New collaborative research facility demonstrates strength in numbers
While often praised for their expertise and industrial prowess, multinational companies are rarely described as “agile.” And yet, when four global industry leaders joined forces and united for a common mission, agile is exactly what they became.
Last August, four major players in the field of aerospace and automotive manufacturing - Solvay, ENGEL, Faurecia, Premium Aerotec and the ITA Augsburg - decided to create a consortium, based on the shared belief that thermoplastic composite materials and process development is one of the answers to high-volume production and lightweighting needs in these industries. They have been hard at work ever since.
And today, a mere two months following the official formation of the IRG CosiMo consortium, they unveil their new collaborative research facilities in Augsburg, Germany. And like any well-executed partnership, every member brings something indispensable to the table and takes away something just as valuable.
A group effort
The IRG CosiMo consortium members bring competencies and concepts together to form a complete process chain -- notably the first time a full supply chain has been constructed in a single project.
“You could say that this consortium began as a kind of crowdfunding project, with each company bringing in hardware, equipment or materials and investing in the installation of the Augsburg facility,” says Helge von Selasinsky, the General Manager at ITA. This spirit of sharing and open innovation is a highly efficient way to encourage the development of new materials, data driven process controls and robust automated manufacturing processes for serial production, without having to interrupt industrial plants.
Value for all
Understanding the unique value of the research facility means first understanding the challenges facing these companies and their respective industries. For instance, the aviation business is experiencing rising production demands for small and medium sized aircraft. This high demand, in turn, drives the need for lightweight yet ultra sturdy parts. Considering there can be as many as 40,000 parts in one single airplane, production at this volume brings on the additional challenge of being highly efficient in terms of cost and time. Luckily, these challenges are nothing new in the very competitive automotive industry -- this is where Faurecia’s experience and expertise, as a leading manufacturer of automotive parts, are particularly precious.
The solution to these problems lies in a well managed thermoplastic composites process chain. With their unique chemical properties, thermoplastic composites are very rigid and hold up remarkably well in extreme environments such as the leading edge of an airplane or the underbelly of a car. On top of these mechanical properties, thermoplastic materials have a significantly shorter production cycle and are more sustainable. So with Faurecia’s expertise in cost optimization and logistics paired with Premium Aerotec’s material and process experience, Solvay’s material and suitable semi-finished products and ENGEL’s specially adapted processing machinery - and of course the efficient project management and agile structure of ITA Augsburg - this partnership is built to last.
The center of innovation
Locating this new facility in Augsburg was no coincidence either. Not only are some of the founding members based there, but the German town has been the nucleus of research in composites for a long time. This local expertise encourages government funded research programs, draws in bright minds into the universities and businesses and sustains an innovative cluster of organizations, companies and institutions that continue to bring in highly educated employment to the region. Surrounded by this spirit of innovation centered on advanced materials, IRG CosiMo’s research facility is set to thrive.
This new type of platform, focused on taking advantage of a collective expertise and reaching targets in the quickest possible way, is set to translate into business success once product development kicks off in a few months.
“The goal is of course to reduce costs and production time and to be competitive on an international level -- but my hope for this project is that it will be the source of several additional projects,” says Joachim Nägele, Managing Director at Premium AEROTEC. “For me, this is just the beginning.”
Ribbon cutting ceremony
This consortium is not just about collaboration. We have all set up technology, hardware and our expertise in a remarkably short period of time, already demonstrating what we’re capable of.