Innovation is about taking the existing and sometimes radically changing or redesigning it in a process
Schumpeter described as “creative destruction.” It creates something new by banishing what exists to the past. This is precisely the potential offered by lightweight materials. They make it possible to move beyond current thinking and pave the way for new solutions.
It would be impossible to meet European demand for rare earth metals (REMs) without turning to external sources. The greater the gap between supply and demand, the more important it will be to use existing resources sustainably. To use REMs efficiently, it will therefore be necessary to develop production processes that meet this requirement. As part of an EU-backed project called REProMag, European partner companies from five countries are currently working on the development of new production processes for the manufacturing of high-precision permanent magnetics for use in sensors, engines, and generators. Steinbeis-Europa-Zentrum (SEZ) is just one of the 14 project partners involved.
Dr. Dietrich Birk talks to TRANSFER magazine about the opportunities lightweight materials present to companies and how research findings are shared in this area.
The automobile industry is currently facing a number of problems: emissions scandals, excessive CO2 emissions, global traffic gridlock – just to name a few. One solution to many of these problems is the innovative modular tilting vehicle currently under development at the Steinbeis Transfer Center Ino8 Pty Ltd Australia. It is based on the center’s own Safe8™ balance aid.
We talked to Prof. Rudolf Voit-Nitschmann, who explained the significance of lightweight construction, primarily in aircraft engineering but also in other industries. He also tells us about some of the developments he thinks the German lightweight construction field can expect further down the road.
Sandwich elements are often used to gain significant weight reductions in aerospace applications, but they can also be used in terrestrial vehicles. As part of internal research, the materials corrosion and corrosion protection experts at Steinbeis-Transferzentrum Werkstoffe Korrosion und Korrosionsschutz GmbH, a Steinbeis Enterprise based in Friedrichshafen, have developed a system for testing the corrosive properties of sandwich compounds made of CFRP aluminum honeycombs.
Beate Wittkopp, director of the Steinbeis Transfer Center TransferWerk-BW and an active networker and advisory board member of Leichtbau BW, spoke to Dr. Wolfgang Seeliger on behalf of TRANSFER magazine to discover more about the importance of lightweight technology as a cross-industry driver of innovation, about the shift to digital technology, and about future prospects for the industry.
Aluminum and its alloy relatives are marching ahead at full speed as an alternative construction material in a variety of areas of industrial application. They offer low material density, making them an especially appealing option for engineers working in the automotive sector, the aerospace industry, shipbuilding, and trains. Aluminum sheets with the required material thickness can be rolled into pipes before welding lengthways. This is particularly important in industrial applications involving tubular components or profiled parts. Until now, producing larger sections of materials has not been financially viable, because the only possible conventional method was to use multiplepass welding. Not only is this time-intensive, it is also expensive. One alternative has been to use electroslag welding or submerged arc processes. The Steinbeis Innovation Center for Intelligent Functional Materials, Welding and Joining Techniques, Implementation has been investigating this process and has successfully developed a new process along with a welding powder that are now capable of achieving the required performance when joining larger aluminum cross sections.
A team of experts from the professorial chair for structural lightweight design and polymer processes at Chemnitz University of Technology (TU Chemnitz), the Steinbeis Research Center for Automation in Lightweight Construction Processes (ALP), and Cetex gGmbH have been looking into ways to create fiber-reinforced thermoplastic structural components that are suitable for mass production. The aim is to develop a production technique that would improve productivity compared to conventional methods, reduce manufacturing costs, and thus open the door to new applications. To examine mass production suitability, the teams have developed a pilot plant.
In order to meet the future EU challenges about light-weighting and pollution reduction, especially relevant in transportation sector, one of the biggest EU projects: ExoMet, was launched in 2012. The ExoMet project has successfully produced new light weighting aluminium and magnesium alloys with improved mechanical properties by exploring grain refining and nanoparticle additions in conjunction with novel melt treatment.
Venture capital, credit, funding programs, crowd investing – at first glance, there seems to be plenty of funding available in Germany to translate potential innovations into reality. Despite this, politicians, intermediaries, entrepreneurs, and companies throughout Germany grumble about an unwillingness among capital providers to conscientiously take risks. The Steinbeis Financing Arena took place on April 7, and posed a provocative question: “The money is there – so where are the ideas to go with it?!” A number of funding partners, startups, and established companies were in attendance to take part in an interactive and sometimes contentious discussion. The arena was moderated by Prof. Stephan Ferdinand (Stuttgart Media University) and Tina Kraus (public broadcasting company SWR). The event was clearly in tune with the times and the interests of industry, as witnessed by the many people in attendance. With an audience of roughly 200 people assembled at the Stuttgart Hospitalhof, many more were interested in the proceedings and had to be consoled with video highlights afterwards.
The shift to digital solutions (digitalization) and networking of products (smart connectivity) are opening innumerable doors to match product use to individual customers. But such individualization is also leading to a huge rise in the complexity of smart products. The challenge is therefore to design complex products in such a way that they can still by used by all customers. Understanding the issues raised not just by usability but also by user experience criteria, and covering this during the product development process, is one of the key goals of a German research project called PUMa (abbreviation for “project usability in SME applications”). The Stuttgart-based Steinbeis Innovation Center for Innovation Engineering is working as a partner on a project backed by the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (abbreviated: BMWi).
All inventors – regardless of their industry – usually have a few things in common: They generally don’t have much time and they’re experts in the field of their product idea. That said, they often neglect about commercial factors – issues that will be just as crucial to the success of their idea. That’s when it’s useful if advice is close at hand, from help with the underlying concept to advice on patents, and culminating in the finished product. A team made up of experts from the Biberach-based Steinbeis Transfer Center for Computer Aided Technical Simulations (C.A.T.S.) has been working with Infothek, the Steinbeis Transfer Center in Villingen-Schwenningen, to provide design and managing support to the forming specialist EKM-Roth GmbH.
Professor Arnold van Zyl has been at the helm of the Baden-Wurttemberg Cooperative State University (DHBW) and steering its fortunes since February 2016. There are high expectations regarding further developments for the successful concept of cooperative education degrees, and thanks to a long track record – not just in research but also in the automotive industry – the professor with an engineering degree has an exact understanding of these expectations, especially when it comes to training the next generation. TRANSFER spoke to Arnold van Zyl about the demands placed on modern university education and the increasingly important overlaps between science and academia in relation to trade and industry.
How do you integrate an old donkey, an unwanted dog, a grumbling cat, and a screeching rooster into the modern marketing of a city? Not just with a pinch of Bremen self-irony, but also by adding a bit of serenity and wisdom. The Town Musicians of Bremen is one of the most widely read and best known fairytales published by the Brothers Grimm. It’s also a perfect fit with the city of Bremen, the epitome of courage, fearlessness, euphoric optimism, vision, and teamwork – values strongly associated with the city in the north of Germany. This was the starting point for a project given to the i/i/d, the Steinbeis Transfer Center Institute of Integrated Design. Its brief: update the branding of Bremen.
By 2020, 25% of all electricity generated in Germany should come from combined heat and power (CHP) plants. The aim is to save energy and the environment and thus help with climate protection. CHP plants also generate electricity and not just thermal energy required in heating systems or production processes. This allows for the use of between 80 and 90 percent of possible fuel output. Combined heat and power legislation and the German Renewable Energy Act (EEG) have freed up funding to extend current capacities. The Grasbergbased Steinbeis Innovation Center for Optimization, Control and Adjustment Control and a company called enable energy solutions GmbH from Bad Rothenfelde have been using the very latest mathematical models to develop a universal modeling method and optimize CHP plants. It is all part of a project sponsored by the Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology (BMWi) called High-Precision Modeling, Simulation, and Optimization of CHP plants.
They were turbulent times, the world of business was holding its breath during the financial crisis, and scores of companies were down on their knees, but it didn’t deter Axel Wittig from setting up his own company. Wittig founded Webo GmbH in 2008. And the success story of the tool manufacturer makes the question of whether he regrets his decision completely superfluous. TRANSFER met up with Wittig
for an interview.
The facade of a building presents an unmistakable face to the outside world. Its occupants want it to look good and, just as importantly, to fulfill its intended purpose. These days there are many different types of wall materials with different types of surface consistencies and mounting options. That’s why it’s important to think about the safest way to keep scaffolding in place when working on a facade. This is achieved by planning and installing anchorage points as the building is erected. It is also essential in Germany, given DIN standard 4426 (Section 7). This isn’t a task that should be swept under the rug if clients need professional support, neither by the architect, the planners, nor by the construction workers on site. And it is a problem that the plastering company Wessendorf Systembeschichtung GmbH is familiar with from everyday business. But it is also a problem it has tackled successfully with a new kind of permanent anchorage system. It was supported in its efforts by two teams of experts from Steinbeis.
Hybrid joining in lightweight construction is considered a key factor and elementary part of the automotive industry. The demands placed on these materials go hand in hand with the challenges facing the engineers in joining these materials with sufficiently effective methods. One technique that is currently making significant advances in the automotive industry is adhesive joining. To meet the demands faced by engineers, SCA Schucker GmbH & Co. KG has been working with the School of Management and Technology at Steinbeis University Berlin on a Master of Engineering. This is tailored to the needs of the company and includes a specialization in adhesive joining technology.
Lightweight construction is without question one of the biggest challenges of our time. Not only do weight-saving, highly robust structures enable airplanes, road vehicles, and high-precision tools to reduce energy consumption – which already makes these materials extremely important – but every gram that can be saved in weight is a step toward solving one of the “grand challenges” of our generation: product sustainability. And aside from more altruistic motivations, sustainability measures that are good for products also enable manufacturing enterprises to differentiate themselves in the market by highlighting the environmental, economic, or social features of products.
What’s the best way to help with a promising new business idea that has been thought up by an inventive expert so typical of the pioneering spirit encountered in the south of Germany? If a startup needs the views of people from a variety of angles, it’s important to have the support of a professional network to go through the startup plan systematically. This is where the expertise offered by the Steinbeis startup consultants comes in. They helped Markus Krill get an innovative startup idea called Sloopify off the ground. Sloopify is an interactive mobile assistant based on Sales 4.0 principles which links digital content with human-centric solutions.
What is the best way to equip instructors and apprentices in the transport and logistics sector with the right qualifications, also taking environmental and social influences into account, despite the commercial nature of their work? This is the key issue being examined as part of a business project with the somewhat wordy title “Proactive Training of Vocational Training Personnel through the Dynamically Oriented Development, Testing, and Dispersal of Sustainable Training Exercises in Dual Education (Pro-DEENLA – Haulage and Logistics).” The idea of the project is to provide instructors and students with the right training and make sustainability a more established and permanent feature of dual education programs. The scheme has been given three years’ backing from the Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training in Bonn (BIBB). The Sinsheim-based Steinbeis Innovation Center for Logistics and Sustainability is working as a project partner on the program, as is the Business Education Unit at Leuphana Universitay of Lüneburg.
Quality management is a hot topic in modern business, especially given ISO certification requirements. Many companies now understand how important it is to introduce quality management systems and have these certified. QMH Consulting GmbH advises clients on setting up quality management systems and having these audited. The question is, whether there is a way to standardize how firms introduce such management systems. In fact, does it even make sense to use a standard approach? These were questions that Daniela Niermann posed as part of a project she carried out for her studies on the Executive Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration program at the School of Management and Technology (SMT), which is part of Steinbeis University Berlin. Her project was carried out on behalf of QMH Consulting GmbH.
Digital solutions are no longer a vision of the future or an abstract macro-trend, they’re here, and here to stay. They are changing the world as we know it. What is new, is how radical this change is becoming and its sheer velocity. Small fry can suddenly be the biggest fish in the pond and throw established industries out of kilter. This trend was the focal topic of a series of afterwork events for specialist managers, business people, and anyone else interested in these issues. The events were organized by the Steinbeis School of Management and Innovation (Steinbeis-SMI) as part of a Steinbeis Network program in Munich and Berlin.