Under the motto “innovative – inspiring – international”, the lightweight technology community met on 09 and 10 November 2021 for the eighth Global Lightweight Summit. For the time, the summit was held this year in hybrid form. Based on the guiding theme of “Sustainability through lightweight technology in practice”, the sessions and key notes highlighted the enormous potential of lightweight technology for achieving the climate goals – with simultaneous economic benefits.
Lightweight technology as a central future subject
Even while opening the summit, Dr Wolfgang Seeliger, Director of Leichtbau BW GmbH, used an impressive extrapolation to emphasise the contribution of lightweight technology towards climate protection . Five Baden-Württemberg companies, looked at as an example, can save around 36 million tonnes of CO2 every year with lightweight technology, equivalent to the annual climate gas emissions of a country the size of Switzerland. In her welcome, Minister Theresia Bauer (Baden-Württemberg Ministry for Science, Research and Art) also stressed the great importance of lightweight technology for sustainable development, recyclable production and CO2 reductions, especially in the area of mobility and urban development. “Lightweight technology is a central future topic and a key technology for Baden-Württemberg”, explained the minister.
Cross-industry innovative power
After the opening and welcome, the technology was examined in depth in six sessions and several key note addresses. For example, the “New Materials” session looked at innovative materials for lightweight technology such as biocarbons. However, annually renewable plants and waste such as straw or silphie offer unimagined potential for fibre-based lightweight materials such as those demonstrated by Dr Manuel Clauss (Silphie Paper GmbH). In addition, the session provided an overview of high-potential production routes for bio and/or CO2-based high-performance fibre composite materials and presented hybrid Foldcore-Mica sandwiches for structural fire protection.
In the “Production for recyclable lightweight technology” session, the experts impressively stressed that a holistic approach to the entire added-value chain is essential for sustainable production. For example, Dr Frank Henning (Fraunhofer Institut für Chemische Technologie, ICT) showed that even product development has to be designed for sustainability and not “only” for recycling. It is also crucial that this aspect is anchored more strongly in the developers’ minds. Additionally, the session highlighted the sustainability potential of additive manufacturing, using Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) as an example, and explained optimisation potential with regard to sustainability, for example by using (partly) bio-based materials Furthermore, the double role of mechanical engineering in achieving sustainability goals was also presented in detail: On one hand, mechanical engineering acts as the enabler of lightweight technology and therefore enables the world to manufacture sustainably. On the other hand, lightweight engineering is also used for mechanical engineering itself in order to reduce moved weights, for example.
Another session focused on electric and autonomous flying in Baden-Württemberg. Christopher Busch from Forum Luft- und Raumfahrt Baden-Württemberg e.V. Explained that up to 50 percent of the CO2 savings potential in the aviation industry was in lightweight technology and not – as often assumed – in the drive The specialist presentations in the session showed the application possibilities already available for zero emissions in aviation, using the eGenius HPH and icaré projects as examples. The “e-Fliegen BW” test field, which Prof. Dr. Walter Fichter (Institute of Flight Mechanics and Controls, University of Stuttgart) presented, as well as the possible uses presented by others, have to be highlighted here.
International experience sharing in lightweight technology
New this year was the large international participation in the summit thanks to Leichtbau BW GmbH’ close cooperation with China, Canada and the European Lightweight Association (ELA).
For example, the China session, led by the China Automotive Technology and Research Centre (CATARC) and Deing Science & Technologies Co. Ltd, gave the participants an overview of the state of technology there with regard to reducing CO2, especially in the automotive and transport sector. Among others, Owen Chen (Weiqiao Pioneering Group Ltd.) explained the challenges currently facing China with the so-called “Carbon-Peak”. The high point of CO2 emissions in China is expected by 2030. The applicable general political conditions require climate neutrality by 2060, however, which therefore requires a short implementation period. In the session, the Chinese lightweight technology experts saw great potential in the area of NEV (New Electric Vehicles) and in aluminium recycling.
The focus of the Canada session was on the challenges relating to sustainability through lightweight technology in the area of heavy vehicles such as buses and caravans. The session was organised by APMA, Canadian Consulate in Munich and by the Vehicle Technology Centre. The speakers explained that many Canadian companies are open for close cooperation with European lightweight technology experts. At the same time, lightweight technology solutions from Canada were presented, including magnesium for lightweight components and structures in vehicle production, as well as possibilities for optimising agility in the research and development of new materials.
The European Lightweight Association (ELA) session took the participants on a lightweight technology journey through Europe. Among other things, Constanze Grützmacher (Professor of Plastics Technology, Friedrich Alexander University of Erlangen-Nuremberg) presented a dual robot system for granulate-based additive manufacturing in order to research thermoplastic process-structure property relationships. In particular, the session stressed the great future potential of small and medium-sized companies for sustainability by implementing lightweight technology principles, and at the same time made it clear that openness to new methods was fundamental here.
Key notes for knowledge advantage: Sustainability as opportunity
Apart from the practical sessions, which gave the participants a variety of opportunities to step into the international market with their lightweight technology expertise, the key note speeches at the Global Lightweight Summit provided other impetus for sustainability through lightweight technology. For example, D Matthias Harsch (LCS Life Cycle Simulation GmbH) showed the ecology and economy do not have to be mutually exclusive. Indeed, sustainability can be seen as an opportunity. Lifecycle models allow supply chains to be modelled and thus act as important supports when making decisions. The key notes stressed the opportunities of lifecycle analysis, in particular, for sustainable product development from the start. Alexandra Rudl (bwCon GmbH) enriched the Global Lightweight Summit with insights into the possible uses and limits of agile methods in the innovation process. Her presentation gave the participants the impetus never to consider methods as the goal, but as a toolbox instead, in order to drive forward changes in the company.
Highlight on site: Business and science tours
For the attendees in person, the summit the was rounded off on the second day (10 November 2021) with exclusive business and science tours through innovative Baden-Württemberg companies such as TEAMOBILITY GmbH and research institutions like the Deutsche Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt e.V. (DLR).
Conclusion: Lightweight technology as answer to the climate question
The specialist presentations, key note speeches and discussions at the Global Lightweight Summit 2021 showed: Lightweight engineering offers cross-branch solutions for the large environmental challenges of our time and attractive competitive advantages simultaneously. Synergies through international cooperations allow the subject to be driven forwards globally, thereby allowing climate goals to be achieved.