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ENGEL's Lightweight Future Day 2021 focuses on climate protection
Source:Adsale Plastics Network    Editor:JK    Date:26.May.2021

The Lightweight Future Day 2021, hosted by machine manufacturer and system solutions provider ENGEL in May, once again made it clear that lightweight is a key technology and route to a CO2-neutral world and that thermoplastics will play a major role in this.


Experts from all important user industries, such as automotive, bicycle and motorcycle construction, aviation, and the sports and leisure industry, as well as representatives from renowned research institutes presented state-of-the-art solutions and approaches at the event.


More than 500 attendees gained valuable insights from a total of 15 keynotes presenting all facets of current developments and trends in lightweight, and participated in the discussions. Each keynote was followed by a Q&A session moderated by Dr. Norbert Müller, Head of Development smart machine at ENGEL, and Dr. Bastian Brenken, Managing Director of Composites United.


Dr. Norbert Müller, Head of Development smart machine at ENGEL (right) and Dr. Bastian Brenken, Managing Director of Composites United e.V. (left).

The two industry experts guided the audience through the program with a great deal of professional expertise. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Lightweight Future Day was held as a virtual event this year.


Thermoplastic composites accelerate series production


Thermoplastic composites and the matching production technology make high-volume series production far easier, as Michael Thienel, an expert in the development of door solutions at automotive supplier Brose, explained in the first keynote, "With an intelligent mix of materials, we have succeeded in developing an innovative door system here that sets new standards in lightweight, functionality and flexible design."


Many keynotes at the Lightweight Future Day show that the path to state-of-the-art lightweight is often via thermoplastic processing. FACC, a specialist for lightweight components in aircraft construction, also backs thermoplastics.


Production volumes of 5,000 to 30,000 components per year are expected. These are significantly higher figures compared to parts production for larger aircrafts. Due to their long curing times, the thermosets primarily used in aircraft construction to date would be unable to meet the short cycle times required here.


The Lightweight Future Day 2021 was held as a virtual event. 

But thermoplastics will probably also play a greater role in traditional aircraft construction in the future, as the aviation industry has set itself the goal of achieving climate neutrality by 2050.


According to Rene Adam, FACC's Director Research & Technology, "The production processes in the aviation industry will totally change. Hybrid casting, cold bonding and rapid forming have not yet become standard processes here. We need to significantly improve cost structures and production cycles."


Recycling capability makes lightweight more sustainable


Another topic was common ground in many of the presentations: the very good recyclability of thermoplastics compared to the more limited recyclability of thermoset fibre composite materials.


Georg Käsmeier, Managing Partner with Forward Engineering, stated, "Now is the right time to shift from linear to circular thinking in your product development and to consider the recycling process as early as in the product design stage."


As part of a study, Forward Engineering compared the CO2 footprint in the production of a brake pedal based on primary thermoplastics, bio-based materials and recycled thermoplastics. The CO2 savings potential of using thermoplastics with recycled content was found to be significant.


Thermoplastic lightweight parts in one go


Due to the increasing importance of thermoplastics in lightweight, ENGEL has invested heavily in technologies and systems for processing thermoplastic composites in recent years.


"We are the first company in the world to be able to offer a fully integrated process that starts with a UD-tape laying cell and finishes with a fully consolidated, overmolded thermoplastic lightweight component," told Paul Zwicklhuber, development engineer Composite Processing at ENGEL, in his presentation.


The tape laying cell relies on the pick-and-place principle. This means that tapes can be deposited and spot-welded together at three- to four-second intervals. Since the quality of the stack depends largely on the accuracy of the tape positioning, ENGEL has equipped the laying cell with a measuring system with high-resolution camera technology.


Downstream of this there is a consolidation unit which consolidates the thermoplastic tape fabrics in the injection moulding cycle. Consolidation can be seamlessly integrated into the overall process, which increases efficiency in the production of tailor-made tape solutions.


Overall, the exchange of experience and knowledge between machine manufacturers and system suppliers, material suppliers, mold makers, researchers and developers has made the ENGEL Lightweight Future Day fruitful.



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