JEC Group have brought together the international community of composites leaders and executives in our Composites Circle as an unique networking opportunity to meet with both peers and future partners.
Component manufacturing in modern composite production still depends to a significant extent on manual processes. Undercutting the cost per item of competing metal components can only be achieved through the rigorous application of new automated manufacturing technologies.
(Published on October-November 2006 – JEC Magazine #28)
BY DR WILM UNCKENBOLD AND DR AXEL HERRMANN, CFK-VALLEY STADE, GERMANY
In close cooperation with industrial partners in Germany’s Stade economic region, CFK-Valley Stade, a European competence network, has already developed into one of Europe’s largest facilities for manufacturing lightweight CFRP structures. As a driving force for innovation, this centre exerts a very strong pull on companies and experts in the area of research, development and production - an effect that is accelerated through more than 50 members of the CFK-Valley Stade e.V. association, which has carried the BMBF “member of kompetenznetze.de” quality seal since 2003.
Other CFK-Valley Stade highlights CFK-Valley Stade is one of Germany’s most successful competence networks. It was designated as one of the 365 most innovative centres in the “Germany - Land of Ideas” initiative, a promotional campaign sponsored by German President Horst Köhler and led jointly by the German government and the business community, represented by the Federation of German Industries (BDI).
350 jobs have already been created. An estimated 150 additional jobs will be created due to future industrial settlements and the expansion of five national and international companies.
CFK Valley Stade - a regional network with global impact
Carbon-fibre-reinforced plastics (CFRP) serve as a basis for innovation in designing lightweight structures. The substitution products that can be created with CFRP are also characterised by a high potential for added value in the field of transportation, high-speed systems, and high accelerated machine components.
However, even though CFRP enables a weight reduction of roughly 30% over lightweight aluminium structures, the relatively high cost of the materials and the manual manufacturing techniques currently used is a disadvantage when you compare it to the average cost of a metal structure. Therefore, making the transition from manual to industrial manufacturing is paramount for the industry in the immediate future. As a key criterion for integrating CFRP structures into future series productions successfully, it would also lead to a development of optimised process chains.
CFK-Valley Stade (CFK is the German equivalent of CFRP) focuses on emerging construction methods and automated manufacturing processes in the CFRP growth market. The interdisciplinary core competencies represented by experts in the network cover the whole value-added chain, ranging from design concept to disposal of CFRP structures at the end of their operational life.
So far, more than 50 internationally renowned companies and research institutions in the field of CFRP lightweight construction technology have joined the network. They have established twelve working groups that deal with subjects such as simulation, materials, production processes, life-cycle engineering and, last but not least, fatigue behaviour.
CFK-Valley Stade’s objective is to accelerate and promote innovations in the field of CFRP technologies. Its activities focus on responding to market demands for shorter development times, reduced costs and higher production rates. Goal-oriented communication structures were established within the network to ensure the systematic co-ordination of current development projects. Project initiation is funded by the steering board and by the members of the network.
To achieve their objective, CFK-Valley Stade worked out an integral strategic development concept for the period up to 2016. The concept systematically identifies the technologies that must be developed as of today to ensure future production, with a focus on the future products of global players in the CFRP market. The development process will be continuously updated in order to pursue market-oriented development at the state of the art.
The development strategy focuses on acting proactively to adapt industrial needs to the requirements of organisations that handle national and international projects. The concept provides for an intersectorial “instrument” to help plan and co-fund R&D projects in the innovative field of lightweight CFRP construction. The development projects also focus on minimising process and design risks by ensuring close cooperation among the network’s leading international experts within individual projects.
Besides its technical development centres, CFK-Valley Stade is planning to open a nationwide recycling centre that will focus on cost-effective industrialscale recycling of carbon-fibre materials.
Training highly qualified personnel
Future markets for CFRP structures show high potential for growth in major industrial sectors such as aviation, automotive, and machine and plant construction. However, successfully creating innovative CFRP structures depends in part on the availability of highly qualified composite engineers and skilled workers with knowledge in composite processing. To address this aspect, CFK-Valley Stade is working closely with leading industry representatives and with a university of applied sciences, the Private Fachhochschule Göttingen, PFH, to set up two unusual study courses leading to Bachelor of Engineering and Master of Science degrees, with a focus on composite design and processing contents. These study courses are presently in the accreditation phase.
The Bachelor programme was designed to factor in the needs of leading composite industries in forward-looking markets, and includes skilled-labour training as an integral part of the engineering education.
Both lines of study, i.e. skilled workers and composite engineers, will start with the winter semester 2006 in the specially built Composite Campus in Stade.
Because the teaching content is closely tuned in to the requirements of leading companies in composite technology, graduates of the Composite Campus in Stade will be ideally prepared for a career in forward-looking CFRP markets.
Given the expanding markets in the target CFRP field, it will be essential to find innovative concepts for cost-effective recycling processes. With this in mind, CFK-Valley Stade has researched the material flows for the future CFRP markets, using that as a basis to set up a logistic and recycling centre in Stade, which will begin operating in 2008. The aim is to guarantee that CFK-Valley partner companies will be able to send in their CFRP components / semi-finished materials for recycling as of 2010.