In 2019, under the lead of the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI), the Swiss Nanoscience Institute (SNI) teamed up with the PSI, the University of Applied Sciences Northwestern Switzerland (FHNW), the Canton of Aargau and a number of industrial partners to found a technology transfer center for applied materials analysis backed by the Swiss Federal Government. The center, known as ANAXAM (Analytics with Neutrons and X-Ray for Advanced Manufacturing) provides cutting-edge materials analysis services to industrial companies working with modern manufacturing technologies. In late September 2019, the umbrella organization Advanced Manufacturing Technology Transfer Center (AM-TTC) Alliance approved the concept and the financial support required for the start-up phase, allowing ANAXAM to open its doors in December 2019. In the meantime, the technology transfer center is well established and has already carried out numerous projects for a wide range of industrial companies.
Innovative manufacturing “Made in Switzerland”
“Made in Switzerland” is synonymous with quality, and should remain so in future. Accordingly, a great deal of research and development on modern manufacturing technologies takes place in Switzerland. However, before an improved technology, an innovative process or a new material can make the transition from the laboratory to industrial production, there are a number of hurdles to be overcome.
The Federal Government’s “Action Plan for Digitalization” was launched to support efforts to further cement Switzerland’s status as an outstanding manufacturing location. Among the plan’s objectives is the creation of technology transfer centers devoted to innovative manufacturing technologies, with a view to promoting technology transfer from research to industry. The AM-TTC Alliance is the umbrella organization for all of the new centers, responsible for defining their strategic orientation and coordinating among the individual facilities. The alliance gives industrial companies access to the infrastructure they need to develop new and improved processes and bring innovative products to market.
Materials analysis supports optimization
“Outstanding materials analysis can provide crucial information in the context of technology transfer. In the Canton of Aargau, this gave rise to the idea of establishing a technology transfer center to allow Swiss industrial companies to benefit from the neutron and X-ray analysis carried out at the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI),” reports Dr. Christian Grünzweig, director of ANAXAM. “In addition to its activities as a service provider, ANAXAM is also a guarantor of innovation in the field of analytics,” he adds. Link to the ANAXAM website
The array of methods, devices and expertise offered by ANAXAM is broadened by the participation of the FHNW and the SNI, resulting in a diverse spectrum of applications in a variety of industrial fields. The most varied materials can be analyzed and measured in detail, minute modifications – including those affecting a product’s interior – can be represented, and production processes can be examined and optimized using the methods at the center’s disposal.
Key milestone reached
After intensive preparations by representatives of the PSI, the Canton of Aargau, the FHNW and the SNI, the ANAXAM association was formed in May to set up the ANAXAM Technology Transfer Center for applied materials analysis in the field of innovative manufacturing technologies. In late September, ANAXAM was given the green light by the umbrella organization AM-TTC. As a result, for the start-up phase from 2019 to 2020, ANAXAM was granted funding to the tune of 2.3 million Swiss francs, enabling the association to open the center in Villigen on 1 December. An application for further funding in the development phase (2021 to 2024) has been submitted to the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SBFI).
“For Aargau, with its thriving industrial sector, the establishment of this center is a key milestone,” remarked Vincenza Trivigno, chancellor of the Canton of Aargau and an active participant in the preparations, adding that “ANAXAM will promote and accelerate the development of novel, highly innovative and competitive products and processes.”
The materials analysis services on offer at ANAXAM go beyond laboratory work: ANAXAM employs highly trained personnel with the necessary skills to efficiently use the large-scale research facilities and infrastructure, who can offer professional advice to the center’s customers from industrial companies at all times.
“In addition to its activities as a service provider, ANAXAM is also a guarantor of innovation in the field of analytics.”
Dr. Christian Grünzweig, Director of ANAXAM
The SNI is represented on the association’s board by our general manager, Claudia Wirth. The practical execution of jobs assigned to ANAXAM primarily involves the Nano Imaging Lab (NI Lab), which specializes in detailed imaging and analysis of surfaces.
Moreover, funding for projects based on modern manufacturing technologies can be obtained under the Nano Argovia program. Two Nano Argovia projects were approved for 2020, to be executed in collaboration with ANAXAM.
In one, researchers at the FHNW School of Life Sciences have worked with the company Acthera Therapeutics AG (Basel-Stadt) to develop a stable formulation for liposomes that are loaded with active agents and react to changes in blood pressure. The team has extrapolated the entire production and storage process to the pilot scale in order to produce material for pre-clinical trials. (Project description)
In cooperation with ANAXAM, a new coating for titanium implants is being developed as part of a Nano Argovia project.
In the second project in collaboration with ANAXAM, the FHNW School of Life Sciences teamed up with the company Orchid Orthopedics Switzerland GmbH (Baden-Dättwil) to explore surface treatments for joint implants. The researchers have examined a process for improving titanium implants with a plasma-sprayed ceramic coating, as well as optimized post-treatment methods. Their goal was to develop joint implants that can sustain heavy loads with minimal abrasion due to movement and strain, and do not trigger immunological reactions. (Project description)
In 2022, another Nano-Argovia project (CRONOS) was launched with the participation of ANAXAM. Here, an interdisciplinary team of scientists is investigating the effect of cosmic rays on certain layers in power semiconductors. (Project description)
“ANAXAM is another forward-looking platform for interdisciplinary collaboration that forms a bridge between research and industry, and we are delighted to be contributing to this public-private partnership with our expertise and infrastructure.”
Prof. Martino Poggio, SNI director