The research on innovative materials and their production processes carried out at the lab in Wolfsburg results, for the Volkswagen Group, in lightweight structures with clear benefits in terms of emissions and conservation of resources.
In 2012, the Volkswagen Group has joined forces with highly respected industrial and scientific partners to open the Open Hybrid LabFactory, better known as OHLF, in Wolfsburg. The goal: to develop innovative production processes and materials.
The main priority of this collaboration is to combine the know-how of different areas of expertise and to facilitate knowledge transfers among project actors so that everyone can benefit from research work in the best possible way.
The materials’ life cycle
The Technikum, a 2,500 m2 hall, is filled with huge presses, injection-moulding machines, impregnating systems and textile equipment. It is flanked by 12 labs where material properties are analysed, quality tests are conducted and process parameters for manufacturing systems are determined.
Around 200 people currently work at the OHLF, developing hybrid components and their production processes, in order to be at the cutting edge of the research on lightweight design.
Of course, this must be cost effective: this is why, for example, carbon fibres are used in a very targeted manner at times, while at others they are combined with glass fibres or with plastics and metals. Each new development is carefully analysed throughout its life cycle: from the raw material to the completed component, to recycling opportunities.
“We come up with ideas that would hardly be imaginable during the daily operations of production companies” says Martin Zubeil, Managing Director of the Open Hybrid LabFactory since January 2018. An interdisciplinary team, composed of scientific researchers and industry development experts, works on solutions that, ideally, will result in innovations. One of the most important aspects of the research on hybrid materials is their behaviour at different temperatures. “Information about deformation behaviour plays a key role in component development and production” Zubeil explains.
Experiments and labs
Also other types of scientific experiments are carried out at the OHLF: in some labs, test methods are being analysed in order to facilitate the identification of damage to carbon structures; in others, simulations of the impact of weather on the materials are conducted. “Working at the campus is a dream come true for the scientific staff members” according to Andreas Gross, Head of the scientific department at the Open Hybrid LabFactory. “The machinery is state of the art, and the communication channels are direct. Our developers have an opportunity here to determine process parameters in small labs. Later, they can apply them to optimize production processes in major systems.”
Source: TOGETHER.net – Volkswagen AG