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JEC Composites Exhibition: AZL launches centre of expertise and Composites Academy

Aachen Center For Integrative Lightweight Production (AZL) : 26 March, 2013  (Company News)
The Aachen Center for Integrative Lightweight Production (AZL) of RWTH Aachen University has announced its 33 founding partners. This follows the framework of the so-called Excellence Initiative by the German Government, with new clusters established on the campus of the University of RWTH in Aachen over the next 10 years. In all, 19 new institutions will be set up covering some 800,000 square metres.

As one of the first institutions on the new Campus, the Aachen Center for Integrative Lightweight Production (AZL) will be set up. The AZL, founded by Prof. Dr. Christian Brecher1 and Prof. Dr. Christian Hopmann, is part of the faculty of mechanical engineering.

The aim of AZL is to provide a network of competence in lightweight production at a single location. It will aim to develop the automated production of load-and cost-optimised lightweight components, suitable for mass production and versatile process chains in composite and multi-material design. All the necessary expertise along the entire value chain is within walking distance on the campus, where over 700 scientists are working on production technologies, lightweight materials and applications. The expertise covers carbon and glass fibres, textile pre-forming, high-volume capable plastics processing, automation, machining and testing, as well as applications in the oil, water, gas, infrastructure, buildings and automotive sectors.

Dr Michael Emonts, CEO of AZL, explains the unique research environment: “AZL is set up within the new “Integrative Production Technology” cluster, which additionally offers approximately 25,000 sq.m of  laboratory space for 800 scientists, at the Campus Melaten in Aachen. Within the Campus, companies have the possibility to open own branches or complete development laboratories. The advantage of the direct contact with the staff and the equipment of the research institutes - and especially the close contact with highly qualified students as potential staff after graduation - is already being used by major companies from different industrial sectors.”

One of the first projects with the founding partners of AZL is a strategic market and technology study over 12 months (starting in March 2013), focussing on the technical feasibility for mass production of new applications for lightweight materials. This study will identify applications, components, distribution channels, production volumes, economic potential, and requirements for materials and process chains, across five major market segments.

Dr Kai Fischer, Divisional Director Composite Production Technology of AZL, explains: “The unique aspect of this study is that new markets for composites are being identified which are not yet accessible for these materials. The study therefore provides an ideal basis for the development of new strategic business areas for the participating companies all along the value chain.”

Companies amongst the 33 founding partners include materials suppliers, moulders, and Tiers 1 and 2 manufacturing suppliers to OEMs. They include AFPT, Ashland, DSM, DuPont, EMS Chemie, EM-Systeme, FA Kümpers, Future Fibres, Gurit, Henkel. KgaA, Johnson Controls, Kegelmann Technik, Lamilux, LANXESS, Laserline, Lürssen Werft, Mahr Metering, Opel, Röchling, SABIC, Siemens, Tencate, ThyssenKrupp AG, Ticona, and Toyota Motor Europe.

 “The cooperation of this fantastic network is the foundation of the AZL and its future projects,” adds Fischer. “In summer 2014, following the results of this study, the AZL will open its doors. But already, AZL is working in industrial projects and public research projects.”

Michael Effing (pictured), CEO of AMAC, a consulting company supporting supporting the AZL, says “Many currently thermoset-driven applications still have significant labour costs and we see them progressively moving to Middle East and Asia. Composite technology is of immense importance for Western Europe and North America, and we need to ensure that this technology can stay in Europe.“

The AZL´s Composite Academy will offer extra-occupational training, education, seminars or in-depth qualification of experts at all levels. “With the current shortage of experts and the need for restructuring industrial companies in the future with the introduction of new materials, the Composite Academy will provide an essential service,” adds Emonts.

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