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13th November 2018, Stuttgart

Focus on lightweighting at Composites Europe

Glass and carbon fibre reinforced plastics are in demand when lightweight and forward-looking solutions are called for. This trend towards lightweight construction is currently one of the strongest drivers for the composites industry. Just as strong are the impulses generated by the composites sector itself: the major technological advances in the manufacturing and processing chain enables this sector of industry to increasingly automate and shorten manufacturing processes.

Both developments dominated this year’s edition of Composites Europe, held for the 13th time with 365 exhibitors from 30 nations. Event organiser Reed Exhibitions registered 8,148 visitors from 71 countries. With these figures it underlined its importance as an international industry get-together, organisers believe.

Trade fair focused on big advances in manufacturing processes. © Composites Europe

This is also reflected by the slightly higher share of international trade visitors – 46% over last year’s 42%. Also, nearly the entire automotive industry – from Audi, BMW, Bugatti, Daimler through Ford, Honda and Mitsubishi to Opel, Porsche, Toyota, and Volkswagen – was represented here.

It was a similar picture for the aerospace industry. One in four visitors represented an enterprise active on this market as an OEM or upstream supplier. “This is a proof of quality underlining that the decision to hold the event annually in Stuttgart was driven by the market,” said Hans-Joachim Erbel, CEO Reed Exhibitions Deutschland.

Growth goes on

At present, the market for glass fibre reinforced plastics (GRP) is growing by 2% against the previous year to a volume of 1.141 million tonnes. This is the result found by the annual market report of the industry association AVK, which was presented at the beginning of Composites Europe in Stuttgart. This means the composites industry is following overall economic developments.

Lightweight construction a key technology for the industrial location. © Inside Composites

“The outlook for the composites industry as a whole is good, the potential is enormous,” said Dr Elmar Witten, General Manager of AVK. The automotive sector, which is the most important market for selling fibre reinforced plastics in Europe today, is currently undergoing a fundamental change. In addition to higher requirements made on exhaust gas and emission values new drive concepts such as e-mobility are contributing to a restructuring of the sector and opening up new perspectives.

Big response to LTF

The lightweight construction theme plays a central role here, as Werner Lohscheider from the German Ministry of Economics and Energy stressed on the occasion of the opening of the Lightweight Technologies Forum (LFT): “To us lightweight construction is a key technology we use to modernise and strengthen Germany as an industrial location – in a sustainable manner. After all, this is a broad and strong basis for adding value and creating jobs, also for today’s and tomorrow’s markets.”

Fibre reinforced composites bring their strengths to bear especially in multi-material lightweight construction. After all, the requirements of modern lightweight construction can be met less and less with a single material while hybrid lightweight construction is becoming increasingly important instead. An approach that underlies the Lightweight Technologies Forum: “With this cross-material forum, we have created a format that brings together the composites industry and the application industries for integrative and hybrid lightweight construction,” said Olaf Freier, Event Director of Composites Europe.

Event organiser Reed Exhibitions registered 8,148 visitors from 71 countries. © Inside Composites

The forum celebrated its premiere in 2016 and has developed very successfully since then. A total of 26 companies presented materials, tools and exhibits this year – from fillers, bonding agents and presses for laminating different materials to hybrid semi-finished products. One highlight was the feasibility study of a car seat that will weigh as little as eight kilograms.

Process live

The new Process live exhibition area showed that the industry is becoming increasingly successful in automating and shortening production processes with technological advances in the manufacturing and processing chain. Here, companies from mechanical and plant engineering industries presented coordinated processing and manufacturing processes.

An example of this was the live demonstration by cutting specialist Gunnar (Switzerland), composite automation expert Airborne (Netherlands) and gripping system supplier Schmalz (Germany), who jointly presented the entire production and processing chain with reliable processes from the roll material to the finished layer structure of a fibre composite component in a combined production cell. The interlocking hardware components are completely interconnected on the software side.

The forthcoming Composites Europe in Stuttgart will be held from 10 to 12 September 2019. © Inside Composites

“Cooperation between processors is becoming ever closer. These cooperations within the process chain are accelerating the growth of the composites industry. We want to make this clear with our new 'Process live' format,” said Olaf Freier, Event Director of Composites Europe.

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