Company visits are an important part of the Open Science education, this semester the students were invited to Lund and AlfaLaval.
At 7AM a bus of 6 people left Aarhus University and headed for Copenhagen to pick up the last student before crossing the border to Sweden. The students participating in the company visit are currently working on Open Science projects surrounding antifouling, 3D printing, graphene, bone promoting coatings, and microfluidics.
When your everyday is spend in university laboratories, it can be hard to imagine how your science and scientific methods are relevant in a large company as AlfaLaval. How their work on heat-exchangers, separators, and pumps in large scale can benefit from small scale laboratory projects. Therefore, it is important that the students are invited in, to observe the connections, challenges, and possible solutions for themselves.
At AltaLaval, the students were guided through, not only the buildings and production lines, but also through the history of AlfaLaval. Throughout the tour, the students were challenged on their knowledge and curiosity in an effort to see the possibilities and limitations in the products and the processes.
When entering the assembly-line, the largest plate heat-exchangers caught the attention. They were manually assembled to ensure quality all the way. In a time where AI and robots are expected to take over every manual workspace – hand-assembly is still the way to go for quality. This is inspiring to experience when you are daily exposed to prophecies on increasing unemployment due to robots.
The tour also took us through the testing facilities, and allowed comparison of new heat exchangers and stress tested heat exchangers. By touching, looking, and discussing what was going on in the testing facilities, the Open Science research projects from the university laboratories were brought into perspective. The experience that both knowledge for the large-scale production and for the small-scale testing and development was needed, motivated new thoughts and discussions.
The testing laboratories, almost identical to the laboratories the students use every day, presented both known equipment, new setups, and for us, secret results. As a group of engineers, chemists and nano-scientists, the discussions surrounded both the equipment, the methods, and the setups gave the students an all-round understanding of the science and the facilities. All their Open Science projects were evaluated in the context of AlfaLaval and their questions and wonderings were accepted and welcomed as valid knowledge for improving the products and testing. They were expected to question processes, designs, or methods as a way of getting around doing what we do just because that is what we have always done. The respect and acknowledgement of knowledge and opinion was directly translated into motivation and fascination!
Even though, the discussions were very fruitful, and the tour very interesting, there is no doubt – the glance into the prototype lab was the icing on the cake! More than one student would have loved to enter and start their career here at that very moment!
Thank you Mats and Olga for inviting us and showing us how science is done at AlfaLaval.