Focus on 3D printing

Jasper Lefevere is the 3D printing specialist at VITO. What does an ordinary day look like for someone who – until last year – combined a job and top sport? 

In the morning at 7.00 am ... 

... I leave to the station in Antwerp on my folding bike. That’s where I get on the train until I jump back onto my bike in Mol to continue onto VITO, where I arrive by 8.15 am. I used to drive there by car, but it is much more relaxing to take the train. Ideal to read a book, preferably non-fiction in my case.

More efficient catalyst 

At VITO I do research on 3D printing of catalysts, the topic I wrote about for my doctoral thesis. I work at the lab and write articles – a nice blend.

Catalysts accelerate a chemical reaction. The best known example is the catalytic converter in a car which converts all non-combusted material in CO2. About 90% of all chemical processes uses a catalyst.

There are two 3D printers and we are now looking at how to put them to best use: how can we print different materials for catalysts and how can we upscale everything? We intend to submit an innovation mandate, hoping it will help us set up a spin-off. Although this won't be just now yet.

We know the business world is interested, because what we are doing now is partly contract research. Especially in the chemical industry some processes are not running optimally. By adjusting the shape of the catalyst a few percentages of improvement can be achieved. That is enough to strongly increase the conversion of materials, allowing for a high economic profit.

If this conversion can be done more efficiently, you will need less raw materials and less catalysts. Catalysts often contain ‘rare earth elements’ which are expensive and available in limited amounts only.

Knowledge sharing

Thanks to my experience with catalysts I have the opportunity to share my knowledge with colleagues, thesis students and technicians. The latter will be able to take over the 3D printing as soon as they finish their training. Many people are in fact contributing. For example, colleagues who keep in touch with companies, lab staff and all technicians of our group. Because printing is just one step, there’s also temperature treatment in the oven. 

For a run in the afternoon ...

On Mondays we go for a little run among colleagues. Afterwards I grab a quick bite at my desk. On other days there’s more time to lunch and catch up in the coffee room or cafeteria.

... and some more training in the evening

I am multiple Belgian judo champion and I participated in the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio. The ‘top sport’ chapter is over now, but I still train more than the average person. Every evening, actually! Yesterday, for example, I trained with the Flemish judo federation. I get home, eat something and go straight to training. 
I used to train before and after work. Now I try to get some variation in my training by running or doing weights at the gym. Every now and then I give judo training at my club in Koksijde on a Friday night. What if I'm not exercising in the evening? I may attend a lecture about a topic of my interest.


I will obviously never get rid of my competitive attitude, and not just when it comes to sports. In 3D printing, for example, I pay close attention to how and what we can improve to work even quicker, better and finer. 

Another example: at Vito I participate in the 1000 kilometres for Kom op tegen Kanker, an action that is very dear to me. And another outlet for my competitive nature: I set a goal for the wine sales we organised for fund raising. And I made it!