Research Network for Lightweight Forging"- Potential of new structures, materials and processes for the lightweight construction of power engineered components –
Major targets of current and future developments in vehicle construction are the reduction of fuel consumption and, as a result from this, CO2-emissions. A key technology here is lightweight construction, which is also of big importance for electro mobility in order to be able to compensate for the high weights of energy storage systems. A revolutionary step in reducing the weight of the then existing vehicles happened back in the 1990s: this was the introduction of the first full body aluminium vehicle. This technology triggered a whole series of development projects in a competition between different construction materials, resulting in modern, high strength and easily manufactured steel bodies with at least the equivalent lightweight construction potential in comparison to aluminum.
However, these successes have not yet proceeded to the same extent with other components of vehicles such as the powertrain, whose production involves a division of labour between different companies and industries, which at the same time makes innovations more complex. An initiative of German massive forming companies and steelmakers (www.massiverleichtbau.de) took this task on in 2013 (Phase I) and demonstrated its first significant potential for weight reduction using known materials and processes. Since 2015, 10 institutes and more than 60 companies have dedicated themselves to the use of completely new light-weight construction potential in the powertrain and chassis. The research cooperation network "Massive Lightweight Construction - Innovation Network for Technology Advancement in Component, Process and Material Design for Solid-Formed Automotive Components", embraces the fields of construction, materials, production and innovation management involved in the entire supply chain.
The results of the research network show new ways in which the powertrain of automobiles - from the engine through the gearbox to the wheel bearings - can be made even lighter with the help of new steel materials as well as component constructions and production methods, whereby at the same time the highest life expectancy can be achieved.
For this purpose, the entire supply chain with regard to lightweight construction potential was analyzed and optimized in a total of six subprojects ranging from alloy development, heat treatment, multi-component processes through massive forming to technology transfer. For the first time in such a large-scale project, a comprehensive scientific analysis on the innovation barriers is being carried out. The results of this analysis show that in a very collaborative process chain, an enhanceable knowledge transfer, the still inadequate corporate strategy prioritization of lightweight construction, as well as internal company structures and pro- cesses in many places hinder the implementation of lightweight construction.
Hans-Werner Zoch, Rainer Tinscher, Michael Rothgang