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Adrian Wilson

Editor's Viewpoint

25th October 2016, UK

Lightweighting: It’s all about the materials mix…

The future will be dominated by lightweight systems that go beyond individual groups of materials, say the organisers of a new forum to be held alongside the Composites Europe and Aluminium trade fairs in Düsseldorf from 29 November to 1 December 2016.

While the weight reduction trend has driven the massive development of fibre-reinforced composites and the use of lightweight metals such as aluminium and magnesium in automotive engineering, aerospace and construction in recent years, the need to have the right material in the right place is propelling hybrid lightweight construction to ever-greater significance.

Lightweight Technologies Forum will take place alongside the Composites Europe and Aluminium trade fairs will be held in Düsseldorf from 29 November to 1 December 2016. © Composites Europe

From Ford to Premium Aerotec and from the German Economics Ministry to the leading scientific institutions, experts will be on hand to showcase their know-how and lightweight design strategies in these fields.


The automotive industry continues to be among the most important growth and innovation driving sectors – both for the composites and aluminium industries – and pioneering hybrid lightweight construction.

Presenters at the Lightweight Technologies Forum will include representatives from the Open Hybrid LabFactory, founded in 2012 as a public-private partnership under the leadership of the Automotive Research Centre Niedersachsen (NFF), TU Braunschweig and several industry partners. Put into operation just a few weeks ago in Wolfsburg, Germany, it serves as the development site for scalable manufacturing and production technologies for the economically and ecologically sustainable production of hybrid lightweight components made from metals, plastics and textile structures.

Ford Research and Advanced Engineering Europe will also provide details of its aluminium technologies for lightweight construction  Ford’s radical lightweight design strategy was launched in 2014 with the F-150 pickup truck and its pure aluminium body will be on display in the forum’s exhibition area. The company is a member of AMAP GmbH (Advanced Metals and Processes), the open-innovation research cluster for non-ferrous metals at RWTH Aachen University, which will also host several additional presentations. Another highlight on 30 November is a panel discussion hosted by media partner Bänder Bleche Rohre on the trends in joining technology for hybrid solutions featuring aluminium in vehicle construction (chassis/body) – with a focus on aluminium/steel and aluminium/carbon-fibre-reinforced plastics (CFRP). Plans include a high-calibre roundtable discussion with officials from research, science and industry.

Metawell will be in Düsseldorf to present real-world examples from automotive and railway engineering, shipbuilding, and manufacturing, to illustrate the systematic implementation of lightweight construction in aluminium sandwich technology. Taking the basic properties of the material as the starting point, possibilities and limits in design and processing will be illuminated

The Wickeder Westfalenstahl presentation will focus on clad materials, i.e. combinations of two or more metals. Cladding is a process in which a minimum of two different types of metal coils are joined to form an inseparable laminated material. The materials are simultaneously fed from the respective coil into a rolling mill, where, depending on material and material properties, they are combined by the use of high rolling pressure. The end result is a metal composite with completely new and unique features.

XFK in 3D process technology will be the focus in Vogel Business Media Verlag’s presentation. In the process, which is of particular interest to automotive production, fibre-reinforced plastics are wrapped three-dimensionally. The fibres can be arranged in any geometric dimension along the x, y, and z axes – based on the component’s load. The fibre can consequently be placed to match the force and tension absorption of the component.


Fibre-metal laminates (FML) from aluminium foil and fibreglass prepregs have meanwhile emerged as a real alternative in aircraft engineering, says Premium Aerotec. After positive experiences in the Airbus A380, this material is considered a real alternative to pure aluminium and composite structures. The most important step for industrial applications enabling large-scale aircraft production is the automation of production processes for FML components such as the automated coating of metal films and fibreglass prepregs. Premium Aerotec will present the results of its first three years of R&D in this field.

The contribution by TenCate from the Netherlands will be centred on thermoplastic composite blanks. Fibre-reinforced thermoplastic blanks from organic sheets (fibre-matrix semi-finished goods) make the rapid, efficient and robust production of composites possible. Newer developments are aimed at making blanks that are inexpensive to manufacture and suitable for new product designs. Hybrid organic sheets allow for the cutting of composite blanks while simultaneously making cycle times cheaper and shorter. Moreover, the combination of organic layering and moulding technology facilitates the production of additional features like reinforcing ribs and bosses in a single moulding step.

Among others, the mechanical engineering firm Engel Austria will stress that the hybridisation of components will require new developments in manufacturing technology and to introduce new process engineering technologies for thermoplastic fibre-reinforced composites.

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