Resilient. Sustainable. Digital.

Annual report 2020

Dear customers and partners of Fraunhofer LBF!

In 2021, the entire world was once again faced with major and varied challenges, which will affect us economically, socially and politically in the coming years on both a personal and professional level. The dynamics of change and the pressure to act are palpable, while discussions and assessments are sometimes peremptory and emotional. This makes it difficult to identify positive prospects and address tangible solutions. Sometimes, it seems to simply take more shared courage, sincere understanding and determination to achieve swift and sustainable progress. “When we have to prove ourselves in a crisis, we also grow in strength.” (R. v. Weizsäcker). In this respect, I see the challenges we currently face as being excellent opportunities for our future.

Over the past year, we have continued to systematically pursue our agenda for the future. Within the framework of research and development projects, we have continuously advanced our core topics of lightweight design, sustainability and digitalization across all phases of product design, safeguarding and use, right through to closed-loop recycling for applications in mobility, plastics technology, and mechanical and plant engineering. In a large number of individual, co-operative and directly commissioned R&D projects, our team has developed new methods for the reliable and operationally stable design of products and processes, new and more efficient technologies for numerical, experimental and cyberphysical simulation, sustainable solutions for bio-based and recycled plastics, and new structural concepts for smart, efficient lightweight solutions. We have summarized a selection of our projects for you in this Annual Report based on our service areas.

Highlights of our activities include further developments within the Circular Plastics Economy cluster and the Waste4Future project that was launched last year, in which we are developing sustainable solutions for the recycling and use of plastics. Together with the recently launched SUBI2MA project, our team is continuously expanding its offerings in these research projects to specifically develop additive systems from renewable raw materials for the post-stabilization of recyclates, the degradation control of plastics or the provision of high-quality substitute plastics. We are also helping to shape a sustainable future through our Green-Mat4H2 High-Performance Center, in which we are working with
partners to provide new technologies for the reliability design of materials and components for hydrogen-powered systems.

To this end, last year we also worked on lightweight solutions for the mobility of the future. In several projects, we are researching new structural and design concepts with which we can specifically and atypically adjust vibration and acoustic properties of structures using so-called vibro-acoustic metamaterials (VAMM) for implementation in lightweight construction. These are of particular interest in mobile systems for vehicle construction, but they are also being developed for immobile applications. As part of the ALBACOPTER® project, an electric, autonomous flying transport drone is being developed – the initial flights with test systems have been carried out by our partners. The system and structural
concept for a test system with a 7-meter span is currently being finalized and the production engineering stage is being initiated. As part of the ECO2-LInE project, we are developing additively manufactured light-weight components made of natural fiber-reinforced plastics that will replace heavier, conventional metal structures in train car connections.

Under the banner of digitalization, we regularly develop individualized special tools for our customers, in particular for machine dynamic and multiphysical analyses and the development of systems and lightweight structures. In this context, last year we were able to make a widely applicable software solution for vibration problem analysis and structural optimization commercially available through a strong partnership with Altair Engineering Inc.

The digitalization of the development process of mechanical engineering systems has also been advanced through recent research collaborations on modelingand  simulation of vehicles with different drives, project ORCA, on predictive machine maintenance with distributed AI, ProKInect, or on AI-based noise reduction in container ports as part of the I2PANEMA project.

It has been an exciting year, marked by shared challenges and many valuable research findings and utilization options. We are pleased to present some of our research work below and look forward to talking to you about it. We would like to extend our thanks to our customers and partners for their close, trusting cooperation through multiple direct collaborations. We, the Fraunhofer LBF team, will continue this in the future and work with youin this time of change to actively navigate through challenges in the best possible way. We wish you continued success and an insightful, inspiring read. Please get in touch, we look forward to hearing from you!

Best regards,
Prof. Dr.-Ing. Tobias Melz