Long Night of Industry in the Dahme-Spreewald District
Macro-microwaves make lightweight construction for the aerospace industry more efficient
Industrial microwaves, used to produce carbon fiber-reinforced plastic components, are two of the core components of the technology center at the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP in Wildau. On June 23, 2017 the IAP’s Polymer Materials and Composites PYCO Research Division is opening its doors here for the Long Night of Industry in the Dahme-Spreewald District.
Carbon fiber-reinforced plastics (CFP) are becoming increasingly important for the aerospace industry due to their light weight. They have already largely replaced aluminum, a material traditionally used in airplanes, in the Airbus A350. Aluminum has been much cheaper and the production methods for components are well established. In order to be able to use CFP much more frequently as a lightweight material, production of the components must be more inexpensive and efficient.
Assembly line in the microwave: efficient and flexible
Researchers at the Fraunhofer IAP set store in the curing process. In the past, lightweight materials were cured in ovens. PYCO leader Dr. Christian Dreyer compares this with domestic baking: “The components are baked or cured like a cake, from outside to inside. Tears in the material can develop during the process that make the component unusable.” The PYCO Research Division uses microwave technology which is much gentler on the material since microwaves only heat up the component and not the surroundings. This saves on energy costs. Moreover, the component heats up not only through the surface but also from inside. “We use a microwave oven that can take components up to one meter wide and one meter high, as well as a throughput microwave for band-shaped materials,” explains Dreyer.
Microwave technology is already being used by industry for specific applications such as drying processes. However these are mostly customized systems that are tailored to only one specific process. “We develop materials and curing processes that are tailored to the respective application. While conventional microwaves only operate at one frequency, our throughput microwave has two frequencies. These can be used individually or in combination and thus enable variation in the penetration depth.”
Another advantage of the throughput microwave is that it can be positioned downstream from the modular horizontal impregnation unit. This variability is of particular interest to industry partners who would like to conduct tests here.
Aerospace companies and universities in the neighborhood
Innovative aerospace companies and the Wildau Technical University of Applied Sciences are located in the direct vicinity of the PYCO technology center. They are able to profit from the research activities at the Fraunhofer IAP: “We work in partnership with Wildau Technical Univeristy in the research group ›Thermosets for Lightweight Construction‹. Here future engineers can gain practical experience,” says Dreyer.
In addition, the State of Brandenburg is supporting the “Competency Center for Energy and Resource-Efficient Lightweight Construction in the Region of Berlin-Brandenburg” with money from the European Regional Development Fund. Headed up by the Fraunhofer IAP/PYCO, research projects dealing with lightweight construction are carried out in partnership with the Brandenburg University of Technology Cottbus-Senftenberg, Wildau Technical University, Eberswalde University for Sustainable Development and experts from regional industrial companies. This sustainably supports industry in the region.
Popcorn from the microwave
At the Long Night of Industry, the Fraunhofer IAP offers visitors young and old the opportunity to learn about the production of lightweight plastics from 5 pm to 11 pm. There is a tasty demonstration of the microwave technology in the form of freshly prepared popcorn.
Fraunhofer-Institut für Angewandte Polymerforschung IAP
Forschungsbereich Polymermaterialien und Composite PYCO