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Lightweight engineering bursts onto the high-volume manufacturing scene

News International-French

12 Apr 2012

Lightweight engineering is making its presence felt in daily life: Cars and aeroplanes manufactured using new materials are lighter than their predecessors and therefore consume significantly less fuel. Most of the rotor blades on high performance wind turbines already consist of fiber-reinforced plastics; even modern sports equipment such as wind surfing gear or mountain bikes are produced from glass fiber and carbon fiber reinforced plastics or aluminium. However, the manufacturing methods applied up until now to produce featherweight components, have tended to be associated with considerable amounts of manual work. Consequently, components of this nature can be produced economically only in small quantities.

The Fraunhofer Institute for Production Technology IPT therefore took up the challenge to provide innovative manufacturing technologies capable of transporting light engineering into the world of mass production. In order to make lightweight components accessible and affordable for the automotive engineering and aerospace sectors as well as for the fields of renewable energies, oil and gas exploration and process technology, the Fraunhofer IPT and the Laboratory for Machine Tools and Production Engineering WZL of the RWTH Aachen University, in Germany set up the business unit "Lightweight Production Technology". This collaborative venture has permitted the two Institutes from Aachen, Germany, to combine their expertise in production technology with their know-how of the specific challenges associated with processing lightweight engineering materials such as fiber composites, high performance metals, ceramics and multi-material systems. The WZL and the Fraunhofer IPT develop processes, plant, machine tools and software for primary forming and reforming, joining, handling, functionalizing, finish machining and quality assurance geared to lightweight engineering materials.

The Fraunhofer IPT focuses particularly on the development of holistic and integrated process chains.


The Fraunhofer IPT has been presenting its new ideas and concepts as well as its new business unit "Lightweight Production Technology" at the JEC Europe in Paris, the international trade fair for fiber composites. There, the Institute showed its expertise in the manufacture of uni-directional, continuous-fiber reinforced components from 27-29 March 2012. The Fraunhofer IPT also demonstratied new tape laying design options for the manufacture of three-dimensional components on the basis of various exhibits. In the "Automation Forum" on 29 March, Alexander Kermer-Meyer, who is the leader of this business unit, delivered a lecture outlining the challenges and the opportunities presented by with the development of continuous and integrated process chains for thermo-plastic fiber composite plastics.



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