Hannover. Lightweight construction not only makes components and products lighter; it also makes them better. What that means in specific terms can be seen at HANNOVER MESSE 2018 from 23 to 27 April, most notably in Hall 5. This is where companies specializing in lightweight construction can be found as part of the lineup at Industrial Supply – the Leading Trade Show for Innovative Subcontracting Solutions and Lightweight Construction. The companies include 16 exhibitors taking part in the joint presentation "Lightweight Construction from the State of Baden-Wuerttemberg", which in 2018 is aiming to build on the success of previous shows. The exhibitors involved will be showing innovative lightweight construction solutions ranging from the simulation and optimization of development and production processes to additive manufacturing and hybrid materials.
"Making a component or product lighter, reducing material input and manufacturing costs, and ending up with something better than before – that’s only possible with lightweight construction know-how", says Dr. Wolfgang Seeliger, managing director at Leichtbau BW GmbH , which is organizing the stand for the regional agency in collaboration with Baden-Wuerttemberg International. "The key words here are multi-material design and conceptual lightweight construction, which enable us to rethink an industrial component from the very beginning. At the same time, the use of modern manufacturing processes such as additive manufacturing opens up new possibilities for producing components that could not be made using traditional methods."
Digitization has an important role to play in lightweight construction – not least because the engineering processes in the development phase are becoming increasingly complex. "Because we are pushing materials and structures to the limit in lightweight construction, we are constantly having to test things virtually to find out if the components really hold up, so that we can then incorporate the test results in the original design process", says Seeliger. In order to exploit the full potential of lightweight construction during the product development phase, and to be able to improve the product step by step, multiple feedback loops are necessary. "Many things in lightweight construction are made possible only by digitization. But this does require continuous data communication across all stages of the value-adding chain", says Seeliger. "If we can significantly shorten development cycles, and as a result the time to market, that’s a huge competitive advantage."
Speeding up the lightweight construction process
The start-up Cassini Systems Europe GmbH has fully embraced the cause of digitization, and is presenting a web-based system for network-integrated product development and control that allows developers and manufacturers to collaborate efficiently. As all processes are digitized, development times can be massively reduced. Quality and traceability are ensured through the use of versioned data management and single-source data storage.
Saving weight and optimizing products
The demand for lightweight core materials is constantly growing. The exhibits shown by Gaugler & Lutz oHG in Hannover will include an ultra-lightweight solar panelby OPES Solutions, in which the rigid foam AIREX PET-Schaum T90 has been used – a material that exhibits high compressive strength and temperature resistance. The easiest way to save weight is to replace one material by another. Grieshaber GmbH & Co. specializes in the machining of the classic lightweight material aluminum, which is typically required for the manufacture of precision components in mobile applications in the automotive and leisure sectors. Saving weight is also an important priority for commercial vehicle operators. LEIBER Group GmbH & Co. KG is exhibiting its optimized air suspension bracket for trucks. Forged in aluminum, this component is 50 per cent lighter than its predecessor – reducing the tare weight of the truck fleet, and thus increasing trailer payload.
Even with small parts, weight needs to be taken into account, as their frequent use means that they add up to a significant share of the overall weight. Werner Bauser GmbH will be presenting a range of plastic gear wheels and gear parts which deliver weight savings of up to 40 percent compared with the equivalent metal parts – and as an added bonus, they run more quietly, too. Another specialist in plastic engineering components is Weippert Kunststofftechnik GmbH , which has extended its range of plastic bolts, washers and nuts. Weight savings of around 70 percent can be achieved compared with steel bolts.
C&C Bark Metall-Druckguss und Formenbau GmbH is a company specializing in magnesium. Part of its product range is a lightweight solution for optical applications: a monocular housing cast entirely in magnesium, and then machined and coated. High-strength magnesium makes it possible to produce a thin-walled housing that is nevertheless extremely robust.
Surface coatings and finishings
In hybrid lightweight construction, which uses a combination of different materials, surface finish is an important issue. The innovations exhibited at the show by ELB – Eloxalwerk Ludwigsburg Helmut Zerrer GmbH include "Mg-Ultraceramic", a nano-ceramic finishing process for magnesium surfaces exposed to extreme conditions. The coating increases the inherent strength of the magnesium, while itself remaining very flexible. The combination of atomic bonding and complete, wrap-around coverage of all edges makes for a high degree of corrosion resistance, thus providing long-term protection for magnesium components. The photochemical etching technology developed by micrometal GmbH makes it possible to produce extremely complex metal structures with a high degree of precision. Tolerances of less than 10 microns are consistently achievable with this special etching process.
Combining different processes
Rosswag GmbH shows how completely new products can be manufactured using a hybrid combination of open-die forging and selective laser melting. In the first stage, Rosswag Engineering uses an open-die forging process to produce solid component sections of near-net-shape containing a large volume of material. The raw forging is then placed in the SLM chamber, and built up using laser-based additive manufacturing techniques to produce highly complex structures.
Gustav Gerster GmbH & Co. KG will be displaying its continuous fiber-reinforced spiral mesh made from carbon fibers, which can be used for manufacturing products such as electric motor rotors or ceramic brake discs. Unlike metal discs, there is no risk of corrosion, and spiral mesh discs are lighter than their steel or aluminum counterparts. The automated and robot-assisted braiding technology developed by Burgmann Packings Group GmbH opens up a whole range of possibilities for manufacturing fiber-reinforced composite components to customer specifications. Thanks to automation, manufacturers are able to accommodate complex 3D geometries, curvatures and bending radii without difficulty. Furthermore, the orientation of the fibers can be precisely adjusted to achieve the optimum absorption and distribution of forces.
Lightweight construction is a keynote theme running throughout the whole of HANNOVER MESSE 2018. But the most concentrated coverage of the subject is to be found in Hall 5 at Industrial Supply. Alongside the joint presentation by Leichtbau BW, the Integrated Lightweight Plaza is also making its debut at this year’s show. It serves as a showcase for lightweight construction technologies for all types of materials and processes across the industry spectrum, and offers exhibitors a central display area and a Speakers’ Corner. The Lightweight Construction Guide is also back again for 2018. This handy reference tool for visitors lists the many other companies – right across the spectrum of trade shows at HANNOVER MESSE – which are covering some aspect of lightweight construction in their displays.