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The Lightweight Technologies Forum will take place in parallel to Composites Europe, on 6-8 November 2018 in Stuttgart, Germany.
Weight reduction is one of the most important development criteria across numerous growth industries – in the automotive industry, aviation, mechanical engineering and wind power, but also in infrastructure, medical technology and in the marine and sports and leisure sector. Weight is not only reduced by using lighter materials but also by integrating functions and focusing more on load and material driven engineering.
It has now become clear that the requirements of modern lightweight construction can no longer be met by single materials – optimum solutions can only be achieved with hybrid lightweight construction. The Lightweight Technologies Forum at Composites Europe shows how the application sectors of integrative and hybrid lightweight construction can be brought together. The combined exhibition and lecture forum serves as a cross-material interface between metal and fibre composite technologies in structural components. In applications-oriented themed sessions expert practitioners will address current issues related to composite materials in the automotive, aerospace and architecture sectors. Participation in the Forum is included in the admission ticket for visitors to Composites Europe.
Longer range thanks to lightweight construction
The innovation drivers for lightweight construction are the aerospace and automotive industries: each kilogram saved on a means of transport means one kilogram extra payload. A 100 kg lighter car consumes around 0.5 litres less fuel per 100 km. With electric vehicles, the range increases accordingly. An Airbus A320 requires 10,000 litres less kerosene per year if it weighs 100 kg less. Considering that materials account for 44.3% of the costs in the manufacturing industry, the savings potential available here quickly becomes clear.
Innovations in lightweight automotive construction are as important as ever today. The market study Leichtbau als Innovationstreiber (Lightweight Construction as an Innovation Driver), published by Automotive Management Consulting (AMC) and Composites Europe organiser Reed Exhibitions, presents the status quo as well as trends and future challenges of multi-material lightweight construction in the automotive industry. According to the report, policymakers and end users are currently the biggest drivers of lightweight construction. The results of the study show, however, that the consistent implementation of lightweight construction solutions is often foiled by suppliers and manufacturers.
Political debate stimulates the market
Published by Carbon Composites and AVK, the Composites Market Report 2017 covers the lightweight construction potential of GRP and CFRP in detail. It states that: “Against the background of the current political debate (diesel scandal, advance of e-mobility, accelerated energy transit, tightened CO2 regulations), further laws and tax adjustments could provide a positive stimulus for the lightweight construction market. Carbon fibre-reinforced composites are a key growth driver within the overall market environment for (fibre-reinforced) lightweight material systems.”
In 2016, global demand for carbon fibre composites totalled some 101,000 tonnes, exceeding the previous year’s figure by around 11%. For the coming years steady and continued, double-digit growth rates in the region of 10-13% are expected. In 2016, the total turnover for CFRP worldwide amounted to about US$13.23 billion, an increase of about 14% compared to the previous year.
Competitiveness thanks to natural fibre-reinforced plastics
The VDI Centre for Resource Efficiency has also described the role of fibre and natural fibre-reinforced plastics in the sphere of lightweight construction materials in its study Inventory of Lightweight Construction in Germany, published in 2015. According to the study, there is great potential for further weight reduction through the use of fibre reinforced plastics (FRP). Fibre-reinforced plastics such as GRP and CFRP are currently posting very high growth rates and are very likely to gain in importance in the long term (after 2020). The main growth drivers here are the automotive industry and wind power.
In addition, plastics reinforced with natural fibres such as hemp, flax or cotton have already become established in vehicle manufacturing, especially for vehicle interiors, because they are economically competitive. Other advantages are their low tendency to splinter during crashes and their sound insulation. The use of renewable raw materials in the form of biopolymers and natural fibre reinforced plastics also offers good opportunities for reducing dependence on crude oil and using renewable resources instead.
Germany funds lightweight construction projects
German industry plays a pioneering role in lightweight construction. In 2017, for example, the Federal Ministry of Economics founded the Initiative Leichtbau (lightweight construction initiative), supporting the efficient cross-technology transfer of knowledge among all lightweight construction players across Germany. A ‘lightweight construction atlas’ was also initiated at the end of 2016. This interactive portal allows organisations to present their processes and activities and search for companies and research institutions for tailor-made lightweight construction expertise in the region. The Federal Government’s funding catalogue now lists more than 1000 lightweight construction projects.
The Länder are just as active. The focal research department for lightweight construction at the Landshut University of Applied Sciences recently received funding of around €650,000 from the Bavarian Ministry of Science. The Technical Universities of Dresden, Freiberg and Chemnitz founded the Leichtbau-Allianz Sachsen at the end of 2017, supported by the Saxon Ministry of Science, to develop the state into a leading competence region in this field. The Agency for Lightweight Construction also wants to make the state of Baden-Württemberg a world leader in this segment.
Composites Europe 2018 in Stuttgart
Technological advances in the process chain are among the current drivers pushing the development of efficient lightweight construction solutions and their implementation in high-volume production. On 6-8 November, Composites Europe will show all the manufacturing processes used to make fibre reinforced plastics, from raw materials and processing methods to lightweight construction innovations in automotive engineering, aerospace, boatbuilding, wind energy and construction. Visitors will find more than 400 exhibitors from 30 countries in Stuttgart. State-of-the-art technology will be showcased in the exhibition space and in the numerous event areas, lecture forums, themed guided tours and workshops.
Image provided by Composites Europe
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