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Lightweight construction symposium report Print E-mail
Written by Arjun   
Thursday, 11 October 2007
On 18 September, the EMO Hannover 2007 hosted the "Intelligent lightweight design - challenge for future manufacturing solutions" symposium. Around 100 international participants attended the event, which excelled in terms of top-quality papers from acknowledged experts. There was particular appreciation for the wide-ranging coverage and high information content of the presentations involved. Michael Ritthoff from the Institute of Work and Engineering at North Rhine-Westphalia's Science Centre, for example, said: "The symposium provides a very good global overview of lightweight design strategies in the mechanical engineering sector." He also emphasised the new and illuminating insights offered, that can be adopted for other application categories as well. Christian Rau, Kyocera Fineceramics GmbH in Esslingen, added: "What I liked was the papers' high information content, presented in a concise, vivid form. We can take some useful ideas home with us, which I regard as extremely beneficial."

The proceedings focused on the topics of resource economy and energy savings. Dr. Michael Op De Hipt from Tornos SA in Moutier, Switzerland. comments: "What we found very interesting was the topic of turning automation. Use of the lightweight design concepts presented here could enable us in the future to reduce the masses involved, so as to upgrade the dynamic response while simultaneously saving energy."

Lightweight design - an integrative task

The symposium was opened by the President of the German Research Foundation (DFG), Matthias Kleiner, with an overview of "Production technology and lightweight design". Modern-day lightweight design, he stated, demands the integration of conception and design engineering. Professor Kleiner underpinned his remarks with a review of current lightweight construction materials and material combinations like higher-strength materials, hybrid material systems and stress-adjusted material developments (e.g. tailored blanks and tailored profiles). In addition, he described lightweight design strategies that can be implemented by combining engineering and simulation. He closed with a reference to the adoption of design principles adopted from the natural environment and in some cases already being implemented today.

Lightweight design improves mobility

Taking BMW's 3-series as an example, Dr. Markus Pfestorf, responsible there for sheet-metal material in the design team, outlined the challenge entailed for the design and production people by lightweight design in product families of the automotive industry. Pfestorf described the preconditions of lightweight design strategies, their implementation in design work and the requisite cost reductions from incorporating lightweight design in automotive manufacturing. Modern-day vehicles, despite innovative materials and lean construction concepts, still have to exhibit maximised rigidities (e.g. static torsional rigidities), for reasons of vibrational and acoustic comfort and the requirements applying for dynamic driving response. More recent development work exhibits higher driving stability levels, as Pfestorf demonstrated by means of an animated simulation. On the basis of the high passive safety requirements involved, he highlighted the necessity of mixed-construction concepts in which not only standard deep-drawn steels and high/ultra-high-strength sheeting is used, but also glued-together sheets of different steel qualities.

Professor Dirk Biermann from the Institute for Cutting Production Processes at Dortmund University, spoke about "New materials and processes for optimisation of combustion engines". These optimisations are necessary in order to render the engines not only lighter, but also more efficient, enabling present-day requirements for lightweight design, such as reduced emissions, to be met. Biermann emphasised that manufacturing and production engineering constitutes the foundation for all technologies aimed at safeguarding resources and the natural environment.

Dr. Erich Steinhardt from MTU Aero Engines GmbH in Munich concurred. MTU can build super-lightweight engines for the aircraft industry only when it integrated lightweight construction components. One important requirement for manufacture of these components is maximised precision, even with difficult-to-machine materials like titanium.

Machinery manufacturers and tool producers use lightweight design

Ekrem Sirman from Harmonic Drive AG in Limburg an der Lahn presented a paper on "Lightweight drive solutions for the engineering industry" in the form of innovative and maximally stressable gear units. These are used primarily in machine tools (e.g. feed axles and parallel kinematics), the aerospace industry (e.g. landing-flap controls in the A320 and joysticks with forced feedback in jets) plus medical technology (e.g. aperture slits with drives and power-supported microscopes). In addition, high-performance, extremely lightweight drives are of benefit not only to standard applications. In the booming field of service robotics, as exemplified by the Honda ASIMO, using a total of 23 drive units from Harmonic Drive in the current generation has, for instance, enabled the weight in the second generation to be reduced by 87 kg to 43 kg. In the automotive sector, these systems are used in active servo steering systems and possess major weight advantages with much the same performance data compared with the conventional solutions featuring planetary gearing.

Michael Häcker, TRUMPF Werkzeugmaschinen GmbH in Ditzingen, presented "Fascination sheet metal - an easy way for innovations". He showed the conferees where lightweight design is featured in a laser machining unit of the current generation. In these machines, the laser head ("flying optics) performs highly dynamic movement sequences at speeds of up to 200 m/min. and accelerations of up to 20 m/s2. For this reason, different types of lightweight construction are being pursued, the material-related lightweightdesign mentioned above, system-related lightweight construction and structure-related lightweight construction, in which by means of selective design measures at the component (e.g. beads) previously unstable structures are appropriately reinforced.

Dr. Oliver Gerent from Fette GmbH in Schwarzenbeck reported on "Development and construction of milling tools". The aim of "lightweight" milling tools is to achieve high-precision workpiece and component surfaces in a reduced machining time. Here, in the case of extremely thin-walled components, for example, the vibrations and the thrust forces must be kept to a minimum. For lightweight construction, Fette uses main bodies made of magnesium and has thus reduced the weight of a tool by 56 kg to 23 kg. This renders handling easier, with a reduced mass moment of inertia and lower centrifugal forces.

Lightweight design using new materials

Professor Werner Hufenbach, Institute for Lightweight Structures and Polymer Technology at Dresden University of Applied Science, presented a paper on "Functionally integrative lightweight design structures featuring innovative textile-reinforced composite materials". He called for lightweight design to be always matched to the requisite functions, and accordingly to be designed for special anisotropic behaviour. Hufenbach's lightweight construction design focuses on fibre-reinforced composite materials (e.g. plastics or ceramics). The example he cited was brake disks on Formula 1 racing cars, but also on sports cars for normal road traffic.

With a paper entitled "Intelligent lightweight construction by appropriate fastening technologies - presentation of mechanical fastening systems", Dr. Carsten Bye, Gebr. Titgemeyer GmbH in Osnabrück, described the use of jointing processes for lightweight-construction-optimised material combinations. Using high-strength blind rivets, it is nowadays possible to achieve innovative multi-material design. This technology is already being used on a large scale in the Transrapid, with meanwhile approximately 450,000 connecting elements being installed in the aluminium bodywork of each unit.

Lightweight construction revolutionises metal-forming

Professor Julian Allwood of Gonville and Gaius College at Cambridge University, finally, came up with a astounding "100 new sheet forming processes". He sees hitherto unsuspected potentials in metal-forming, and ventured a look into the future. With what is called "paddle-forming", he vividly presented a fundamentally new idea for developing future metal-forming processes. Particularly memorable was Allwood's success in cupping a circular indentation compared with traditional deep-drawing.

Author: Markus Kamp, Institute for Metal-forming Technology and Metal-forming Machinery, Leibnitz University Hanover

The complete conference documents for the "Intelligent lightweight construction - a challenge for intelligent production solutions", symposium can be purchased for the price of 70 euros. Send your orders to Torsten Bell, VDW Engineering and Research, This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it
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