Key technology Lightweight construction guarantees global sustainability

Intelligent lightweight construction solutions are also increasingly finding a place in machine building. The focus here is on new geometries and materials, but also on simulation and 3D printing.

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A complete reverse engineering was carried out at Rolf Lenk on a headset cover of the Cadillac Eldorado, built in 1967, and the component was then printed, mechanically reworked and then installed.
A complete reverse engineering was carried out at Rolf Lenk on a headset cover of the Cadillac Eldorado, built in 1967, and the component was then printed, mechanically reworked and then installed.
(Bild: Rolf Lenk)

Lightweight construction is an elementary part of a more sustainable production. It already begins long before the actual manufacturing and plays a role throughout the entire value creation chain – from the raw material to the finished component. Accordingly, firms must evaluate this topic in time,” says Steffen Krause, Technical Sales Manager at the software developer Autodesk. “Our mission is to automate draft designs by customers and to develop processes to allow more and better control – and all of this with less negative effects on the environment. With Autodesk technology, manufacturers can improve their results and contribute to shaping a better world by realising better efficiency in materials and energy in their design and manufacturing processes.”

For Hainbuch, the Swabian manufacturer of workpiece clamping solutions in Marbach, sustainability and the related responsibility for environmental protection are self-evident goals and form an important element in the firm’s identity. Since 2016, for example, an energy norm, so-called energy politics, is anchored in the environmental guidelines. “With this we reduce emissions and waste, raise energy efficiency, guarantee a conservational treatment of resources and reduce hazardous materials. For we wish not only to develop and produce high quality products, but also to promote environmental protection and sustainability,” explains Stefan Nitsche, in charge of product management at Hainbuch.

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Lightweight construction is a precondition for material efficiency

The 3D Micro Print GmbH in Chemnitz specialises in producing metal micro-parts using micro-laser sintering, and it also sells the relevant machines. For this firm in Saxony, sustainability also means developing and manufacturing products with functional integration, thus creating added value for the customer – without compromises in the material properties and uses of the components.

“The interplay of new geometry and new materials is essential when it comes to generating lightweight and sustainable products with added value. At this point, expert advice is necessary to point out to the customer the critical adjustments for product development and the manufacturing process,” emphasises Thomas Klotz, Quality Assurance Manager at 3D Micro Print.

This much is clear: Without 3D printing, many tasks in lightweight construction would be impossible, and it is also an essential prere- quisite for material efficiency. Here many parts can already be joined together at the design stage. “The generative design approach at Autodesk is an important tool which often enables the creation of new geometrical forms. It helps our customers to reduce weight and to consolidate parts. General Motors, for example, used this approach with additive manufacture when thinking out a new seat retainer,” Krause says, giving an example for a component developed consistently on lightweight construction principles from the very beginning. “The new part consisted of one component instead of eight as previously. In addition, it was 40 % lighter and 20 % stronger.”

Lighter and smaller clamping equipment

To clamp workpieces for milling, turning and grinding, Hainbuch has developed ultra-light clamping equipment from carbon fibre. According to the firm, these provide higher productivity, lower energy consumption and smaller loads on the machine drive. Thanks to the working material, this CFRP clamping equipment is up to two thirds lighter than standard items.

“We can offer almost all clamping equipment as carbon fibre variants in the individual customer field. In addition, with the mini range, we have developed chucks with a low interference contour and lower mass. These two factors are playing an increasingly important role in finishing work. Access to the tools and lower energy consumption are features of a modern and future-oriented clamping system. The more dynamic spindle acceleration reduces cycle times. And overall the costs per workpiece fall,” Nitsche states in describing the solutional approaches at Hainbuch. At the EMO Hannover, the firm will display the manual vice Manok CFK Leichtbau, along with the mini range of chucks and many other new developments on which sustainability aspects have made an impact.

With lightweight construction in mind, 3D Micro Print uses micro-laser sintering technology for high-precision metal micro-components, offering the customer both product manufacture and holistic service from one provider. The portfolio includes exchange of knowledge, functional component integration, manufacturable design, manufacture of mass production parts and, if requested, material development. The processes here are designed for ultra- high-resolution and precise micro-components in the µm-range. The firm develops and produces not only fine lattice structures, but also geometries with detailed interior structures. Corresponding solutional approaches for various sectors will be presented by the firm at the EMO in Hannover.

Artificial intelligence leads to more agile working

For machine builders and their customers, sustainability and lightweight construction offer clear competitive advantages in the value creation chain and are therefore essential. This is also confirmed by Autodesk’sTechnical Sales Manager, Steffen Krause: “More than 60 % of our customers have success factors and goals linked to sustainability – with an upwards trend. Via the delivery chain, this is also transferred to the service providers.”

In view of this background, Autodesk has decided, under the umbrella of automation, to put its effort into artificial intelligence, virtual and augmented reality, and also 3D printing. This means that design, machine construction and simulation are united digitally, all the way into the details of CAM, additive manufacturing and factory management. “This unified platform dissolves the boundaries between the disciplines, enables more agile working among the engineering teams, and enables manufacturers to become more competitive,” Krause underlines.

At the Autodesk fair booth at the EMO in Hannover, visitors will be able to gain insights into the CAM software used in the exhibits. They will be able, for example, to see demanding complex components with free-form surfaces which show what a high surface quality can be achieved with it. This also includes examples from hybrid manufacturing in which additive and subtractive processes interact. They will moreover show exhibits going into depth on the possibilities of generative design.

With the right development tools and a generous portion of engineering knowledge, much can be achieved with lightweight construction. The only limits are imposed by physics. “So far, we have been able to fulfil all customer requirements. Lightweight construction, with the associated reduction in interference contours, only reaches its limits where the holding forces, stiffness and precision can no longer be guaranteed,” emphasises Hainbuch’s Stefan Nitsche. Thomas Klotz, of 3D Micro Print, adds: “Lightweight construction currently reaches its limits when it comes to highly standardised processes and products which leave no space free for raising the performance.”

Counteracting geometrical deviations

3D metal printing is also one of the competences at the Rolf Lenk Werkzeug- und Maschinenbau GmbH in Hamburg. Matthias Otte is in charge of the additive manufacturing area. He explains the critical factors when it comes to manufacturing: “The component must meet dimensional tolerances. This means that the distortion and shrinkage in additive manufacturing processes must be counteracted. An important point here is optical surveying of geometry. This also allows a quick check on possible deviations.” With the help of optical measurement technology, the firm is in a position to give support all the way along the process chain in additive manufacture and thus produce perfectly fitting components. This begins with a geometrical survey of the components, continues with detecting deviations due to distortion and shrinkage, and goes all the way through to a results protocol for the finished part. Even during running production, inaccuracies compared to the planned geometry can be identified. If necessary, quick intervention is then possible. At the EMO, the firm will use various components to demonstrate its competences in the 3D-printing field.

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* Dipl. Eng. Annedore Bose-Munde is a specialist author in 99094 Erfurt, tel. (00 49-3 61) 78 94 46 95,,