in Navarra.

Guide robot

The San Sebastian Science Museum has a robot developed by IK4-Tekniker and Dinamo Design that receives and guides visitors along predetermined routes through exhibitions. Operates through an iPad on the back of your head that allows you to alternate between different options to see additional exhibits and get more information about specific stops along the way. Engineers indicate that they are working on the possibility of transferring it for use in hospitals.

Smart repair

Maintenance costs can represent 20% of an airline's expenses. For this reason they have worked in the development of a small machine capable of moving with a camera to enter and inspect any surface and even repair it in case of finding some beginning of fissure that can anticipate a bigger problem. The engineers emphasize that this type of tools, developed in the framework of European projects with companies such as Rolls Royce or Air France, can also be very useful to avoid incidents in high-risk places such as nuclear power plants.

Colonoscopy more accurate

With Doctors of the Hospital La Paz they study the possibility of developing a system of rectoscopia more advanced and simple to use. For this, they propose to use a certain type of light that "passes" the intestine to really know in what position the tumor is and thus facilitate the work of the surgeon.

Best cosmetics

They have also developed a machine that cleans animal organs such as lungs or umbilical cords from animals to extract active cells that will then be used in other derived products. An example is cosmetic products. "What they say that revitalizes your skin is because it has an active biological principle that is extracted in some cases of animals," they say.


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