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Landshut Lightweight Construction Colloquium How Lightweight Design Changes the Rules of the Game

Author / Editor: Stéphane Itasse / Alexander Stark

Berlin, too, has understood it: Lightweight design opens up new technical possibilities. Undersecretary Werner Loscheider of the Federal Ministry of Economics called it a "gamechanger" at the 9th Landshut Lightweight Construction Colloquium.

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Full ranks at the welcome to the 9th Landshut Lightweight Colloquium: Around 170 participants attended.
Full ranks at the welcome to the 9th Landshut Lightweight Colloquium: Around 170 participants attended.
(Source: Hochschule Landshut)

About 170 experts attended the event at the University of Landshut, the organizers announced. In 44 lectures by experts from universities, colleges and research institutions as well as from OEMs, suppliers and service providers, the aspects of lightweight design were highlighted. The spectrum ranges from the development of basic materials, the investigation of interfaces and volume properties, calculation and simulation to production and process technology.

Lightweight Design Plays an Important Role in the Federal Government's Industrial Strategy 2030

Lightweight design could make an important contribution to resource efficiency and the importance of the topic had also reached the highest levels of government, Loscheider explained according to an announcement from Landshut University. In the National Industrial Strategy 2030, lightweight design is regarded as a "gamechanger technology". Within the framework of the Lightweight Construction Initiative of the Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology, a cross-sector and cross-material "Lightweight Construction Technology Transfer Program" is currently being developed. It stipulates a first funding phase for January 2020.

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Two keynotes by lightweight construction experts marked the start of the specialist program: Dr. Martin Hillebrecht, Head of the Competence Center Lightweight Construction, Materials & Technologies at Edag Engineering GmbH in Fulda, Germany, highlighted in his lecture "New lightweight construction process chains for the vehicle of tomorrow" the possibilities and challenges of lightweight construction along the value chain. The challenges of mobility, such as e-mobility, digitalization and autonomous driving, are also weight factors. For example, the battery system of a vehicle weighs 540 kg, and additional safety requirements also have to be taken into account here. Lightweight design will be the strategic lever for the further development of the automobile. In various projects, his company has developed vehicle concepts and approaches ranging from the design and production of vehicles to recycling.

Expensive Lightweight Construction Can Nevertheless Lead to Inexpensive Systems

For example, electric vehicles could be optimized for commercial mobility in cities, with appropriate ranges, little storage space and a long service life. He sees a possible application for lightweight design in the combination of supposedly expensive individual technologies with affordable systems, such as the use of highly formable and high-strength steel materials covered with thin sheet or sandwich elements. The EU innovation project Fibereuse emphasizes closed value chains, including the development of recycling channels for GRP and CFRP composites. With regard to the life cycle, reusable components, for example CFRP structures that are difficult to recycle and can be designed for several vehicle lives, or repair concepts and detachable connections that facilitate recycling, would be useful, he said.

Prof. Karl Ulrich Kainer, Director Institute of Materials Research, Magnesium Innovation Centre at the Helmholtz Centre in Geesthacht, talked about a material that, despite its very high lightweight design potential, is only used to a limited extent: magnesium. He showed that although magnesium die-cast parts such as instrument panels or steering wheels are used in automotive engineering, magnesium sheets are rarely used and in smaller quantities, for example the roof element of the current Porsche 911 GT3 RS (weight reduction from 7.5 kg for steel to 2.3 kg for magnesium). Despite technical advances in manufacturing: As a result of new processes, the production of the original material causes many times less CO2 emissions. New possibilities have arisen particularly through the production of sheet metal using the casting-rolling process, and production has become much more cost-effective. He presented concepts and processes for surface treatment, coating and new alloys that can be used to solve material challenges such as corrosion behavior or flammability. A completely new field of application for magnesium exists in electrochemical energy storage: Metal-air batteries with a magnesium high-conductivity electrode material could achieve higher energy densities than lithium-ion batteries; the current challenge lies, among other things, in the analysis and control of self-corrosion.

Magnesium as a Lightweight Construction Material Prevails

The new VW Passat B8 shows that the industry is also focusing on the lightweight design potential of magnesium sheet in volume models. Its tailgate is made of a cast rolled magnesium-zinc-calcium alloy and is thus over 50 % lighter than a comparable steel construction, as Prof. Dr.-Ing. Otto Huber, initiator of the lightweight construction colloquium, explains. In order to better utilize the potential of magnesium sheets for large-scale production through a virtual product development process, the Competence Center for Lightweight Design at Landshut University (LLK) together with the Paris Lodron University of Salzburg developed a method for proving operational stability in the joint research project "nano to macro". This is the basis for the design of components under consideration of real load cases and the calculation of the service life - and thus for the use of the material in series production. In several lectures, the material behavior of cast rolled magnesium sheets on the nano level, the material characterization on the micro and macro level and the development of a new fatigue strength calculation method by representatives of the project partners were presented.

In three parallel sessions on two days, many aspects of lightweight design were highlighted. The topics of the sessions are as follows:

  • Additive Manufacturing,
  • Design of lightweight structures,
  • Fatigue strength,
  • Bionics,
  • Fiber composite materials,
  • Hybrid structures,
  • Lightweight construction,
  • Process engineering,
  • Test methods,
  • Sandwich structures,
  • Simulation and
  • Joining technology.

Many lectures dealt with material topics, ranging from new fiber composite materials such as biogenic heavy tows based on hemp bark (Sächsisches Textilforschungsinstitut e.V.) and 3D-printed wood filaments (University of Appied Sciences Salzburg) to novel weldable stainless steel polymer sandwich structures (Outokumpu Nirosta GmbH) and investigations of titanium-aluminum alloys (University of Landshut). The weight-optimized design of lightweight structures, for example of fiber-reinforced composite components suitable for stress (Friedrich-Alexander-University Erlangen-Nuremberg), hybrid lightweight structures (University of Saarland) or discrete sandwich structures, where the core layer can be omitted in some areas (Airbus Helicopters Deutschland GmbH), were just as important topics as test methods, fatigue strength concepts and process techniques. Among other things, this applies to locally reinforced triaxial braids (BMW Group, Landshut), hybrid components made of metal sheets and long-fiber thermoplastics (University of Siegen) or carbon SMC (Engel Austria GmbH) in automotive engineering.

The conference transcript, which is available from the Cluster for Lightweight Design, offers detailed articles on the topics of the 9th Landshut Lightweight Construction Colloquium.

This article was first published by MM MaschinenMarkt.

Original: Stéphane Itasse / Translation: Alexander Stark

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