Study into resource-efficient lightweight design
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The role lightweight design plays in the mobility of the future remains a hotly debated topic. One thing is certain: with changes in mobility behavior come changing demands on vehicles and vehicle components. A study conducted in 2018 under the leadership of TU Dresden now highlights the resulting possibilities and challenges for lightweight design.
Initiated by the National Platform for Electric Mobility (NPE), the Research and Technology Center for Resource-Efficient Lightweight Design Structures for Electric Mobility (Forel) has been dedicated to the systemically coordinated further development of lightweight design for use in vehicles of the future since 2013. It aims to develop new methods of design, technologies, and processes as well as ways of directly transferring and exploiting research results in industrial value chains. Building on the findings of the Forel study in 2015  and the research and development findings from a current total of ten technology projects, the latest study investigates the current technological transformation in mobility . To this end, an online survey was conducted with over 220 industry and business participants and ten expert interviews on selected subject areas. The study was conducted under the leadership of the Institute of Lightweight Engineering and Polymer Technology (ILK) of TU Dresden in cooperation with the Laboratory of Materials and Joining Technology (LWF) of the University of Paderborn, the Institute for Machine Tools and Industrial Management (IWB) of TU Munich, the Institute of Mineral Processing Machines (IAM) of TU Bergakademie Freiberg and the Institute of Forming Technology and Lightweight Design (IUL) of TU Dortmund. Following the holistic and interdisciplinary approach of Forel, current developments were analyzed under the four headings of Technology Transformation, Forecasting Ability, Technology Assessment and Ecological Sustainability.
Technology Transformation through Lightweight Design
Future computation will be more closely involved with production.
Overall System Manageability
Interfaces Still Only Isolated Solutions
All of which means the industry lacks uniform general conditions for performing LCA. A broad data pool that may also include sensitive commercial information is necessary to remedy this deficit. With this in mind, it is understandable that the further spread of LCA is difficult. For the institutes involved in Forel, this reaffirms the acute need for research in this area. The open and independent platform Forel, with currently over 90 partners from science and industry, represents an ideal starting point. The methodological development topics that should be prioritized here were subject of discussion in the expert interview with Thinkstep, Interview 3.
The industry lacks uniform general conditions for performing LCA.
Thinking Lightweight Design Long-term
The Forel study 2018 clearly shows that multi-material lightweight design will remain crucial to future mobility. Unlike the public debate, where lightweight design is often reduced to mere weight savings, it is important to note that solution strategies for developing sustainable vehicles for the future must be diverse and, above all, interdisciplinary. The idea of an open and independent platform that underpins Forel thus represents a key prerequisite for systematically developing mobility. The lightweight design roadmap is therefore being constantly updated and enhanced with cooperative projects in close cooperation with the NPE.
The content described here shows only a small excerpt of the comprehensive study findings. Other subject areas include recycling, technology assessment, metal forming and joining technology. The Forel study 2018 can be ordered and accessed online .
Interview 1: Prof. Francisco Chinesta (Head of Scientific Committee of the ESI Group)
“A main weakness of composites is the increase in uncertainty along the process chain. The uncertainty accumulates exponentially along the scale differences and variety of involved components and materials. Thus, it is hard to predict how minor fluctuations propagate in the following. […] Instead of trying to model the uncertainty physically, there are also alternative ideas to achieve convergence of reality and simulation. Learning from the data can allow creating a new generation of data-based models, they allow for real-time decision-making, and to simulate from data or from a combination of data and models.”
Interview 2: Andrea Bauersachs (expert for seating concepts and predevelopment) and Sebastian Ross (expert for occupational safety, the environment and production technology at Brose Fahrzeugteile)
“We already assess the ecological impact of all product families in the conceptual phase. However, a complete life cycle assessment can only be performed when the product has been manufactured and the required data are available. The main motivation is comparing further developments with corresponding reference components. Although a comparison across company boundaries would be desirable, the lack of a data pool makes this impossible. In addition, there is no generally accepted definition of accounting limits, in relation to rival products for example.”
Interview 3: Jürgen Stichling (Vice-President Mobility, Energy and Chemicals at Thinkstep)
“An obvious trend is the automation of life cycle assessments, for example the automatic creation of product models based on a bill of materials. […] A further topic is the generation of parameterized models built by external experts so that product developers can also quickly reach a conclusion. Moreover, data availability for the latest lightweight materials must be further improved.”
This research and development project is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) within the Framework Concept ”Research for Tomorrow’s Production” (02P16Z010 — 02P16Z014) and managed by the Project Management Agency Forschungszentrum Karlsruhe, Production and Manufacturing Technologies Division (PTKA).
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