The fast-moving world of lightweight design
The participants at the German state of Baden-Württemberg’s lightweight construction pavilion will present a real show stopper at this year’s HANNOVER MESSE – the chassis of an Audi R8 supercar.26 Feb 2016
Dubbed "Lightweight Construction from Baden-Württemberg," the pavilion will feature both big and small suppliers of a range of products and services from southwest Germany. The centerpiece of the pavilion is a shining example of best practice in intelligent multi-material design and lightweight construction. The ASF (Audi Space Frame) chassis used in the R8 supercar, which is manufactured in Baden-Württemberg, weighs a mere 200 kilograms. In the top-of-the line model, it’s comprised of 79 percent aluminum and 13 percent carbon fiber-reinforced plastic (CFRP). The ultra-lightweight but very expensive material is only used in situations where it can achieve a better cost-performance ratio than aluminum.
In the following interview, the HANNOVER MESSE team discusses lightweight design and much more with Dr. Wolfgang Seeliger, the Managing Director of the Development Agency for Lightweighting Baden-Wuerttemberg. The agency is a state-owned company that provides commercial services to business and science.
What are the key trends in your industry? What’s important to your clients?
Our clients recognize that lightweighting is the key to realizing their full market potential and to conserving resources. To leverage all the benefits of lightweight design, companies need to take an holistic approach. While the simple replacement of heavier materials with lighter ones will remain important, there has been a big shift in companies’ approach to lightweighting. In the future, things like multi-material design, lightweight design, process innovation and the digitalization of entire value chains will be the key drivers of change in our industry.
What are the main user industries for your services – today and in the future?
The market studies I’ve seen suggest that the transport industry will be the main user of lightweighting technology for some time to come. Annual sales to this segment should reach around 140 billion euros by 2020 – as compared with sales to the mechanical engineering sector, for instance, which are unlikely to exceed 30 billion euros in the same period. However, an analysis of the current stock of patent applications signals that the construction industry will overtake the transport industry as the number one user in the long term.
What aspects of lightweighting have yet to reach their full potential?
The potential of conventional lightweight construction is well known in the automotive industry and will probably be fully realized within the next two vehicle design cycles. In the medium term, there will be a paradigm change that will see the focus shift to lightweight design. Process innovation and digitalization of manufacturing value chains, which will bring an increasing and seamless flow of data that is relevant to lightweighting, will also unlock significant new potential.
How do you see the role of Industry 4.0?
In terms of lightweighting, Industry 4.0 is relevant from a development perspective, as opposed to a manufacturing perspective. Engineering processes are getting more and more complex, involving multiple feedback loops along the entire process chain. Complete value chain digitalization will dramatically reduce product times to market.
What is the role of HANNOVER MESSE in this context?
HANNOVER MESSE, and its Industrial Supply show in particular, has a strong lightweight focus, so it plays a very important role for us. The more specialized single-industry trade shows attract only a very limited audience, whereas at HANNOVER MESSE, we can forge contacts across multiple industries. What’s more, our "Lightweight Construction from Baden-Württemberg" pavilion is a great way of raising the profile of the participating SMEs. The high-tech Audi R8 chassis we’ll have at our stand will be a huge visitor magnet and will therefore also be a big help in this regard.
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