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Current and future challenges, new opportunities and innovative technologies were discussed in the keynotes during the conference.
Current and future challenges, new opportunities and innovative technologies were discussed in the keynotes during the conference.

More than 300 participants attended the two-day automotive conference trend.scaut 2018, which injection molding machine manufacturer and systems expert ENGEL hosted in Shanghai at the end of October.

For the first time, ENGEL trend.scaut took place parallel to FUMOTec, the international trade fair for automotive engineering and future mobility, at the Shanghai World Expo Exhibition & Convention Centre, thus attracting a particularly high level of attention to the conference.

The keynote program was fruitful with speakers including representatives of Volvo and Nobo (a member of the Great Wall Motor Company), Continental and Ecorea, as well as JSC Automotive, ExxonMobil, Sabic and ENGEL.

As the first presentation by Dr Norbert Müller, head of the ENGEL Center for Lightweight Composite Technologies already made clear, the automotive market in Asia is continuing to develop at a particularly dynamic pace. The focus is on electric vehicles. Another development is that renowned Chinese suppliers are also placing their products in the premium segment.

Together with his team, Müller developed new, particularly cost-effective processes for large-scale composite lightweight construction, covering a broad range of technologies: from HP-RTM and SMC to the processing of thermoplastic semi-finished products such as organic sheets and tapes, through to innovative reactive technologies such as in-situ polymerization (T-RTM).

"What is new is that composite manufacturers in Asia are also increasingly focusing on thermoplastic-based solutions," said Müller. "The possibility of functionalizing thermoplastic composite materials immediately after molding in the same mold using injection molding can secure decisive time advantages."

Focus on productivity and efficiency

The fact that high productivity and efficiency in the automotive industry are more decisive for competitiveness and success than in other sectors is not a new insight. In Asia in particular, however, the situation could be further aggravated, at the latest by 2020, when subsidies for electric vehicles are discontinued.

According to Jochen Siebert, the managing director of JSC Automotive, a management consultancy specializing in the Chinese automotive market, the industry is already undergoing a transformation process that could slow down the dynamic market development and lead to consolidation. Another scenario is that hybrid vehicles are growing faster than electric vehicles.

Process integration and automation are becoming even more important as efficiency pressure increases. ENGEL is increasingly developing integrated system solutions including process technology, automation and other peripherals for the automotive lighting and interior sectors.

"If we precisely coordinate all process stages and match system components right from the start, we can exploit both the efficiency and quality potential to the full," said Michael Fischer, Head of Business Development Technologies at ENGEL's headquarters in Austria.

Live demonstrations at the ENGEL technical centre

With four live exhibits on the second day of the event, ENGEL built the bridge to operational practice at its large-scale machine plant in Shanghai.On the second day of the event, ENGEL had invited the participants to its large-scale machine plant in Shanghai Xinzhuang Industrial Park. Based on four challenging applications, the ENGEL automotive experts demonstrated how new technologies can be efficiently implemented in practice.

Thick-walled headlamp lenses were produced in a fully automated production cell with two interlinked duo injection molding machines. ENGEL solves the challenge of combining high optical quality with short cycle times with its patented multi-layer technology, optimized by external cooling. Although the pre-molded parts cool for 30 minutes, the cycle time is significantly less than 3 minutes.

The task of the second application was to combine efficiency with high surface quality. A further duo injection molding machine was used to produce sophisticated trim parts for the vehicle interior using the ENGEL foammelt process. Structural foam molding makes it possible to reliably fill even very thin component areas while at the same time reducing the component weight.

The special feature of the innovative process presented in Shanghai, which is based on a chemical blowing agent, is that high-quality visible surfaces are created directly from polypropylene in injection molding.

The production of transparent technical parts was all-electric. Here, an e-mac injection molding machine impressed with its high precision, process stability and efficiency. The e-mac series machines are exclusively equipped with particularly powerful servo-motors, including the ejection and pressing functions, thus ensuring optimum efficiency. Added to this there is the compact design as saving space is also an important efficiency factor.

The fourth exhibit made the opportunities that Industry 4.0 opens for greater efficiency and quality tangible. Equipped with intelligent assistance systems from ENGEL's inject 4.0 program, the injection molding machine continuously and automatically adapts the processing parameters to reflect fluctuations in the raw material and the ambient conditions. The result is a constant process without rejects.

ENGEL trend.scaut 2019 in Detroit

Since 2009, ENGEL has regularly invited the automotive industry and its suppliers to trend.scaut. For the past three years, the conference has taken place alternately on different continents. Next year Detroit, USA will be the venue; in 2020 the industry will meet in Austria before trend.scaut returns to China in 2021.

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