Lightweight construction in better shape than ever. How can structures and materials help minimize the weight of the end product without affecting its stability and reliability? Reducing material and energy use alone is not enough. To remain competitive, both SMEs and global corporations must act quickly in embracing new trends in lightweight construction.
Lightweight construction in better shape than ever
How can structures and materials help minimize the weight of the end product without affecting its stability and reliability? Reducing material and energy use alone is not enough. To remain competitive, both SMEs and global corporations must act quickly in embracing new trends in lightweight construction.
Reducing weight through reinforcement
The current focus in lightweight construction is on continuous fiber reinforcement, which involves using oriented fibers to create a stronger mechanical structure. BMW employs the technique for its i Series, using carbon fiber reinforced polymer (CFRP) in producing the chassis. When it comes to manufacturing front ends, seats, pedals, and pillars, thermoplastic systems show huge potential – minimizing weight while ensuring stability.
Hybrid lightweight construction gaining traction
Hybrid lightweight construction depends on the right mix of materials. Combining the likes of aluminum, steel, magnesium, and CFRP to meet the specific load is increasingly preferred to using more expensive monolithic options. This results in tougher, firmer, more rigid components that provide more effective vibration damping. Engel Austria, a producer of injection molding machines, joins aircraft and automobile manufacturers in deploying hybrid lightweight construction. At its technology center, the company recently developed a component for a new pick-and-place robot. By mixing aluminum casting and thermoplastic carbon fiber polymer tape, Engel Austria reduced the weight of the machine’s swivel arm by around 40 percent. The robot also requires less electricity to grip objects and accelerates 20 percent faster.
Additive manufacturing Is becoming standard
3D printing revolutionized lightweight construction within just a few years. The method enables manufacturers to construct any three-dimensional form in a single step – and without tools. 3D printers can even generate complex structures, internal functional parts, and indentations. What’s more, a printed component weighs up to 50 percent less than one constructed using traditional means.
Bionics: nature’s solutions
Another exciting trend in lightweight construction, bionics sees technology taking a leaf out of nature’s book. The idea is based on how flora and fauna such as trees, fish, and birds are perfectly adapted to their environment. Seat manufacturer Recaro has drawn inspiration from the animal kingdom on several occasions. For instance, the engineers based their design for the seat of an electric car on reptile skin, resulting in a space-saving and stable construction. The seat’s gill-like vents make it breathable, too.
As conventional lightweight construction techniques reach the limit of their capabilities, there is a need for innovative approaches. Visitors to Lightweight Engineering experience new solutions and ideas firsthand.
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