Breaking ground: Fraunhofer IAP bundles lightweight construction technologies at the Wildau site
Two impregnation systems and an industrial microwave for the energy-efficient production of fiber-reinforced lightweight components can now be combined with one another in a unique way at the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP in Wildau. This is where the IAP research division PYCO will soon be pooling its entire expertise in lightweight construction. On June 8, 2018, the foundation stone for a new office and lab building was laid in Wildau in the presence of Dr. Martina Münch, Minister for Science, Research and Culture of the State of Brandenburg, Andreas Meuer, Member of the Board of the Fraunhofer Gesellschaft, Stephan Loge, Chief Administrative Officer of the Dahme-Spreewald District and Prof. Dr. Ralf Raimund Vandenhouten, Vice President of Research and Transfer at the Technical University of Applied Sciences Wildau.
The research division Polymeric Materials and Composites PYCO at the Fraunhofer IAP focuses on lightweight applications for aerospace, automobiles, wind turbines and rail vehicles. For 26 years PYCO has been conducting research on thermoset fiber composite materials based on reactive resins, which have to meet the highest standards. Until now, the technologies used for synthesis, resin formulation and component manufacturing were spread out across three different sites in Teltow and Wildau.
Now these facilities will be merged into one new laboratory and office building in Wildau and expanded using state-of-the-art technology. The building has a floor space of around 2,700 square meters and room for around 40 employees. It was designed by the architects of B+P Reiner Becker GmbH under the direction of Gunnar Rekersdrees. The building is scheduled for completion at the beginning of 2020. At the heart of the technology center in Wildau will be an impregnation plant that has a modular configuration. It can be universally used for coating, impregnation and prepreg production. The system also enables materials to be cured using alternative methods such as microwaves, UV LEDs and infrared radiation.
“By bundling all our competencies at one location, we will be able to process industry orders much faster, if for no other reason than that the distances are shorter. We are also more flexible when it comes to selecting and combining techniques”, explained Dr. Christian Dreyer, who temporarily heads the PYCO research division. “Its direct proximity to the local aerospace industry and the University of Applied Sciences Wildau is very important to us as we can now also work more closely together in terms of distance”, says Dreyer.
Strengthening the power of innovation in the Wildau region
Science Minister Martina Münch said in her speech: “The construction of the building and the pooling of lightweight construction expertise at the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research are an important milestone in further strengthening research and innovation potential at the Wildau site. The project fits perfectly into the innovation strategy of the state of Brandenburg, especially in the Plastics and Chemistry Cluster. Thanks to its state-of-the-art technology, the future research building will considerably increase the opportunities for technology transfer between non-university research, universities and industry. It offers ideal conditions for material development from chemistry to components. The utilized subsidies represent an excellent investment.” The new building will receive subsidies totaling 17.6 million euros, 80 percent of which will come from the European Fund for Regional Development and 10 percent from the federal government and the State of Brandenburg respectively.
A strong partnership with regional industry
PYCO already collaborates with companies in the automotive and aviation industries in and around Wildau. “We are pleased with the continuing success of this research division and the strengthening of the industry-relevant competencies associated with it in the field of lightweight construction”, explained Andreas Meuer, Director for Controlling and Digital Business Processes on Fraunhofer’s Executive Board. “PYCO has enormous growth potential due to its specific range of expertise and the increasing demand in the thermoset and lightweight materials sector. Wildau is a highly attractive location due to its anchoring in the capital region of Berlin-Brandenburg, its partnership with the local university of applied sciences as well as its proximity to the Aerospace Technology Center Schönefelder Kreuz”, said Meuer.
Stephan Loge, Chief Administrative Officer of the District of Dahme-Spreewald said: “The construction of the new office and lab building will strengthen Wildau’s intellectual, economic and structural scope. For our district this means not only the creation of jobs but also the visibility of regional excellence. I am also sure that proximity to industry and a good connection to the region will be a clear advantage for the establishment here.”
Close cooperation with the UAS Wildau
A joint research group of the UAS Wildau and the PYCO research division at the Fraunhofer IAP called “Thermosets in Lightweight Construction” was established in 2015. The partnership between the Fraunhofer institute and the technical university focuses on activities relating to more efficient manufacturing processes for lightweight materials and on their recycling, re-using and repair, for instance, for applications in the aerospace industry, the automotive industry or wind power plants. The team can draw on the synergy produced through the mutual use of the expertise and excellent research infrastructure at both institutions.
In addition, students from the UAS Wildau will receive further training at the PYCO technology center through internships and dissertation work, and a joint appointment procedure at the UAS Wildau is nearing completion. Prof. Dr. Ralf Vandenhouten, Vice President for Research and Transfer at the University of Applied Science Wildau, stated: “The success of our joint team is also reflected by the federal funding initiative “Innovative University”. As part of the Innovation Hub 13 project, applied for jointly by the UAS Wildau and BTU Cottbus-Senftenberg, a transfer scout for PYCO was also approved in the key research area of lightweight construction, whose aim is to put joint research activities on a sustainable footing and strengthen cooperation with economic partners. “The cooperation between the UAS Wildau and PYCO is an ideal constellation for the functional transfer of technology”, explained Vandenhouten.