Thrilling plasma event: Rycobel reveals special surprise; a solar racing car

An Openair® plasma seminar organized in April by Plasmatreat's Benelux representative Rycobel culminated in a show-stopping finale. Participants had an exclusive opportunity to watch a live demonstration of the plasma pretreatment of carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic (CFRP) components for the Punch Powertrain Solar Team's new racing car.

At their recent Openair® plasma seminar, Rycobel surprised their guests with the 2013 model of the solar racing car designed by the Belgian students who make up the Punch Powertrain Solar Team. Behind the cockpit: Solar car production manager Dokus Soetemans (pale blue shirt) with fellow students Robbe Craeninckx and Bob Verschueren. Photo: Plasmatreat

When the doors opened at Rycobel's company headquarters on 22 April 2015, the workshop participants could not believe their eyes. Parked in front of them was Indupol One, the racing car designed and built by a group of students from the faculty of industrial engineering at KU Leuven University in Belgium who make up the Punch Powertrain Solar Team. The car made its debut appearance at the World Solar Challenge 2013 and was fresh back from the desert, where it had taken part in the 2015 Abu Dhabi Solar Challenge in January. Indupol One is the forerunner of a new design of solar car which the students are currently building entirely on their own and whose name and shape remains a closely guarded secret. Apart from its new design and other advances, the latest model features a very special innovation: For the first time the CFRP components will be pretreated with atmospheric pressure plasma prior to bonding.

Rycobel directors Frederik Castelain, Kurt Rommens and Vincent Rius (from left). Photo: Plasmatreat

Rycobel headquarters in the Belgian town of Deerlijk. Photo Plasmatreat

Where and how this pretreatment is carried out was demonstrated live to participants at the end of the Openair® plasma workshop. Rycobel NV, based in Deerlijk in Belgium, invited experts from various branches of industry to attend the special event. Rycobel specializes in the Europe-wide distribution of instruments for improving production processes and quality control. The company, under the directorship of the three business partners Kurt Rommens, Frederik Castelain and Vincent Rius, have successfully represented Plasmatreat in the Benelux countries for the past 15 years.

Plasma specialist Kurt Rommens gave a talk on the wide-ranging applications of Openair® plasma technology before handing over to Dokus Soetemans. The production manager of the 16-strong solar car team – who is just 23 years old – explained to the audience the enormous challenges the young designers and engineers involved in this solar racing car project had to face. He enthusiastically described his team's decision to use atmospheric pressure plasma in the new car to improve the adhesion of the CFRP components. This approach not only greatly reduced the time taken to pretreat the carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic, it also achieved a significant weight saving compared with the previous method.

In August this year the latest model of the solar racing car will be unveiled to the public for the first time. Then the solar car, treated with Openair® plasma, and its design team will head to Australia for the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge 2015 in October.

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