Skip to content

ZF Inaugurates Composites Tech Center for lightweight products

On July 29, 2013 ZF inaugurated the ZF Composites Tech Center at its location in Schweinfurt. This is where ZF will develop manufacturing processes for the volume production of fiber-reinforced plastics (FRP) products on an area of more than 400 square meters in the future. All Group divisions will be able to use this knowledge, … Continued

On July 29, 2013 ZF inaugurated the ZF Composites Tech Center at its location in Schweinfurt. This is where ZF will develop manufacturing processes for the volume production of fiber-reinforced plastics (FRP) products on an area of more than 400 square meters in the future. All Group divisions will be able to use this knowledge, which is also a prerequisite for the maturity of many lightweight design concepts for passenger cars and commercial vehicles that ZF has presented in recent years.

A press is the centerpiece of the ZF Composites Tech Center that works under the responsibility of Corporate Research and Development in Friedrichshafen. It can be used to produce components from duroplastic materials according to the RTM process (Resin Transfer Molding). In Schweinfurt, ZF will also be able to produce minor quantities of complex FRP parts that are suitable for prototypes. Since the beginning of 2012, ZF has invested a total of EUR 3.1 million in machines and buildings for the ZF Composites Tech Center.

“In the past few years, we have established vast basic knowledge and gained experience in lightweight design and we have increasingly been using fiber-reinforced plastics for this purpose”, says Michael Hankel, member of the ZF Board of Management responsible for the Car Powertrain Technology and Car Chassis Technology divisions as well as Corporate Production. “With the ZF Composites Tech Center, we are now focusing specifically on the process technologies for volume production using these materials and we want to make this knowledge available throughout the Group.”

Dr. Ignacio Lobo Casanova is in charge of the ZF Composites Tech Center, which will initially be run by four engineers. Apart from a press with a high-pressure injection unit for various resin hardener systems, there will also be systems for further processing, including a robot and an infrared and tempering furnace.

A comprehensive agenda
With this, the ZF Composites Tech Center is well-equipped for tackling the upcoming tasks. Firstly, these include basic research, especially in terms of the different RTM processes and the tools used in these processes. “Part of our basic research work aims at making samples available from different material systems in order to determine the corresponding material characteristics. These again are stored as material models in a simulation process chain in order to be able to use simulations in the future to make product and process development leaner”, says Dr. Ignacio Lobo Casanova. Secondly, joining technology, in particular bonding methods, plays an important role, just like the automation of process steps by using gripper technologies. Thirdly, the ZF Composites Tech Center will also be included in the further development of specific ZF lightweight design concepts. Worth mentioning in this context are the suspension strut and knuckle as well as the wheel-guiding transverse spring which feature very attractive lightweight potential for passenger car chassis: The lightweight knuckle only weighs half as much as its steel counterpart and the lightweight transverse spring saves up to 15 percent weight over the corresponding steel construction. A 4-point link for truck chassis with potential savings of 25 percent compared to the current cast version is also on the agenda of the ZF engineers at the ZF Composites Tech Center in Schweinfurt.

Group-wide knowledge transfer
Throughout the ZF Group, roughly 30 development engineers, who are currently working in projects where FRP materials expertise is vital, will benefit from the results produced by the new ZF Composites Tech Center. “One essential additional task of the ZF Composites Tech Center is the Group-wide transfer of knowledge as well as consultancy and qualification for all ZF divisions and other development locations”, states Dr. Michael Heselhaus, project manager in charge of setting up the ZF Composites Tech Center. This transfer of expertise is not limited to lightweight and FRP specialists, though. Toolmakers, for example, are closely integrated into the activities of the ZF Composites Tech Center to make sure that the existing tooling expertise is enhanced in terms of FRP knowledge for massive and sheet materials as well as plastics injection molding. Not least for this reason is the ZF Composites Tech Center in Schweinfurt organized as a branch of Corporate Research and Development in Friedrichshafen and part of Corporate Production.

The ZF Composites Tech Center will start operations directly after its inauguration. There is further space on the plant premises, the Plant North in Schweinfurt, for future expansions of the center.

Welcome back , to continue browsing the site, please click here