Lightweight construction

big market potential for fibre composites

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  • Multi-material lightweight construction on the advance
  • Lightweight Technologies Forum in parallel with COMPOSITES EUROPE

Mega trend: lightweight construction. Weight reduction is one of the most important development criteria across numerous growth industries - not only in the automotive industry, aviation, mechanical engineering and wind power, but also in infrastructure, medical technology and in the marine and sports and leisure sector. Weight is not only reduced by using lighter materials but also by integrating functions and focusing more on load and material driven engineering. This can also be seen in Stuttgart at COMPOSITES EUROPE from 6 to 8 November 2018 as well as at the Lightweight Technologies Forum, which is taking place in parallel.

Interface between integrative and hybrid lightweight construction

Fibre composites bring their strengths to bear especially in multi-material lightweight construction. It has now become clear that the requirements of modern lightweight construction can no longer be met by single materials - optimum solutions can only be achieved with hybrid lightweight construction. The Lightweight Technologies Forum at COMPOSITES EUROPE shows, for the third time, how the application sectors of integrative and hybrid lightweight construction can be brought together. The combined exhibition and lecture forum serves as a cross-material interface between metal and fibre composite technologies in structural components. In applications-oriented themed sessions expert practitioners will address current issues related to composite materials in the automotive, aviation & aerospace and architecture sectors. Participation in the Forum is included in the admission ticket for visitors to COMPOSITES EUROPE. For further information on the forum content go to: www.lite-forum.com

Longer range thanks to lightweight construction

The innovation drivers for lightweight construction are the aerospace and automotive industries: each kilogramme saved on a means of transport means one kilogramme extra payload. A 100 kilogramme lighter car consumes around 0.5 litres less fuel per 100 km. With electric vehicles, the range increases accordingly. An Airbus A 320 requires 10,000 litres less kerosene per year if it weighs 100 kilogrammes less. Considering that materials account for 44.3 percent of the costs in the manufacturing industry, the savings potential available here quickly becomes clear

Policy-makers and end users are the major drivers

Especially in integrative lightweight automotive construction innovations are as important as ever today. This is clearly evidenced by the current market study "Leichtbau als Innovationstreiber" (Lightweight Construction as an Innovation Driver) published by Automotive Management Consulting GmbH (AMC) and COMPOSITES EUROPE organiser Reed Exhibitions. It presents the status quo as well as trends and future challenges of multi-material lightweight construction in the automotive industry. According to the report, policymakers and end users are currently the biggest drivers of lightweight construction. The results of the study show, however, that the consistent implementation of lightweight construction solutions is often foiled by suppliers and manufacturers.

Political debate stimulates the market

Published by Carbon Composites e.V. and AVK, the “Composites Market Report 2017” covers the lightweight construction potential of GFPs and CRFPs in detail. The report reads: "Against the background of the current political debate (diesel scandal, advance of e-mobility, accelerated energy transit, tightened CO2 regulations), further laws and tax adjustments could provide a positive stimulus for the lightweight construction market. Carbon fibre-reinforced composites are a key growth driver within the overall market environment for (fibre-reinforced) lightweight material systems.”

In 2016, global demand for carbon fibre composites totalled some 101,000 metric tons, exceeding the previous year's figure by around 11%. For the coming years steady and continued, double-digit growth rates in the region of between 10% and 13% are expected. In 2016, the total turnover for CFRP worldwide amounted to about US$ 13.23 billion, an increase of about 14% compared to the previous year.

Competitiveness thanks to natural fibre-reinforced plastics

The experts from the VDI Centre for Resource Efficiency have also described the role of fibre and natural fibre-reinforced plastics in the sphere of lightweight construction materials in their study "Inventory of Lightweight Construction in Germany" published in 2015. According to the study, "there is great potential for further weight reduction through the use of fibre-reinforced plastics (FRP)". Fibre-reinforced plastics such as GRP and CFRP are currently posting very high growth rates and are very likely to gain in importance in the long term (after 2020). The main growth drivers here are the automotive industry and wind power.

In addition, plastics mechanically reinforced with natural fibres such as hemp, flax or cotton have already become established elements in vehicle manufacturing, especially for vehicle interiors because they are economically competitive. Other advantages are their low tendency to splinter during crashes and their sound insulation. The use of renewable raw materials in the form of biopolymers and natural fibre-reinforced plastics, they say, also offers good opportunities for reducing dependence on crude oil and using renewable resources instead.

Federal German Government funds in excess of 1,000 lightweight construction projects

German industry plays a pioneering role in lightweight construction. The Federal Government and the Länder have already recognised this. In 2017, for example, the Federal Ministry of Economics founded the "Initiative Leichtbau" (lightweight construction initiative), thereby supporting the efficient cross-technology transfer of knowledge among all lightweight construction actors across Germany. A "lightweight construction atlas" was also initiated at the end of 2016. The interactive portal allows organisations to present their processes and activities and search companies and research institutions for tailor-made lightweight construction expertise in the region. The Federal Government's funding catalogue now lists more than 1,000 lightweight construction projects.

The "Länder" are just as active. The focal research department for lightweight construction at the Landshut University of Applied Sciences recently received funding of around EUR 650,000 from the Bavarian Ministry of Science. The Technical Universities of Dresden, Freiberg and Chemnitz founded the "Leichtbau-Allianz Sachsen" at the end of 2017, which is supported by the Saxon Ministry of Science and is to develop the Free State into one of the world's leading competence regions in this field. The Agency for Lightweight Construction owned by the "Land" Baden-Württemberg, where COMPOSITES EUROPE is held, also wants to make the state of Baden-Württemberg a world leader in this segment.