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The first DRY Electropolishing technology for high-precision components

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - DLyte PRO (The first DRY Electropolishing technology for high-precision components)

Reporting period: 2019-02-01 to 2019-11-30

Within the competitive and ever changing industry of post-processing, and more precisely the metal polishing, GPA Innova introduced in 2017 a new ground-breaking technology in the market: the first dry electropolishing system. GPA invested more than 3 years to develop this game-changing technology that can accurately and automatically grind and polish high-precision metal components in a single step.
DLyte leads to superior surface results i) without changing the geometry of the object (does not round cutting edges and respects tolerances of the piece), ii) assuring excellent mechanical properties, iii) optimal surface finishing and iv) a highly controlled composition of the object. On the operational side, our technology based on dry-electropolishing drastically reduces lead times, offering pay-back periods ranging between 6 and 24 months for our clients. Dlyte electropolishing concept works by means of ion transport through free solid bodies as electrolyte, instead of standard liquid ones. Our solution is based in 2 main patented innovations:
The electrolyte and its functionality:The dry electrolyte is the core of the invention, and holds the commercial name of Drylyte®. It is composed by solid spherical particles which have been designed to present a highly porous structure to give them the property of internally retaining the optimal amount of liquid medium. Such liquid medium is a specific solution of acid in water, which once absorbed by the spheres confer to these solid bodies the required electrical conductive behaviour when a voltage is applied between the workpiece and the cathode
The system: DLyte system is conceived to effectively exploit the Drylyte technology. The system considers a robotized arm, holding the metallic parts to be treated, which is immersed in Drylyte domain. The robotized arm automatically creates the exactly required relative movement and friction between the conductive polymeric particles and the pieces to be polished.

To date GPA Innova has 3 machine series on production since 2017, the biggest of which can polish up to 9 dental parts simultaneously. However, industry demands machinery suitable for either big parts or mass production (hundreds of parts simultaneously) and its goal is to build a new machine called Dlyte1000 (within the project Dlyte PRO) as well as improve the current strategy for the commercialisation of Drylyte as a consumable. Therefore the aim of this project granted with the Phase 2 – Horizon 2020 is to carry out these goals:
1. Design and manufacture a Dlyte1000
2. Dlyte1000 passes technical validation tests (in-house and outsourced)
3. Fulfil management and commercial activities before market
During the first reporting period, several activities have been developed in parallel following as accurately as possible the workplan described in the grant agreement.
Upon the start of the first period, the lab team began investigating the first part of the project, which consisted in the definition of the process parameters. A part was designed with every common geometry (through hole, blind hole, saw with peaks and valleys, sharp outer corner, sharp inner corner and threaded hole) and manufactured in as many metals as possible in order to investigate the different polishing parameters under this same part. The R&D team continued investigating further experiments. Given that one of the major handicaps of Dlyte technology are the cavities, two main experiments were developed in order to test new possible applications: a particle charge capacity test and a particle charging by electric test. While those experiments gave positive results, its application is however far too complicated to implement in a machine and needs further research, let alone the fact that the voltage applied needed to be of several kV.30kV. Other experiments were carried out in order to find ways to improve the process such as a particle flotation system and a new cathode coating solution.
In the early days of the project the engineering team began as well developing in parallel to the R&D team, yet sharing information, the escalated application of the current machines. Upon realising that a simple test bench would not accurately represent an actual machine, it was decided they would begin working on the development of the future Dlyte1000. While the Dlyte1000 will be a modular machine, its core will remain standard to the series and will be an escalated version of the current technology. This way, it was decided the team would develop a prototype with the core structure in order to use it as a definitive test bench, and at the same time having more time to improve and refine the final design.

Towards mid-period, two new hires joined the company to form the Industrial Sales Team, who would take over the sales and communication with customers on the big industry side, meaning the customers who would possibly be interested in acquiring a future Dlyte1000. They participated in the WP5 as they gathered information from the first day of customer interest as well as participated in the development of new commercial strategies, from electrolyte to machinery.
The impact of our innovation on the company financials: Till the date, GPA turnover accounted for 300k€ in 2015, 600k€ in 2016, 1,8M€ in 2017 and 3,5M€ in 2018 and 6M€ in 2019.
By means of DLyte PRO Project materialization, our turnover will exponentially increase during the next years, as well as the net benefits. The European market presents our strongest economic potential, as we have already analysed in depth the potentials during the market assessment. We have segmented all other regions in developed and developing markets, as China and India for instance possess high potential in terms of demand, but lower acquisition margin since the labour cost in those regions is a key competitive factor.
We have estimated DLyte’s sales forecast figures by means of: a. Market assessment (SAM/SOM) b. Number of clients and loyalty with a bottom-up approach based on our experience with our DLyte pilot users and existing customers of MURUA, c. Distribution contracts already signed with distributors, with minimum units sold committed per year d. Pre-orders already received. We forecast to sell about 684 machines (DLyte100 and DLyte1000) until 2025, which lead to revenues projections of more than €39.6 Million.
Impact on job creation: GPA started its activity with a 4-person team, which has since grown to 64 to date, covering technical, administrative and business areas. DLyte PRO operation will be traduced in direct labour needs in GPA of around 48 vacancies (additional to current headcount): Increase commercial department for the new product with Sales Eng. & a Product Manager, additional employees to cover the new subsidiaries (4-5/each), increase engineering team and include a logistics and quality assessment units. In addition, boost the current marketing department and create a basic after-sales support call-centre.