Interview with Santi Amposta, head of BERALMAR’s R&D
Santi Amposta (45) has been head of R&D at BERALMAR since he joined the company in 1993 from the automotive industry. He has a degree in Engineering from the Escuela Universitaria de Ingeniera Técnica Industrial (EUETI) of Terrassa, Catalonia. Among the various contributions to innovation in the ceramics sector which can be attributed to him, the development of the MICROMATIC micronized solids firing system stands out. Since the first installation in 2001 until now, this has been implemented in some 70 tunnel kilns.
Santi, who leads an R&D team made up of 4 engineers, shares with us some of his points of view on innovation in our sector.
Beralmar Newsletter: After 15 years in the ceramics industry, in which fields and aspects do you foresee most technological change?
Santi Amposta: The main innovations in the sector will come mostly in the field of energy optimisation, both from the efficiency and environmental points of view. The search for alternative fuels and sources of energy will be essential for a low value added product like structural ceramics to be able to compete with other construction materials.
BN: The need to increase investment in R&D is a recurrent debate among Chambers of Commerce, employers and management. When intellectual and industrial property is often as difficult to protect as it is in our sector and others, what do the incentives and returns need to be?
SA: It is practically impossible in this sector, even more so now with competition from emerging countries, to protect intellectual property given the type of product we market, where standardisation is very complicated and each implementation is practically an innovation project. But this is where the companies who are continuously evolving can get their returns and compensation for their efforts. This continuous improvement makes each company’s know-how, which is impossible to reproduce, a “shield” faced with this lack of protection.
BN: In our sector there are companies which innovate a great deal, a little or not at all. How would you place Beralmar in this sense?
SA: Beralmar, as it is a medium-sized company, has to continually adapt to the changing needs of its clients and the market in general. This means that although the level of research is moderate, its level of innovation is very high. In this sense Beralmar is a reference company for many ceramists when they need a collaborating company in those cases where they need to implement an improvement to their manufacturing process, particularly in firing and drying. As examples of this relationship there are cases of combustion plants using biogas, pet coke, biomass, etc.
BN: Beralmar will soon complete the construction of a test kiln for prototype burners at its Terrassa facility. What expectations do you have for its usefulness for our Department?
SA: It is a question of time. I will explain: until now, even with carrying out tests on prototypes in our plant, the main trial has always been carried out in one of our tunnel kilns in collaboration with trusted clients, of which there are many, fortunately. With the test kiln, although the validation for the user will still be carried out equally in the final plant, the degree of development of the prototype will be much greater linked to this point, so the time to launch onto the market for the project will be reduced.