At the JEC Paris show on March 15th, 2017, Belgo-Luxembourgish company e-Xstream engineering won the JEC Innovation Award, along with Solvay, for launching the Digimat Additive Manufacturing solution. This award recognizes the innovation and market potential of the software for the 3D printing of plastics & composites.
This software and engineering services company focuses 100% of its business on the mutli-scale modeling of reinforced plastics and composites. The major aerospace and automotive companies from around the world turn to e-Xstream to model their advanced materials, cars and airplanes, a job to which CEO Roger Assaker and his team devote themselves with passion and confidence.
So how did e-Xstream engineering get here? Assaker sat down to give us the story:
Tell us how this story begins.
I grew up and lived in Lebanon, the youngest of three brothers. I decided to go to university abroad and thus followed my brothers to Liège where I started studying Aerospace Engineering. One of my brothers was actually working at Solvay’s headquarters in Brussels and helped me getting a two-month internship there.
I studied in Liège and then took a Ph.D. in Louvain-la-Neuve in the area of semiconductors for electronics and applied to digital simulation. During the last year of my Ph.D. my brother moved to Luxembourg and took a position at Goodyear. I knew the company had some open positions and I wanted to try the interview process to see how it felt like to enter the working world. And I got the job. So I decided to move to Luxembourg, start working and finish my thesis at the same time. I stayed with Goodyear five years as an R&D Engineer in the Computational Mechanics Group. I also started an M.B.A. by taking evening classes at Sacred Heart University in Luxembourg.
I quickly realised that working in a big company wasn’t really an ideal life for me. So I took the risk to leave a great career plan to start my own company in 2003.
How was e-Xstream born?
During my time at Goodyear, we invited one of my ex professors, Issam Doghri, to give a presentation about material modeling. Actually, while I was pursuing my Ph.D. degree, I assisted him and gave some courses in solid mechanics and strength of materials. It was the moment we reconnected and decided together to create e-Xstream engineering.
On one side, Issam’s research at the University of Louvain focused on material modeling and micromechanics. And on the other side, I was already working on a business plan to start a company, this Business Plan became e-Xstream engineering. This was a perfect match. I took the lead of the business and Issam the lead of the R&D.
The business plan I wrote won competitions at the national level in Luxembourg (123 GO) and Belgium (4×4 pour Entreprendre) and at the European level (Eurowards). This gave us the first push and allowed us to get a good promotion as well as three investors. We also received continuous financial support from the Luxembourg Ministry of Economy and the Walloon Region (1st Spin-off,…), which truly helped us reach our goals.
What were the next steps?
The first clients I acquired were Solvay and Goodyear. Then the customers’ pool and turnover kept growing fast throughout the years. We have become the key player in the materials modeling segment counting some of the biggest names from the Aerospace and Automotive industries amongst our clients. I started by opening our first two offices in Belgium and in Luxembourg, although the majority of my customers are international players.
In September 2012, I sold e-Xstream engineering to MSC Software, the pioneer of numerical simulation based in Newport Beach, California. With MSC, we continued to grow the company by doubling our headcount all around the world and tripling our revenues globally. This was only possible thanks to a strong team and to a continuous stream of award winning innovative solutions. The JEC innovation award for our Additive Manufacturing is the last of a series of awards including 2 other JEC Innovation awards and the R&D 100, the “Oscars of innovation”.
Tell us about the company’s philosophy?
Although we are almost 60 people today and a 14 years old company, we still have start-up like values. Our motto is “work hard, play hard” and we mean it. Although, we gather some of the most experienced engineers and people – some have 30 years of experience and have worked for the biggest international aerospace and automotive companies – the atmosphere is chilled, fun, young, and dynamic. I am today really proud of my team and the work they accomplish!
Where do you see the role of Luxembourg in the composites industry?
The research around materials is part of Luxembourg’s strategy to diversify. Luxinnovation’s Materials & Manufacturing Cluster is tackling the topic. The Ministry of the Economy and the Ministry of Research has just created a National Composite Center in Bascharage, just across the parking lot from our office. Our activities fit perfectly in this national picture and initiatives as we have been doing research and development on this topic since 14 years now.
What does this award really mean to you?
It is a global recognition of our first steps in the Additive Manufacturing field.
The 3D Printing industry is growing around 30% every year and companies’ interest for this solution has subsequently increased too. The global value of the industry is currently estimated to reach over $10 billion by 2021.
I remember talking to a lot of companies for which the barriers to 3D printing were threefold: the cost, the printing time and the variety of materials. Therefore, we decided to create an ecosystem of companies including the stakeholders involved in the process: printing machines makers, materials makers and the end-users. This resulted in the creation of a new product, recognised today, at its early beginning, by the biggest players on the market. This award also gave us the strength and confidence that we can now push the development of the solution even further.
For more about the company culture, we turn to Application Engineer Angela Iannuzzo, who has recently joined the company
I joined the company one year ago and I realised that I had the opportunity to both make my engineering skills grow and my business vision develop within the most advanced material simulation company. In a nutshell: an exciting job with an amazing and dynamic team.
Working for e-Xstream means for me adrenaline, facing challenges every day and pushing the limits to make a difference. This is my idea of engineering: bringing valuable innovation to the world. Together with my team, we move towards the future with passion, dedication and expertise.
But e-Xstream is not only this. It is where you build outstanding international relations, it is where you feel home, where you find people to rely on, where different dreams converge in one.
e-Xstream is a way of thinking and making your vision happens.