2019 02 18

Lithuanian Electronics Makes Its Way in Global Market

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In this day and age there is probably not a single area of life devoid of modern electronic solutions. Lithuanian scientists are hard at work contributing their share, creating new products and services and collaborating with businesses in Lithuania and abroad.

Electronic controllers for Karcher vacuum cleaners from Germany, ultrasound methods for detecting defects in opaque materials, organic light diodes for screens and lighting and impulse magnetic field meters, the first of their kind in the world – are only a few of the products created by Lithuanian scientists to have attracted the interest of international companies.

More Than a Computer

As the lead researcher of the Kaunas University of Technology (KTU) Embedded Systems Research Group, Professor Vytautas Deksnys, explains, the computerised electronic systems embedded in other devices are typically used to control these devices and various other machines and technological processes. More than a computer – this is possibly the briefest description of an embedded system. They are used in many different fields: from automotive technology to aviation, telecommunications, metrics, object recognition and technology control.

“The main focus of our work at the moment is robotised automatic production systems for the electronics industry. These are typically more technically complex than the products they manufacture,” emphasises Professor Deksnys.

One of KTU’s main partners is the German company Karcher. KTU researchers also work with the Kaunas-based company Selteka to make electronics controllers for operating various types of vacuum cleaners. The scale of production is currently at 100 thousand products per month.

“The speed of the robotised automatic production lines we have developed is about five seconds per product,” points out the lead researcher of the KTU Embedded Systems Research Group. It programmes, calibrates, tests and classifies products simultaneously.

In total, the lab has produced a number of production machines that manufacture around 100 million euros’ worth of products in a year. The group mostly works with companies from Germany, the UK, Lithuania and Italy. Among the products they have developed are a diagnostics system for central heating networks, production systems for companies manufacturing dry mix materials for construction, communications gateways for smart precision-farming, digital television solutions and others. These innovative products are already in widespread use internationally.

Partners All Over Europe

The KTU Professor Kazimieras Baršauskas Institute of Ultrasound Science is internationally renowned as a competent and reliable partner. There is probably no other such multifaceted ultrasound centre anywhere else in Europe.

“Ultrasound lets us see inside opaque matter and detect defects and explore characteristics. This technique is widely used around the world, however, when new materials or new problems emerge, new methods need to be discovered that would enable us to use advanced technology such as electronics and signal processing,” says the director of the Institute of Ultrasound Science, Professor Liudas Mažeika.

One research area KTU scientists are focused on is ultrasonic transducers. These allow measurement in hot environments, for example, in a liquid lead-bismuth alloy. Researchers are currently carrying out a project that would enable specialists to check the quality of various structures for defects. This technology could be applied in fields that carry great responsibility: aviation, energy, atomic energy, transportation, railway transport and maritime transport.

“One project has a team trying to develop methods that would allow us to detect changes in the characteristics of stainless steel used in the field of atomic energy. Our partners come from all over Europe. One of the larger companies is the France-based EDF (Electricite de France),” reveals Professor Mažeika.

Yet another project addresses defects that appear in steel pipes used in the energy sector. Small fissures appear at the seams where pipes are welded together due to exposure to constant high pressure and heat. As these fissures grow bigger, the pipe becomes more likely to break. The purpose of the project is to detect such defects as early as possible so that greater losses can be prevented in the future.

The researchers of the Institute of Ultrasound Science have already developed a method for detecting such defects and are now working on equipment that could be used in a production environment. The institute also collaborates with INETEC, Croatia’s Institute for Nuclear Technology, the UK-based companies Applied Inspection and TWIi, and Public Power Corporation in Greece.

Technology as a Tool

“Electronic devices are rapidly getting smaller. New fields are emerging in electronics – flexible, wearable and structural electronics. When everything is transforming so fast it’s a real challenge for everyone – who will be the first to see a new kind of application, the first to use the latest technology,” notes Mindaugas Žilys, head of administration at the KTU Faculty of Electricity and Electronics.

It was for this exact reason that KTU set up a prototyping centre now called FabLab Kaunas. The Lab is meant to serve as a place to create original ideas and innovative products. Equipment and the laboratory base are constantly being renewed in order to create the best possible conditions for innovation to flourish. The focus is mostly on electronic technology. As emphasised by Mindaugas Žilys, new players entering the electronics industry are sending a very clear message: we need specialists who understand electronic technology and are capable of applying it.

KTU scientists are already carrying out research and developing products for several large global companies. A lot of work has been done with the American company Littelfuse, the German company AK-KO, the Scandinavian company Kitron, and the Lithuanian Selteka. New but intensive partnerships have lately been formed with the German companies Hella and Continental, which entered the Lithuanian market recently.

For Screens and Lighting

The latest research conducted by the scientists of the Department of Polymer Chemistry and Technology at the KTU Faculty of Chemical Technology concentrate on organic materials and delayed fluorescence. As Professor Juozas Vidas Gražulevičius, the head of the department, explains, this technology can potentially be applied to create organic light-emitting diodes (OLED). These devices are used in screens and for lighting.

Most of KTU’s research on this topic is funded through Horizon 2020 projects. Two are being carried out now, while a third will be launched – and coordinated – from January of 2019. Through these projects the university collaborates with various industry companies such as the German Novaled, Samsung Electronics, Cynora and Creaphys.

Previously, Professor Gražulevičius’ team worked on projects directly funded by Samsung Electronics and BASF. During the project funded by Samsung Electronics, many organic semiconductors were patented.

For Railways and the Army

Professor Andrius Ušinskas of the Department of Electronic Systems at the Vilnius Gediminas Technical University Faculty of Electronics, points out two of the most important projects implemented in the past couple of years. A system was created for the Vilnius Locomotive Repair Depot that enables specialists to monitor and analyse electronic locomotive data and assess locomotive functioning.

During the second project, VGTU electronics specialists created a hard-to-detect radio communications technology and radio prototype for the Lithuanian Army, which will ensure the secrecy of operations. The project was implemented in 2016-2017 and coordinated by UAB Geozondas.

Current projects at the VGTU Faculty of Electronics include a model framework for the internet of things, devices for intelligent transport systems, an open access platform for virtual reality technology and a smart system for testing optical resilience for the laser technology sector.

The First of Its Kind in the World

“Our concept in the field of electronics is this: from fundamental research to product. Only new scientific results allow us to create unique devices that are the first of their kind in the world,” reveals Professor Saulius Balevičius, head of the Material Science and Electrical Engineering Department at the Centre for Physical Sciences and Technology (FTMC).

Currently, the principal products created by the FTMC are impulse magnetic field meters. The FTMC collaborates with the French-German Research Institute Saint-Louis and the Dresden High Magnetic Field Laboratory at the Helmholtz-Rozendorf Centre in developing advanced devices. Devices adapted for highly magnetic fields have been bought by American, German and Turkish buyers.

Recently, an impulse magnetic field meter was purchased by a lab at Baker Hughes, a large US company and subsidiary of General Electric that mostly manufactures devices for sourcing shale, oil and gas. A cooperation agreement with the company is now in the works.

“The device we have developed will have a wider scope of application because impulse fields are weaker,” clarifies Professor Balevičius. The device is protected by a European patent in 32 countries. The team also hopes to patent innovations developed with the Americans.

The largest innovation infrastructure, service and competence network in the Baltic states, OPEN R&D Lithuania unites all of the country’s universities, research institutes, science and technology parks and open access centres, providing over 2.5 thousand different services in the fields of engineering, IT, biomedicine and biotechnology, material science, physics and chemical technology, natural resources and agriculture.

Curated by the Agency for Science, Innovation and Technology (MITA), the open access network OPEN R&D Lithuania helps bring together scientists working on the most advanced technology with business in Lithuania and abroad, and promotes their cooperation. In order to help businesses find what they need among a vast array of R&D services, MITA set up the Contact Centre. An emailed enquiry is enough to solicit an answer as to where a business should refer to next. Network facilitators will help organisations find business and research contacts and assist them in becoming a partner.


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