Scientific research driving agile product development

Combining studies, work and research is not a simple task, but Turo Välikangas has successfully managed to complete academic studies and research that takes into account the company’s goals. Years of work have now been turned into a doctoral thesis on the development of heat exchangers. The aim has been to produce research whose results will advance development activities and determine competitive factors.

Summer worker turned into coil doctor 

That’s where it all started – Turo’s first summer job at Koja’s product development department. The summer job was followed by a part-time job, a master’s thesis, doctoral studies, a researcher’s position at Koja and a doctoral thesis. A seven-year research journey on heat exchangers culminated in November 2021 when Turo Välikangas became a Doctor of Science in technology. The dissertation entitled ‘Numerical Studies on Fin-and-Tube Heat Exchangers’ focuses on the product development of heat exchangers, i.e. finned coils.

Turo’s study path is an excellent combination of scientific studies and the support and growth environment provided by the company. Several partners from many universities were involved in the various phases of the research, with the University of Tampere playing the most important role. The topics for the research were identified in cooperation with Koja, and the aim was to conduct the research specifically from the company’s point of view, so that the results will advance development activities and identify competitive factors.

International cooperation

In all, the research has been carried out in several phases, involving experts from the University of Tampere, Aalto University, Delft University of Technology and Aalborg University.

During the dissertation phase, Turo was a doctoral student at the Doctoral School of Industry Innovations (DSII) at the University of Tampere.  This model is the best in combining research with product development and business, and creates collaboration between companies and universities. The work was supervised by university supervisors and representatives from Koja. 

“Overall, conducting research is a long process, with moments of hesitation. It’s great that I have found a wide range of people to exchange thoughts with. In my case, the publication of my second article in particular gave me hope and faith in the future. It was at that point that the level to strive for became clear to me,” says Turo.

Freedom and responsibility

Working for Koja has provided the starting point for the research. While the dissertation focused on the simulation capabilities of open source software, involvement in the development of Koja’s own coil production and the operations of the product development and testing centre has provided practical exposure.

“Koja has been an agile partner and provided opportunities to experiment with various options. Where necessary, the direction of the research has also been fine-tuned along the way. It’s the combination of freedom and responsibility that has been the most rewarding aspect of the work. Modern product development is also not always tied to a certain time or place, but can be done almost anywhere,” says Turo.

From research to production

Turo’s research has brought new perspectives to the product development of heat exchangers, which means that future production and investment decisions at Koja can also be considered in the light of research data. The research and Koja’s own production define the conditions for the company’s ability to select the best possible coil design for air handling solutions used in ships and buildings. The best option must possess good properties and be economically viable to manufacture.

Now that the doctoral thesis has been completed, a new phase is about to begin. Turo will continue his work as Koja’s resident ‘coil doctor’, applying what he has learned from his research. Koja’s product development and testing centre will also play an important role in future product development. While simulation can significantly speed up product development, it is still important to verify the performance of equipment through practical measurements. 

Read more about Välikangas' dissertation ” Numerical Studies on Fin-and-Tube Heat Exchangers” »

Read more about Välikangas' doctoral studies on the DSII Doctoral School of Industrial Innovation website »


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