The LIT OIC Introduces Itself: 100 Years of Mechanical Engineering

There is a lot going on at the LIT Open Innovation Center. We would like to introduce you to some of the departments and companies. Today are talking with Sven Wolf, managing director of Leistritz Extrusionstechnik Ltd.

Geschäftsführer Sven Wolf von der Leistritz Extrusionstechnik GmbH
Geschäftsführer Sven Wolf von der Leistritz Extrusionstechnik GmbH

Why did you move into the LIT Factory and the LIT Open Innovation Center?
Managing Director DI Sven Wolf: Well, with a touch of pride I would also like to mention that we were a part of creating both innovation drivers, the LIT Factory and the LIT Open Innovation Center. As part of Leistritz Extrusionstechnik Ltd.'s successful cooperation with the JKU - particularly with the Institute for Polymer Extrusion and Compounding - we were involved in the design phase and were in a position to help shape and influence ideas, the focus, and designs. It was - and still is - important to make a positive contribution to future progress and advancements by reducing the distance between the individual "faculties" and actively connecting research, industry and education. We want more for this location in Linz and, above all, something more sustainable for our future. Polymers play a decisive role as part of a sustainable and climate-friendly future. In terms of using resources efficiently as well as taking responsibility for the future seriously, advancements to support a "circular economy" must play a key role. We truly believe that collaboration as mentioned above is embedded in a modern environment – serving as a catalyst, so-to-say – and will drive us toward high performance.

From a purely technical point of view (the "old economy" perspective, so-to-say), both digitization and process technology incorporated in a model factory allows us to implement our developmental goals in a more targeted way. However, partnership-based interaction at the OIC on the JKU campus also brings us closer to a "new economy". The opportunity to exchange ideas with "start-up companies" broadens our perspective of issues and solutions. This type of open communication is a "game changer" in the long run and here we are, right in the thick of it.

What makes Leistritz unique?
Sven Wolf: Over 100 years of professional experience in mechanical engineering is testament to our economic staying power. In addition to an ability to innovate, past company executives have been visionaries, practicing forward-thinking approaches that have had a lasting influence on the company's success. By pursuing polymer machine manufacturing in 1935, boosting production during the 1950s, and internationalizing the technology, Leistritz has become an established manufacturer of extrusion equipment for the polymer industry based on the co-rotating twin screw. By striving to expand our expertise in continuous process technology, our product portfolio has expanded to include the life science sector (pharmaceuticals, food supplement products, cosmetics, etc.) as well as large-scale chemical industry (plastics production, catalyst masses). The company is now a globally recognized project partner to support process engineering solutions in the aforementioned areas, aiding well-known companies implement complex process engineering tasks. Our products and solutions are used to produce raw materials, in refining, as well as in recycling. The combination of man and machine, i.e. process engineering expertise and industrial plants, is a testament to how we find solutions. At Leistritz, we believe: "We are small enough to listen, but big enough to serve".

What is currently your favorite project?
Sven Wolf: We are actively involved in setting up the UD-tape plant at LIT which will be used to unidirectionally produce reinforced thermoplastic tapes and used as a starting product in a consolidation process (Engel) to produce a highly resilient and lightweight components. To close the circle, mechanical recycling (EREMA) will study how to use raw materials to produce new UD tapes.

Another important project at the OIC includes integrating melt quality sensors - or so-called on-line strain rheometers - into the process and further developing smart sensors to subsequently control processes in a quality way through higher-level control systems. We have had success in the reactive extrusion of polypropylene. Standardizing existing polymer qualities - particularly in recycling – and controlling/influencing the quality demonstrates the future applications for these smart approaches.

What role does LIT OIC play in conducting research?
Sven Wolf: Integrative solutions between process and control, between man and machine, between education, research and industry - and above all - between people and ideas.