Lightweight Construction as an Innovation Driver
Is it possible to build low-cost lightweight cars? Why do solutions fail? The market study "Lightweight construction as a driver of innovation" provides answers. In an interview, the creators of the study spoke with "Automotive Industry".
On September 20, Automotive Management Consulting (AMC) and trade fair organizer Reed Exhibitions presented their study "Lightweight Construction as a Driver of Innovation" at the Composites Europe trade fair in the "Lightweight Technologies Forum". The study explains the innovation drivers for lightweight automotive construction — from legal requirements and resource conservation to electromobility and improved driving dynamics. The authors elaborate in detail on the questions on new technologies, costs, hurdles to implementation or customer benefit.
The study is based on interviews and surveys with lightweight construction experts from automotive manufacturers, suppliers and research institutes. The report also summarizes the results of other lightweight construction studies. A hardcopy of the complete study is available at the price of 300€.
Talking About the Study
Olaf Freier, Event Director at Reed Exhibitions and Rainer Kurek, Director of Studies at AMC, spoke with "Automobil Industrie" about the study.
Mr. Kurek, Mr. Freier, what were the basic considerations for the study "Lightweight construction as a driver of innovation"?
Freier: For some years now, as organizers of the material fairs Aluminium and Composites Europe, we have been accompanying developments in lightweight construction, which have so far been pursued separately in each sector. However, the requirements of modern lightweight construction can no longer be met by a single material. Our partner, Automotive Management Consulting GmbH (AMC), has drawn up the study with a focus on the automotive industry in order to work out the further development of functional or multi-material lightweight construction for our two sectors aluminium and composites.
How was the study carried out and who contributed to it?
Kurek: We planned and conducted the study in three phases. In Phase 1, the working hypotheses for the in-depth surveys were worked out in explorative pilot interviews. The interview guide comprises 15 questions and focuses on the lightweight aspects of technology, costs, hurdles to the implementation of new lightweight construction solutions, customer benefits and strategy.
In Phase 2, in-depth surveys substantiate and underpinned the results of the pilot interviews. The questionnaire shed light on 21 different innovation drivers for lightweight automotive construction, such as legal requirements, electromobility, vehicle dynamics, environmental and climate protection, resource conservation and much more. The questions are primarily addressing integrative lightweight construction solutions. In this way we could take conceptual, functional, material and manufacturing aspects into account in equal measure.
In Phase 3, the surveys were validated and evaluated; they were accompanied by various analyses and research results and summarized in a report based on previous lightweight studies conducted by AMC. This report in turn is based on 15 exploratory interviews and 34 in-depth surveys conducted with lightweight construction specialists from OEMs, suppliers, development service providers, research institutes and scientific partners. The experts interviewed are predominantly from the areas of research and development as well as industrial engineering.
What insights did you gain to support the further development of your trade fair and congress program in the field of lightweight construction?
Freier: The study clearly shows that a solution to issues concerning environmental protection and energy efficiency in the automotive industry and other industries will only be found in a multi-material approach. It also confirms that we can properly address the topic of lightweight construction across all materials in the conceptual approach of the Lightweight Technologies Forum. Based on the identified topics, we will further develop the concept for the event in 2018. In addition to the previous presentation and communication modules, we will also continue to study specific questions from our application industries and to expand on them. The purpose of the forum is to support the ongoing research and development activities of the automotive industry with regard to low-consumption and exhaust gas-optimized vehicles.
What trends and developments in lightweight construction does the study unveil? Where is innovation needed and expected?
Kurek: Since the energy balance of future "low-energy and low-emission vehicles" will depend above all on effective lightweight construction, the trend is clearly towards integrative vehicle concepts in which innovative functional, materials technology and lightweight concepts are combined. Due to the demanding emission regulations and the corresponding technical requirements, systemic, holistic lightweight construction has become a major innovation driver. Cost-effective solutions also require that the materials — all of which have advantages and disadvantages for automotive components — are combined in a way that conforms to the stability requirements and are used in accordance with specifications. The market study also shows that hybrid-lightweight construction and composite construction methods will continue to gain in importance.
Efficiency and cost-effectiveness are at the center of research and development activities. They aim to meet the requirements of safety, recyclability, energy balance, environmental and climate protection, ease of repair in emerging markets etc., in a reliable manner. In addition to these technological trends and developments, the experts we asked, also believe that it is important to systematically improve marketing for systemic, integrative, comprehensive and hybrid lightweight construction solutions. Lightweight construction merely achieves indirect benefits for the end customer, i. e. lightweight construction is perceived only by its effects: for example, low consumption, lower pollutant emissions or better driving dynamics.
This interview was first published by Automobil Industrie.
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