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Smart joining of lightweight materials
The multi-material mix used in the automotive and transport industries presents manufacturers with numerous challenges when it comes to choosing the perfect joining technology: The solutions used must be optimally tailored to the properties of the materials and the respective company's requirements. At the same time, safety and efficiency have top priority. The problem with using conventional fastening-techniques: They are primarily designed to combine solid materials with each other. In lightweight construction, on the other hand, both extremely solid metals and combinations of porous materials, such as fiber composites, sandwich panels and lightweight materials, are bonded together. The "cavities" in these materials - and thus the lack of solid mass of the material - make using known fastening systems more difficult or even impossible. The innovative MultiMaterial-Welding technology opens up completely new possibilities for manufacturers in the assembling of porous materials - from foamed materials to those with a honeycomb structure.
What it is about, where the impetus came from and how long the technology has been "tinkered with" until it was ready for the market launch is explained by Dipl.-Ing. Gregor Eckhard, managing director of MultiMaterial-Welding GmbH.
What is MM-W technology all about?
The core of MM-W technology is about liquefying thermoplastic materials locally and partially with the help of ultrasonic energy and to produce a mechanical positive fit with this molten mass and suitable geometric structures. These structures can be cavities in the substrate material to be joined - for example porous materials and honeycomb core boards - or they can be integrated into the joining element itself.
Where did the impetus for the development of the technology come from?
Clearly from the market. The automotive industry is in the midst of a massive upheaval and the vehicles of the future are fundamentally different from those of the past. Evolutionary developments in the field of lightweight construction, but also disruptive trends, such as electric mobility or autonomous driving, present automotive developers with new challenges. We work very closely with our customers in order to keep up with the times and understand the new challenges. In addition, we are always looking to the future, as we need to develop solutions for tomorrow's problems today.
What were the hurdles along the way?
It is in human nature to be skeptical about innovation at first. We were lucky, though: Anyone who sees MM-W technology with their own eyes will quickly recognize its immense potential - in terms of cost and time savings as well as greater freedom in design and technical construction.
How long did it take until MM-W was ready for the market?
The technology was originally developed for applications in the furniture and medical sectors. It has already been used there very successfully for years. Based on this optimal starting position, it took almost two years until MM-W technology was ready for the market for applications in the field of vehicle construction. But it's important to know: There is not "one" MM-W technology for everything, but rather many different solutions. The innovation carousel continues to turn and while one solution launches on the market, our dynamic team is already working on the next.
Are there pilot customers or are field tests being conducted with industry?
Together with our partner KVT-Fastening, we are currently working on many different pilot projects for more than 30 customers, including OEMs as well as Tier 1 and Tier 2 suppliers. We will start series production of our LiteWWeight pin technology as early as 2019. At the same time, we are putting MM-W through its paces with many customers - with very promising results.