Resilient. Sustainable. Digital.

Annual report 2020

Dear customers and partners of Fraunhofer LBF!

2020 was an incredibly strenuous year for us all. Many people faced major challenges in their professional and private lives. This revealed the deep interactions and interdependencies that shape the modern world in which we live, in a truly profound way. At the same time, it underscored the importance of a change of perspective and course in the context of resilience, sustainability and climate protection, as well as mobility and digitization, and clearly emphasized the significance of our common task and responsibility. However, alongside all the difficulties and challenges, exciting opportunities are being revealed.

I have been impressed by the ideas for change and options, both large and small, that have emerged in a short time, how thoughtfully and responsibly people have worked together, and the committed and pragmatic way in which innovative solutions have been implemented in so many places – all while balancing the need to protect health and deal with economic implications. In this context, not only have established relationships stood the test of time, but exciting new partnerships have emerged. As an industry-oriented institute, we have of course witnessed the major uncertainties, concerns and challenges facing our customers. Indeed, we are standing firmly by our partners. Together with you, we have identified needs for change, aligned development opportunities in terms of timing and content, prioritized innovation topics and adapted research capacities, while preparing and launching important projects for the future. This was very constructive and valuable – it further strengthened the trust between us. I am extremely confident that this will continue to result in very positive joint development in the future.

Against this background, Fraunhofer LBF is continuing to develop its research focus: Using a comprehensive understanding of processes and interactions – from design and implementation to use and recycling – we can provide our customers with the best possible help in creating efficient, safe and reliable product innovations. In doing so, we focus on the material, component and system level, consistently expanding our virtual, physical and cyber-physical development and evaluation methods. In this way, we are enshrining the themes of resilience, sustainability and digitization even more firmly in our portfolio. In our R&D projects, we are continuously working on new solutions for developing efficient design, simulation and validation tools. Examples of this include the design, evaluation and modeling of processes for reliable products; the management of uncertainties along value chains; as well as sustainable solutions for plastics, their recycling and bio-based construction.

We have set ourselves the goal of consistently aligning our projects and R&D services with the market. In doing this, we have combined them into six clusters within the current annual report: Ultra Lightweight Design, Digital Engineering, Smart Solutions, Circular Economy, Future Mobility Research and Reliability Design. Through these thematic clusters, we present you with the results of selected research projects and how they support our customers in mobility, mechanical and plant engineering, plastics chemistry and energy – as well as medical technology.

Highlights of our work in the area of Ultra Lightweight Design include the L-LBF project, in which we have pooled expertise in materials, design, validation and manufacturing processes to implement a radically weight-optimized electric cargo bike for micromobility. In addition to the significant, cost-effective lightweight optimization of the metallic frame structure and wheels, as well as the development of new coating materials and smart sensor technology – plus the implementation of a new battery and energy management system – we have created an active stabilization system to increase steering ability and ride safety. The results of this project are being incorporated into a recently-launched collaborative project to develop an ultralight, electric drone glidecopter concept with autonomous flight for just-in-time logistics networks.

Research work still underway in the Future Mobility topic area is focusing on the alternative electrification of commercial vehicle powertrains. As part of the HANNAe project, we are working on the implementation of a highly efficient, generator-electric drive for medium-duty commercial vehicles. For another Future Mobility project, we are working with industry partners to develop a concept for determining the condition of components in an electrified truck trailer that are relevant to driving dynamics and safety.

It has been possible to make biopolymers suitable for use in sophisticated technical plastic components by using targeted additives, for the increasing shift from a linear to a Circular Economy of polymers. In some cases, these are superior to conventional plastics in terms of performance and service life. The knowledge gained is currently being incorporated into a lighthouse project dedicated to the processing of waste streams containing plastics. The resulting patents should help our partners with their product developments.

In the topic area of Smart Solutions, we are working on several projects regarding the issue of programmable materials, smart sensor technology and metamaterials. We use these to monitor and influence the vibroacoustic and dynamic behavior of lightweight structures. In doing so, we have succeeded in expanding and upgrading passive structural functions by using digital functions.

Projects in Digital Engineering and Reliability Design are dealing with new modeling, simulation and development approaches for describing and optimizing vibration-related properties as well as the design and lifetime assessment of components and systems. We have also developed new cyber-physical methods and tools to achieve early validation of product functions during development. Last but not least, a new laboratory was established last year aimed at investigating and developing additively manufactured components designed for operational stability. We want to contribute to reliably opening up this new manufacturing technology for load-bearing products.

Even though it was a challenging year, we look can back on what we have achieved together with pride and extend our special thanks for your trust and how well and intensely we have worked together. We will continue doing this in 2021!

The team at Fraunhofer LBF are looking forward to actively shaping this path with innovative product solutions. We hope you have insightful and stimulating read.

With best regards,
Prof. Dr.-Ing. Tobias Melz