The IZB Specialist Conferences Highlight Resource-Efficient Production and Lightweight Construction

Growing customer demands and more and more ecological challenges mean that the automotive industry is increasing its focus on sustainability in both products and production, not only due to ecological, but also, and above all, due to economic requirements. On 15th and 16th October, the specialist conference on "Resource-Efficient Automotive Production" and the “Lightweight Construction Forum”, which were held as part of the 8th International Suppliers Fair (IZB) in Wolfsburg, highlighted important aspects of this megatrend.

Global markets and the increase in purchasing power in newly industrialised countries help to improve the economic courses of action available in the automotive industry. As a result, the growing demand for raw materials and energy resources, which are becoming increasingly scarce and therefore more and more expensive, are evolving into an important focus for automotive manufacturers and suppliers. The specialist conference on "Resource-Efficient Automotive Production", which was hosted by Guido Reinking, the Chief Editor of the German trade newspaper “Automobilwoche”, provided an insight into different possibilities for and approaches to energy-efficient and material-efficient solutions that enable companies to also achieve maximum added value when using less resources. The event used a number of extremely practice-oriented talks and presentations to provide visitors with interesting tips and suggestions, for example the fact that thinking and acting on a more long-term strategic basis can be advantageous. Another example is the necessity of increasing the involvement of the total cost of ownership, namely the price and operating costs, into the purchasing strategy used when buying tools etc.

The ISO 14955 (Environmental Evaluation of Machine Tools) standard will soon shed light on how to determine the environmental efficiency of machine tools. The event, which was fully booked, provided its around 100 guests with information on topics such as how machines are able to use self-learning processes to increase their productivity, why economic and ecological objectives are not mutually exclusive and the fact that good solutions can indeed be exported. The conference was organised by the company Wolfsburg AG and the Fraunhofer Institute for Machine Tools and Forming Technology (IWU) from the German city of Chemnitz.

Weight Reductions and Lower Consumption

The Lightweight Construction Forum, which also took place in the exhibition grounds in the Allerpark in Wolfsburg on the last day of the International Suppliers Fair, was another event that focused on innovative concepts used when handling resources. “Can growing safety requirements and an increasing need for comfort and convenience be combined with weight reductions made in order to decrease consumption?", was one of the main questions asked at the event and received a resounding yes from the forum's high-ranking speakers.

Nevertheless, the speakers also explained that materials cannot simply be substituted with lighter materials, but that companies instead need to specify the weight reductions that they want to achieve at an early stage during their planning activities, for example in simulations. The talks and presentations at the event, which was held under the patronage of Prof. Dr Jürgen Leohold, the Head of Group Research at Volkswagen AG and the Head of the AutoUni, presented new manufacturing technologies in the field of hybrid lightweight construction and explored transitional structures for combining fibre composite materials with aluminium. Lightweight construction innovations using steel, for example components made of flexibly rolled steel sheets that are only solid in the case of high loads or the use of lightweight steel construction as an intelligent combination of innovative profile structures and conventional shell constructions, attracted a lot of interest among the guests at the event. The speakers at the forum also explored new composite materials and manufacturing techniques for hybrid lightweight construction, for example sandwich elements using Rohacell structural foam, which are able to reduce the weight of bonnets down to a fraction. The Lightweight Construction Forum was hosted by Claus-Peter Köth, the Chief Editor of the German specialist magazine “Automobil Industrie”, who expertly led the audience through the programme.