The mechanical engineering sector is comprised of around 2,900 companies and 60,000 direct jobs. It accounts for a little under 40% of Walloon manufacturing jobs. The sector invests around € 600 million in R&D every year in numerous cutting-edge technologies.
Mechanical engineering, a cross-cutting skill
This sector is a hotbed of development where first-class Walloon companies play a leading role. The field of mechanical engineering is vast, as it embraces all the competences that call on knowledge of mechanics. It covers aerospace, the automotive industry, as well as all the mechanised industrial procedures, from the drug assembly line to household goods and the chemical industry.
Robotics and automation are intimately linked to mechanical engineering and represent sectors in which Wallonia excels. In fact, the Walloon qualities of precision, reliability and speed in electromechanical engineering have helped the region’s engineers turn it into a sector of excellence.
Diversity of the materials and technologies
Everyday products or processes today juggle with a huge variety of materials and coatings, of material forming technologies. They contain electronics and mechanics (mechatronics), mathematics via increasingly sophisticated simulations, biomechatronics, photonics, etc.
In fact, the “machines and processes” of mechanical engineering as well as its components touch on increasingly varied advanced scientific and technical fields. The interaction between these sciences and technologies is increasing and is leading to “the hybridisation of mechanical engineering”. It is paving the way for real breakaway innovations.
With the hybridisation of technologies, it is impossible for a company to integrate all the required know-how. It must therefore turn to companies that specialise in certain technological fields.
The original equipment manufacturers/integrators are often large companies. However, in certain niches, in emerging sectors or again in sectors that are yet to see the consolidation of their industry, SME can play the role of original equipment manufacturer/integrator.
The MecaTech Cluster
The hybridisation of technologies and the strategic positioning of the different types of players make it necessary for the various mechanical engineering players to work together in a network.
This notion of network must be extended to the universities and research centres, which are crucial to its success. The clusters make a point of encouraging this type of operation.
The MecaTech Cluster focuses on 4 technological priorities:
- Materials and surfaces of the future: evolution of traditional materials towards new materials (ceramics, composites, polymers), multi-material systems, coatings and surface treatments, nanotechnologies, etc. which provide a more economic and sustainable solution to the needs of the end users.
- Global technologies: integration of a range of functions in one single object and optimisation of the design/production time and costs by reducing the number of operations by adding materials rather than by removing them (mechanisation). They are based on injections of powders, semi-solid states (thixoforming), on knowledge of multi-materials, on “one shot” forming skills…
- Microtechnologies and mechatronics: development of mechatronic systems and their miniaturisation. A mechatronic system is a mechanical structure made up of electronics, triggers, sensors, intelligent remote controls and interfaces with man and the outside world.
- Maintenance and reliability: developments that aim to secure the maximum availability of production units, the production/performance levels of installations, the quality of the resulting products.
Consult the web site of the Mecatech Cluster.