B4Plastics Team

A day in the life of: B4Plastics Process Engineer

August 3, 2021

As part of our series about the daily work of B4P employees, today we will be meeting a member of our dedicated production team.

Background Michiel Vrijsen

Michiel Vrijsen (27, Belgian) studied chemical engineering at the University of Hasselt. After graduating, he started working as an R&D scientist at Nitto Genk, a company active in pressure sensitive adhesives. About two years ago, Michiel joined the B4Plastics team as a process and manufacturing engineer, working to design and develop the processes that are required for an ecological revolution within the polymer industry and the build-up of the New Plastics Economy.

Q. How did you get into a career as a Process Engineer in the New Plastics Economy?

Polymers and technology have always fascinated me from a young age. Plastics are all around us, are used for a remarkable range of applications, and there is no avoiding them and their convenience in your day-to-day life. Like many people however, it worried me how polymer technology is turning our planet into a big dump yard. By coincidence I stumbled upon B4Plastics, and after reading about the company’s vision and mission I decided to join their green quest. I can now contribute towards a better world, while using two of my passions on a daily basis.

Q. Describe your typical working day at B4Plastics.

Every workday starts with a talk and a laugh with colleagues. After that, it’s back to business. Building up novel industrial processes to produce new biomaterials and sustainable products comes with very dynamic and diverse working days. A great deal of the time is spent reading into technology, and talking to suppliers and customers to gain as much information as possible. In this way, we can come to the best possible solution for the different applications of our products. On top of that, there is a huge amount of planning and coordinating involved in process engineering. Every day is different, some days are a surprise, and I would not wish to have it any other way.

Q. What are the skills you need to have to excel as a Process Engineer producing biomaterials?

Drive, problem-solving skills and a passion for engineering. As a process engineer, I am responsible for designing and building the first biomaterial production processes together with our partners. We design new polymers, which means that the product characteristics are not studied as much in detail as commodity plastics that are available now and have a 40-year expertise build-up. This comes with a lot of challenges in the design of the processes. You need to have the drive to keep learning and keep exploring despite any challenges that may come forward, and problem-solving skills to keep pushing forward into the project, obstacle after obstacle, setback after setback, till the best possible solution is found.

Q. What challenges do you face in this role?

The biggest challenge is the level of innovation in our polymers. All polymers that the R&D team develops have never been produced on a big scale before and thus there is limited data available on them. This results in developing production processes with a very limited amount of information. The challenge here is to obtain the right information using a range of analytical techniques and logical deduction, to be able to develop the right equipment for the process.

Q. What keeps you motivated to go into work every day?

My appetite for knowledge. As the first process engineer of the company, I guide the projects from start to end, which puts me into a great position for learning new things every day. Besides that, building up new processes comes with a big amount of satisfaction. It is fantastic to see your ideas and hard work come to life in front of your eyes.

Q. What advice would you give someone considering a engineering career in the New Plastics Economy?

Make sure engineering is your true passion. If not, it will be hard to keep up with the speed and enthusiasm of the company. If it is your true passion, this company provides an excellent platform to develop yourself.

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