This 16th issue of DirectIndustry e-magazine, a Hannover Messe Live Special, focuses on Industry 4.0 hotspots. Though the German fair is still going strong at press time, our journalists are already drawing attention to some tremendous industrial automation developments—from predictive maintenance to digitization and self-organizing factories.
Our reports also focus on innovative construction materials of the future. Their lighter weight will improve efficiency while reducing the carbon emissions of industrial processes. Enjoy the fair!
What if engineers could predict when maintenance should be performed on machinery and equipment? Modeling data collected by new sensors inside machines and engines now enable predictive maintenance (PdM). The end-game is maximum efficiency and the complete automation of business decisions.
First Steps: Data...
Watch our exclusive report. The real and virtual worlds have begun to merge in production. It is now possible to create digital twins of a product before it is produced and even simulate the production environment. At Hannover Messe, DirectIndustry e-magazine met with two big actors of the digitization of the industry: Siemens and Dassault Systèmes.
At Hannover Messe, different green and lightweight materials found in the American car manufacturer’s vehicles were showcased —from recycled plastic bottles to plant-based elements.
Henry Ford was always interested in using sustainable materials in his cars. In the 1940s, the prototype “soybean car” used...
Watch our exclusive report. What are the materials of tomorrow? Which ones will enable lightweight construction to enhance efficiency and reduce carbon emissions? At Hannover Messe, DirectIndustry e-magazine discovered the materials with a big future, from carbon fiber-reinforced plastics to magnetic fabrics.
Wheels: -29%. Differential: -14%. Diesel pump housing: -18%. Nuts: 6 g each. At Hannover Messe, the Lightweight Forging Initiative, a primarily German consortium of forging companies and steel producers, has been trumpeting an impressive list of weight-saving measures for automotive parts which could result in a total reduction of 99 kg (PDF).
Two years ago, the Lightweight Forging Initiative dismantled a passenger car and announced that 42 kg could be saved. This time, it did the same with a van, disassembling it, listing and analyzing all parts and, through workshops with experts, formulating lightweight design ideas.
Lighter Powertrain and Chassis
Given the focus of the consortium members, it was decided to focus on the chassis and powertrain rather than on the vehicle body or the electronics. At 845 kg, these elements constitute 36% of the vehicle’s weight, already a hefty bit to chew on.
And chew they did, as the team of engineers and researchers developed lightweight design proposals for each part, with novel solutions at almost every turn:
Removal of unnecessary material and use of lighter forged parts for the diesel pump housing and cover;
for the gearwheel of the output shaft, producing holes on pitch circles and creating a thinner fixed member with a wave profile;
a new design and use of a bainitic steel for nuts
Even the lead researchers were surprised by the weight savings possible in very small parts, as they explained to DirectIndustry e-magazine during Hannover Messe.
It was surprising to realize how much screws and nuts could be improved. For fasteners, with the right design and an appropriate steel, we could gain approximately 700 g for an entire vehicle.
A New Research Network
Once finalized, this second phase will mark a turning point for the Lightweight Forging Initiative. Phase I demonstrated savings of 42 kg in a passenger car. Phase II now shows that 99 kg can be saved in a commercial vehicle. The next step is sharing these innovating ideas throughout the industry. To this end, a Lightweight Forging Research Network has been established, uniting 64 companies, 4 research associations, 10 research institutes and 2 universities. Indeed, the automotive industry is expected to react quickly. Weight reduction is one of the most obvious ways to comply with ever more stringent CO2 regulations. In Europe, for example, the 2020 target for light commercial vehicles is a reduction of 147 grams of CO2 per kilometer, 19% less than the 2012 average.
Could the thinnest, strongest, lightest and most conductive material ever created spark a new industrial revolution? At Hannover Messe, graphene was among the materials expected to have a big future.
In theory, graphene can do almost anything. It’s the first truly two-dimensional crystal and the thinnest, strongest and lightest material known. Its other properties also give it the potential to change the digital world. Kevin Curran is a senior member at the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE).
The importance of graphene is that electrons can travel across it at close to the speed of light. This is about one hundred times faster than they move at present through silicon, the de facto substrate for computers. It is also super-thin, super-strong, super-flexible and an excellent conductor.
Courtesy of Jannik Meyer
Theoretically possible since the 1940s, graphene was first produced by Konstantin Novoselov and Andre Geim at the University of Manchester in 2004, earning both scientists the 2010 Nobel Prize for Physics. Since then, the race has been on to make graphene a commercially viable industrial material.
All the carbon atoms in graphene are arranged in a 2D frame, a one-atom-thick fabric,” said Novoselov at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona in February 2016. “But despite being so simple, it attracts many superlatives. It’s the strongest possible material, the most stretchable, the most permeable, the most conductive. There are other materials that have one of those properties, but here it’s combined in one very simple crystal.
Since it’s manufactured from abundant carbon, the supply of graphene is nearly inexhaustible, in stark contrast to the rare metals presently used by the electronics industry.
A new era in electronics?
According to Novoselov, graphene has potential applications in high-frequency electronics (touch panels), optoelectronics (photonics) and thermo-management (batteries). That could mean batteries that recharge in a few minutes, flexible phones and buildings coated in photovoltaic paint holding graphene-based solar cells. Stijn Goossens is a postdoctoral research engineer in nano-optoelectronics at the Institute of Photonic Sciences (ICFO) in Barcelona.
We have been talking about flexible, transparent, wearable electronics for years, but so far this field hasn’t really delivered, largely because the materials aren’t good enough. With graphene, we can build an ecosystem of flexible and transparent, functional devices that can do the same as your phone, but integrates into clothes as graphene inks and sensors.
Graphene’s sensitivity could even help create spectral sensors that use light to reveal everything from heart rate and precise blood chemistry, to food ripeness or the pesticides used in its production.
Replacing silicon with graphene in electronics will require investment in manufacturing this innovative material with consistent quality. Once it’s mass-produced, the innovations can flow.
Camille Rustici is a Video Journalist and the Editor-in-Chief for DirectIndustry e-magazine. She has years of experience in business issues for various media including France 24, Associated Press, Radio France…