Global Lightweight Summit 2022

The lightweight technology community came together for the ninth year at the Global Lightweight Summit on 20th October 2022. Just like last year, the international conference was held at the Fiderhalle in Leinfelden-Echterdingen, Germany. Under the conference motto “Lightweight technology through digitisation – what is the advantage for climate protection?” keynote addresses, sessions, and discussions demonstrated that lightweight technology can actually increase its significant contribution to climate protection with the help of digitisation.

“We want to offer you a platform for networking with one another, finding technology partners and building customer relationships” said Dr. Wolfgang Seeliger, Managing Director of Leichtbau BW GmbH, as he kicked off the 2022 Global Lightweight Summit. Seeliger used this opportunity to present the Corporate fund for lightweight technology which was initiated by Leichtbau BW.  The fund allows young companies to close financing gaps and accelerate their market penetration. The fund provides a way for investors to invest in industrial high-tech and generate profits. After his greeting, Seeliger turned over the microphone to Dr. Nicole Hoffmeister-Kraut, Minister of Economics, Labour and Tourism of the state of Baden-Württemberg She greeted the participants in a video message, and praised the Global Lightweight Summit as a “key cross-sector platform”. The Minister called lightweight technology a “game changer” for climate protection, and promised to advance an interdisciplinary strategy from the German federal government to take advantage of the full potential of lightweight technology.

Now is the right time to adress platform economies

After the introductory remarks, the specialist presentations began: Dr. Farbod Nezami, co-founder of InstaWerk GmbH, addressed the topics of AI and platforms in the first keynote address of the day. The presentation dealt with the increasing importance of corporate platforms, which are also more heavily influencing industrial value creation and lightweight technology. Lightweight technology companies that want to utilise the advantages of the platform economy must decide soon how they intend to integrate the business model into their own. They have three options for doing so: They can build their own platform, cooperate with developers, or integrate an external platform into their business processes.

In the second keynote address, Gregor Graf from Rosswag GmbH turned his focus to the advantages of digitisation in purchasing materials for metal 3D printing. This technique has great potential for manufacturing lightweight components with optimised functionality and an efficient use of resources. Since few materials are currently available, and since the complex interactions of multiple process parameters make it difficult to qualify new applications, the additive manufacturing technology is not yet completely able to fulfil industrial expectations. This is where the “AddiMap” digital B2B platform comes into play: “AddiMap” is an open marketplace for trading parameter and material data for metal 3D printing, in order to make manufacturing faster, more economical, and more reliable in the future.

The last keynote address of the day was given by Thilo Schäfer from the Institut der deutschen Wirtschaft Köln e. V. (IW - Cologne Institute for Economic Research) on the topic of digitisation as an enabler for climate protection and the efficient use of resources. Schäfer demonstrated, based on an IW assessment, that digital networking can advance the efficient use of resources, improve closed-loop recycling, and make a positive contribution to protecting the climate. Many companies already use digital tools to work more efficiently. However, at present digital business models are only in use in some individual cases – although digital companies are particularly successful. Therefore, the focus should be on utilising this potential and removing obstacles. Knowledge transfer is the key to doing so.

The morning session ended with the manifestation of collaboration between the ELA (European Lightweight Association) and ELCA (European Lightweight Cluster Alliance) in a cooperation agreement. After the different parties were introduced, some via video and from other countries, Dr. Wolfgang Seeliger signed the agreement on behalf of the ELA, while Thomas Hipke from the Fraunhofer Institute IWU signed as the representative for the ELCA.

Digital transformation delivers more climate-friendly and sustainable lightweight products and services

After the lunch break, the knowledge transfer moved to the sessions. There, speakers were able to present on different topics related to lightweight technology, digitisation and climate protection, and hold discussions with participants. They focused on issues such as bio-based fibre composite materials, digitisation as a bridge between lightweight technology products and production, matrix production in the aerospace industry, and calculating the product carbon footprint. The international attendees and all other stakeholders appreciated the two international sessions. The ELA presented innovations from its network, while the Canadian Consulate took the stage to underscore Canada’s expertise in additive manufacturing.

Conclusion: Achieving climate targets faster with lightweight technology through digitisation

Everyone seems to be talking about protecting the climate. Lightweight technology is a great way to do so by its nature, because it saves materials and focuses on manufacturing in a way that protects the environment whenever possible. The keynote addresses, sessions, and discussions at the 2022 Global Lightweight Summit make clear that lightweight technology can accelerate the achievement of climate targets even further with digitisation as an enabler. In addition, the summit once again confirmed that lightweight technology offers opportunities for companies to improve their competitive position through international cooperation.