This year's Colloquium on Production Technology, held at the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) site in Augsburg, coincided with a special occasion. The DLR Center for Lightweight-Production-Technology (Zentrum für Leichtbauproduktionstechnologie; ZLP) celebrated its tenth anniversary on 15 May 2019. Approximately 200 guests from the fields of government, industry and research attended the festivities, taking a proud look back at the development of the ZLP and exchanging views on current and future topics in lightweight production technology.
"The Center for Lightweight-Production-Technology has evolved into a strong research partner for the aerospace industry, both within the region and at national and international levels, and we are very proud of this. With its ongoing commitment to the digital use of data and the deployment of AI tools, the ZLP Augsburg is also opening up new possibilities in lightweight construction, which will enable DLR to expand upon its position as a driver of this technology in the future," said Klaus Hamacher, Deputy Chair of the DLR Executive Board.
The founding and expansion of the ZLP have been followed with great interest by the Bavarian State Government from the very beginning. "The ZLP has established itself as a permanent fixture in science and industry. When it comes to carbon-fibre reinforced plastics, it occupies a leading position in Bavaria and Germany. With its Innovationspark, Augsburg is an excellent location. All sides benefit from the close networking of research, industry and teaching," explained Roland Weigert, State Secretary at the Bavarian State Ministry for Economic Affairs, Regional Development and Energy, in his video message. The city of Augsburg, another close supporter of the ZLP, was represented by Mayor Eva Weber, who attended the opening ceremony of the anniversary colloquium.
Lightweight construction for the aerospace industry of the future
Modern aviation is subject to clear demands – aircraft need to be lighter in weight, more economical in terms of fuel consumption, and emit fewer pollutants. Lightweight construction is a key element for achieving these objectives. Fibre-reinforced polymers and other composite structures are able to deliver their desirable properties optimally if the production processes are adapted to suit them. The ZLP in Augsburg has been working closely with industry to research and develop the new technologies and processes required for this purpose for 10 years, with great success.
This is also reflected in the rapid development associated with the ZLP. Having started out with three employees at the SIGMA Technopark in 2009, DLR's Augsburg site was founded and developed two years later. DLR and the neighbouring Fraunhofer facility were the first institutions to move into the Augsburg Innovationspark. The new technology hall at the ZLP was designed specifically for industrial-scale research and was inaugurated in May 2013. The ZLP's large laboratory hall and adjoining office complex are now working at full capacity, with around 60 members of staff.
Their work focuses in particular on the flexible, robot-based automation and digitalisation of lightweight production. This was and continues to be successful in no small part due to its unique large-scale research facility, the Multifunctional Robot Cell (Multifunktionale Roboterzelle; MFZ), which enables the development of integrated processes for manufacturing large fibre-reinforced components on an industrial scale. Integrated quality assurance is vital for this. The experts are developing automated processes using robotic grippers in order to satisfy the quality requirements of the aerospace industry during the manufacture of lightweight structures. This is intended to ensure a reproducible level of quality and allow complex materials to be processed quickly and cost-effectively while ensuring safe cooperation between humans and machines.
Collaboration with regional partners from science and industry is also of central importance to the research institution. The automation of a continuous process chain for manufacturing a Duromer pressure bulkhead, the welding of a thermoplastic pressure bulkhead, and the production of a CFRP booster or fibre-metal laminates are just some of the successful projects that have had input from the ZLP over the last 10 years, thus contributing towards technological expertise in production for the aerospace industry in Augsburg and Bavaria, and preparing it for the decades to come.
The important future topics at the ZLP Augsburg include smart solutions for 'human-centred production' and internationalisation, such as the DLR@UBC collaboration with the University of British Columbia. DLR is currently creating a doctoral programme that builds upon these areas.